Finding All .mp3 Files And Move To a New Directory From A Shell Prompt

last updated in Categories Linux, Shell scripting, UNIX

I have mp3 music files all over my file system. I would like to move them into specific directory called /mnt/mp3. So how do you find and move all mp3 files to /mnt/mp3 directory on Linux or Unix-like system?

Simply use the find command. It locates all files and then executes a command to move each mp3 file to /mnt/mp3 directory.


Warning: Backup all your data before you type the following commands.

Step # 1: Finding all your .mp3 files

The following command will just find all your .mp3 files using the find command:
# find / -iname "*.mp3" -print

  1. / – Search / root directory
  2. -iname – File name search pattern (case insensitive)
  3. -print – Display name of files on screen

Step # 2: Finding and moving all your .mp3 files in one single pass

Type the following command to find and move all files using mv command to /mnt/mp3 directory:
# find / -iname "*.mp3" -exec mv {} /mnt/mp3 \;

  • -exec mv {} /mnt/mp3 \; : Execute mv command. The string ‘{}’ is replaced by the file name. \; ends /bin/mv command.

To just move .mp3 files and not directories, use:
# find / -iname "*.mp3" -type f -exec /bin/mv {} /mnt/mp3 \;

Find all directories having name mp3 and move:
# find / -iname "*.mp3" -type d -exec /bin/mv {} /mnt/mp3 \;

For performance you may need to consider using xargs command:
find / -iname "*.mp3" -type f | xargs -I '{}' mv {} /mnt/mp3

Sp to moves all .mp3 files with special characters in its name such as white spaces try:
find / -iname "*.mp3" -type f -print0 | xargs -0 -I '{}' /bin/mv "{}" /mnt/mp3/

Final solution

Above commands will not maintain sub-directory structure. Try replacing mv with rsync to use the same directory structure on the target directory with the -R option:
find / -iname "*.mp3" -type f -print0 | xargs -0 -I '{}' /usr/bin/rsync -avR "{}" /mnt/mp3/

You can also write a script that moves files along with directories. This is also useful to move all files to mp3 player that has been mounted on /mnt/mp3 directory.


Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

41 comment

  1. find -exec {} forks a process for *every* found file and is not the best way of doing things. xargs is better in that it checks the maximum command length and intelligently breaks up commands. This makes it:
    a.) Faster
    b.) More efficient
    c.) Yet another way to do the same thing

    Here is the magic:
    find / -iname -type f “*.mp3″ | xargs -I ‘{}’ mv {} /mnt/mp3

    1. By default, I believe xargs uses just one process to execute all commands, whereas find -exec will fork. Would it not be a good idea to use the -P (–max-procs) 4 on a quad core computer to achieve speed through parallelization without overloading your computer.

  2. Some of you arguments are out of order.
    The correct statements are

    find / -iname “*.mp3″ -type d -exec /bin/mv {} /mnt/mp3 ;
    find / -iname “*.mp3″ -type f -exec /bin/mv {} /mnt/mp3 ;
    find / -iname “*.mp3″ -type f | xargs -I ‘{}’ mv {} /mnt/mp3

  3. and how can i actually move the files along with their directory? incl Xargs argument..? that would be just perfect!
    thnx a lot in advance?

  4. thank you guys so much for this article and the additional posts. i just had to do a file recovery from a hard drive that i accidentally erased when migrating from windows to linux and it restored all my music into approximately 12,000 different directories and i was going through each folder pulling them out cuz there isn’t a app that allowed me to find and move. this was EXACTLY what i needed. Thanx again for the helpful post.

  5. find / -iname “*.mp3” -type f -print0 | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mv {} /mnt/mp3

    This should get rid of “xargs: unmatched single quote; by default quotes are special to xargs unless you use the -0 option”

  6. hey thanks, from CHILE,

    i’ve lost all my information because y made a mistake on installing linux and unfortunate i formatted the disk, and all my data lost, then y install testdisk and y recover 90 percent of all my data, but it comes with serial name, like f123113.txt, f124434.pdf also in directories of 500 files, i had 75 directories, (75*500=a lot of work searching for pdf).

    so i reorganized my files by type in different folders

    thxs a lot

    sorry for poor English…

  7. Hey, thanks a lot for this! I’ve been studying bash scripting so I could do exactly this! Thanks a lot! btw.. It wasn’t clear to me, does this copy *just* the files, or does it also copy the directories? Thanks a lot again!


  8. Ah, that’s what I figured. Well, thank you very much! It’s really nice, I’m going to try to find a way to write a script that searches out all mp3s within a directory and it’s subdirectories(say, my “Music” directory), and then copy only the mp3s out, but keep the structure… I’m sure this is not only possible, but fairly easy… sad to say, I’m just learning shell scripting, so I have very little idea how to do it. I’m currently just figuring out the steps I’d need to take to get this working, then I’m going to use my trusty friend “google” to help me translate that into shell scripting. Many thanks! If anyone has any ideas on how to get this working, I’d be eternally grateful! 🙂


  9. @Isaiah

    I’m sure there is a simpler way, but I can think of doing it in two passes

    find / -iname “*.mp3″ -type f -print0 | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mkdir -p /mnt/mp3/`basename {}`
    find / -iname “*.mp3″ -type f -print0 | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mv {} /mnt/mp3/{}

  10. This is very helpful! Thanks for all your help! Quick question: Is there a way to delete the directory where the MP3 came from?

  11. If you just want to clean up empty directories after you’re done, this is a quick command I keep in a script called pruneEmptyDirs:

    perl -MFile::Find -e”finddepth(sub{rmdir},’.’)”

  12. I am new to linux, taking classes, reading, etc…
    Can someone explain to me what the “iname” in this command is? I’m not familiar with that
    ”’find / -iname “*.mp3″ -type f -print0 | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mv {} /mnt/mp3/{}”’

  13. The “man” command will be your friend. So “man find” will explain the command and its options.

    In this case -iname means do a case-insentive match on the filename, and the “-type f” means only match files not directories or symbolic links.

  14. “You can also write a script that moves files along with directories. This is also useful to move all files to mp3 player that has been mounted on /mnt/mp3 directory.”

    Can someone help me with this?

  15. Hi

    After some hours i get functional script….
    i don’t know why but this above command don’t work on my debian so i had to spent some time for it…
    Here is working code (in this case i find .jpg but it doesn’t matter)

    find /mnt/hda1/zdjecia/test1/ -type f -iname ‘*.jpg’ -printf ‘%’h””0″ | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mkdir -p /mnt/hda1/test/{} ;
    find /mnt/hda1/zdjecia/test1/ -iname “*.jpg” -type f -exec cp {} -rv /mnt/hda1/test{} ‘;’

    the first makes folders and the second copying files…
    I don’t know why to copy command xargs don’t works… so i used exec
    sory for my bad english…

  16. You could copy files and folder structure but only copy the actual files of *.mp3 type with rsync too, and this would work locally or via SSH:


    rsync -av –progress –include “*/” –include “*.mp3” –exclude “*” /some/path/ /mnt/targetpath/


    rsync -av –progress –include “*/” –include “*.mp3” –exclude “*” rsync -av –progress –include “*/” –include “*.mp3” –exclude “*” /some/path/ /mnt/targetpath/

  17. Helo,
    This text and comments help me with my work so I share what I made.
    This is my code :
    find /mail/ -type f -ctime +30 -name ‘*ST’ -printf “%h” | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mkdir -p /delmails{} && find /mail/ -type f -ctime +30 -name ‘*ST’ -print0 | xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mv ‘{}’ /delmails‘{}’

    i use dovecot with maildirs and imap. This code find deleted mails , older than 30 days, crate folder structure in new location and move there deleted mails.

  18. Thanks nixcraft for starting this, and thanks Anup for that correction for the error . saved me lots and am loving linux even more. Thanks dudes!!

  19. i need a shell script.that should be find the 2 months old files(location ex:/home/gowtham).The file names are saved with the format of date(example for a file name is monthdayyear,04062013,04072013).The script can find only 2 months old files,names are like 04062013 and remaining files are not need in the output.


  20. Hi Friends,

    I am looking for a simple bash command / script which checks source location for 30 days old file and moves to destination maintaining the same directory structure as source had.

    its easy to find 30 days old file, but facing difficulty with maintained same directory structure as sources. Pls suggest.

    Rahul Janghel.

  21. Realize this is an old post, but this was exactly what I was looking for to solve a problem I had with my script. Thanks!
    find . -maxdepth 1 -type f | xargs -I ‘{}’ sudo mv {} /directory1/directory2

  22. Hi
    Does this script overwrites files with the same name?
    Is there a way to prevent this? I have several files with the same name, (I’m moving pictures) but I’d like to keep them all. Is it possible?

  23. you could use “-n” with the mv, which is “noclobber”, meaning it will not clobber any existing files.

    ….. xargs -0 -I ‘{}’ mv -n {} /mnt/mp3/{} …..

    As always, take backups.

    I hate that photos end up with the same name. You could write a script that renames them based on exif data. so IMG_1234.jpg becomes IMG_1234-Canon_A560-201309011120.jpg Which would be much less likely to conflict.
    Or just to keep them unique, you could use an MD5SUM in the name like IMG_1234-calculatedMD5sum.jpg

  24. I highly recommend the article be updated as per Scott Carlson’s comment. Unfortunately, I read his comment after I overwrote a few files.

    @Scott: If you’re still interested, the following link will provide you a way to rename your photos based on exif data:
    I combined the above, your recommendation, and the script at the above link and was able to rename my files with a unique name without overwriting any existing file.

    1. The post has been updated. I have also posted a workaround to copy sub-directory structure. Hope this helps!

  25. So, I ran the following command:
    find /myfolders -iname “*.mp4” -type f -exec /bin/mv {} /newfolder ;
    on a Centos box.
    The command correctly found all the mp4 files in the folder and subdirectories but instead of moving them to a folder, it somehow moved them all into a single file which is now totally unusable. Where was my mistake?

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