Find Command Exclude Directories From Search Pattern

Posted on in Categories last updated July 17, 2010

How do I exclude certain directories while using the find command under UNIX or Linux operating systems?

You can use the find command as follows to find all directories except tmp directory:

find /path/to/dest -type d \( ! -name tmp \) -print

Find all directories except tmp and cache:

find /path/to/dest -type d \( ! -name tmp \) -o \( ! -name cache \) -print

The -prune option make sure that you do not descend into directory:

find /path/to/dest -type d \( ! -name tmp \) -o \( ! -name cache -prune \) -print

You can find all *.pl find except in tmp and root directory, enter:

find /  \( ! -name tmp \) -o \( ! -name root -prune \)  -name "*.pl" -print

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

16 comment

  1. find / \( ! -name tmp \) -o \( ! -name root -prune \) -name “*.pl” -print

    it’s also displaying the files in tmp directory ?? this isn’t working
    using findutils.x86_64 1:4.2.27-6.el5 version

  2. On my Ubuntu 11 this command will search for all “pl” files in the entire / dir but will not descend in /tmp:

    find . -path ./tmp -prune -o -iname “**.pl” -print

  3. To exclude multiple directories, the option to use is -a, which is AND operation; not -o as listed in the above article.

    Therefore, to find all directories except tmp and cache

    find /path/to/dest -type d \( ! -name tmp \) -a \( ! -name cache \) -print

  4. we have the below directory structure:


    I want to exclude the below 2 directories from my search but show up the other 2

    How do I do that using the above stated commands.

    Thanks for the help

  5. Joe,
    Try this
    This will list a non case sensitive list of all files with some phrase but will exlude some other folder with some non case sensitive phrase in it.
    Remember if you just want it to list all files you can use * or *.ext for all files with .ext etc.
    It seems counter intuitive to use the -o flag but it works here on csh

    The dot right after the find command signifies THIS directory or whatever directory you are in. You can always replace that with another directory path.

    find . -type f -iname “insert_file_names_you_want_listed_here” -print -o -type d -iname “insert_folder_name_you_dont_want_here” -prune

  6. Chris, thanks a lot, due to your post I was able to search for files containing “somephrase” in directory and its subdirs excluding some speciffic subdirectories with this command:
    find /path/to/dir/ -exec grep -q somephrase {} \; -print -o -type d -wholename “/path/to/dir/speciffic/dir/*” -prune

    hopefully somebody will find it usefull

  7. find . \( -name results -prune \) -o \( -name typ_testout -prune \) -o \( -name obj-testgen -prune \) -o \( -name obj-sim -prune \) -o -type f -exec grep -w abf {} \; -print

    I was trying to find the list of files having the string “abf”. But I wanted to exclude search results in the “results”, “typ_testout”, “obj-testgen”,”obj-sim” directories. So I used the above command and it worked perfectly fine for me. The secret is the “-o” option after each expression. So the find command matches against multiple expressions.

  8. Thanks for the article, using it and the man page, here is a version using wholename to ‘prune’ absolute paths:

    find / \( -wholename '/home/*' -prune \) -o \( -wholename '/other/folder/*' -prune \) -o -name \*.bak -print


  9. The real general problem is that of excluding certain directories by name, *AND ALSO AVOIDING TRAVERSING THEM* because they may contain *HUGE* subtrees that would take ages to scan, which is *PRECISELY* why we want to exclude them.

    Additionally, the directories to be excluded may be located deeper than immediately below the start directory, i.e. if the intention is to exclude directories namet _thumb, then *ALL* of the following should be excluded:


    The answers above either don’t work at all, fail to avoid traversing the excluded directories, or would only exclude the first line.

    Is the solution satisfying *ALL* the above requirements even possible with find?

  10. Due to some bugs and versions of find, some works and not.

    Though a simle find with grep will do.

    Find the files and directories with ganglia on it, except for the directories with name Downloads.
    sudo find / -iname “*ganglia*” | egrep -vi “downloads”

    Or you can exclude specific directory like, find files or directories with ganglia except in the directory /home/simpleboy/Downloads
    sudo find / -iname “*ganglia*” | egrep -v “\/home\/simpleboy\/Downloads”

    Thanks More power nixCraft!

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