How To Use Find and Locate to Search for Files on a Linux VPS



One problem users run into when first dealing with a Linux machine is how to find the files they are looking for.

This guide will cover how to use the aptly named find command. This will help you search for files on your VPS using a variety of filters and parameters. We will also briefly cover the locate command, which can be used to search for commands in a different way.

Finding by Name

The most obvious way of searching for files is by name.

To find a file by name, type:

find -name "query"

This will be case sensitive, meaning a search for “file” is different than a search for “File”.

To find a file by name, but ignore the case of the query, type:

find -iname "query"

If you want to find all files that don’t adhere to a specific pattern, you can invert the search with “-not” or “!”. If you use “!”, you must escape the character so that bash does not try to interpret it before find can act:

find -not -name "query_to_avoid"


find \! -name "query_to_avoid"

Finding by Type

You can specify the type of files you want to find with the “-type” parameter. It works like this:

find -type type_descriptor query

Some of the most common descriptors that you can use to specify the type of file are here:

  • f: regular file
  • d: directory
  • l: symbolic link
  • c: character devices
  • b: block devices

For instance, if we wanted to find all of the character devices on our system, we could issue this command:

find / -type c
. . .

We can search for all files that end in “.conf” like this:

find / -type f -name "*.conf"
. . .

Filtering by Time and Size

Find gives you a variety of ways to filter results by size and time.


You can filter by size with the use of the “-size” parameter.

We add a suffix on the end of our value that specifies how we are counting. These are some popular options:

  • c: bytes
  • k: Kilobytes
  • M: Megabytes
  • G: Gigabytes
  • b: 512-byte blocks

To find all files that are exactly 50 bytes, type:

find / -size 50c

To find all files less than 50 bytes, we can use this form instead:

find / -size -50c

To Find all files more than 700 Megabytes, we can use this command:

find / -size +700M


Linux stores time data about access times, modification times, and change times.

  • Access Time: Last time a file was read or written to.
  • Modification Time: Last time the contents of the file were modified.
  • Change Time: Last time the file’s inode meta-data was changed.

We can use these with the “-atime”, “-mtime”, and “-ctime” parameters. These can use the plus and minus symbols to specify greater than or less than, like we did with size.

The value of this parameter specifies how many days ago you’d like to search.

To find files that have a modification time of a day ago, type:

find / -mtime 1

If we want files that were accessed in less than a day ago, we can type:

find / -atime -1

To get files that last had their meta information changed more than 3 days ago, type:

find / -ctime +3

There are also some companion parameters we can use to specify minutes instead of days:

find / -mmin -1

This will give the files that have been modified type the system in the last minute.

Find can also do comparisons against a reference file and return those that are newer:

find / -newer myfile

Finding by Owner and Permissions

You can also search for files by the file owner or group owner.

You do this by using the “-user” and “-group” parameters respectively. Find a file that is owned by the “syslog” user by entering:

find / -user syslog

Similarly, we can specify files owned by the “shadow” group by typing:

find / -group shadow

We can also search for files with specific permissions.

If we want to match an exact set of permissions, we use this form:

find / -perm 644

This will match files with exactly the permissions specified.

If we want to specify anything with at least those permissions, you can use this form:

find / -perm -644

This will match any files that have additional permissions. A file with permissions of “744” would be matched in this instance.

Filtering by Depth

For this section, we will create a directory structure in a temporary directory. It will contain three levels of directories, with ten directories at the first level. Each directory (including the temp directory) will contain ten files and ten subdirectories.

Make this structure by issuing the following commands:

mkdir -p ~/test/level1dir{1..10}/level2dir{1..10}/level3dir{1..10}
touch ~/test/{file{1..10},level1dir{1..10}/{file{1..10},level2dir{1..10}/{file{1..10},level3dir{1..10}/file{1..10}}}}
cd ~/test

Feel free to check out the directory structures with ls and cd to get a handle on how things are organized. When you are finished, return to the test directory:

cd ~/test

We will work on how to return specific files from this structure. Let’s try an example with just a regular name search first, for comparison:

find -name file1
. . .

There are a lot of results. If we pipe the output into a counter, we can see that there are 1111 total results:

find -name file1 | wc -l

This is probably too many results to be useful to you in most circumstances. Let’s try to narrow it down.

You can specify the maximum depth of the search under the top-level search directory:

find -maxdepth num -name query

To find “file1” only in the “level1” directories and above, you can specify a max depth of 2 (1 for the top-level directory, and 1 for the level1 directories):

find -maxdepth 2 -name file1

That is a much more manageable list.

You can also specify a minimum directory if you know that all of the files exist past a certain point under the current directory:

find -mindepth num -name query

We can use this to find only the files at the end of the directory branches:

find -mindepth 4 -name file
. . .

Again, because of our branching directory structure, this will return a large number of results (1000).

You can combine the min and max depth parameters to focus in on a narrow range:

find -mindepth 2 -maxdepth 3 -name file
. . .

Executing and Combining Find Commands

You can execute an arbitrary helper command on everything that find matches by using the “-exec” parameter. This is called like this:

find find_parameters -exec command_and_params {} \;

The “{}” is used as a placeholder for the files that find matches. The “\;” is used so that find knows where the command ends.

For instance, we could find the files in the previous section that had “644” permissions and modify them to have “664” permissions:

cd ~/test
find . -type f -perm 644 -exec chmod 664 {} \;

We could then change the directory permissions like this:

find . -type d -perm 755 -exec chmod 700 {} \;

If you want to chain different results together, you can use the “-and” or “-or” commands. The “-and” is assumed if omitted.

find . -name file1 -or -name file9 

Find Files Using Locate

An alternative to using find is the locate command. This command is often quicker and can search the entire file system with ease.

You can install the command with apt-get:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mlocate

The reason locate is faster than find is because it relies on a database of the files on the filesystem.

The database is usually updated once a day with a cron script, but you can update it manually by typing:

sudo updatedb

Run this command now. Remember, the database must always be up-to-date if you want to find recently acquired or created files.

To find files with locate, simply use this syntax:

locate query

You can filter the output in some ways.

For instance, to only return files containing the query itself, instead of returning every file that has the query in the directories leading to it, you can use the “-b” for only searching the “basename”:

locate -b query

To have locate only return results that still exist in the filesystem (that were not remove between the last “updatedb” call and the current “locate” call), use the “-e” flag:

locate -e query

To see statistics about the information that locate has cataloged, use the “-S” option:

locate -S
Database /var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db:
    3,315 directories
    37,228 files
    1,504,439 bytes in file names
    594,851 bytes used to store database


Both find and locate are good ways to find files on your system. It is up to you to decide which of these tools is appropriate in each situation.

Find and locate are powerful commands that can be strengthened by combining them with other utilities through pipelines. Experiment with filtering by using commands like wc, sort, and grep.


768 评论 在 "How To Use Find and Locate to Search for Files on a Linux VPS"

排序:   最新 | 最旧 | 得票最多












These are in fact enormous ideas in about blogging. You have touched some
nice things here. Any way keep up wrinting.

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really
realize what you are speaking approximately! Bookmarked.

Kindly additionally discuss with my site =). We could have a link exchange contract between us

obrigado! realmente não funciona entrarei em contato com o fabnecarti, pois acredito que nesse caso a positivo certamente limitou as opções para que se procure o fabricante! obrigado.

15000K FF14 Gil in Goblin [US/NA Server] Sold, Customer Left the Review: The customer service are really friendly and they are nice. The gil price is really low as i have compared the price with the market price. Well done.

25000K Final Fantasy XIV Gil in Tiamat [JP Server] Sold, Customer Left the Review: Got my FFXIV Gil super fast! very friendly customer service! will dfintly order again from them. 🙂

30000K Final Fantasy XIV Gil in Yojimbo [JP Server] Sold, Customer Left the Review: The customer service are really friendly and they are nice. The gil price is really low as i have compared the price with the market price. Well done.

20000K FF14 Gil in Mateus [US/NA Server] Sold, Customer Left the Review: I was delighted with the promptness in my gil delivery. Thumbs up!

I’m not sure why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me.
Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end?
I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem together with your site in internet
explorer, might check this? IE still is the market leader and a large part of folks will leave out your fantastic writing due to this problem.

There are no words to describe how bodacious this is.

I had been just seeking this info for quite a while. After six hours of continuous Googleing, at last I managed to get it inside your site. I speculate what’s deficiency of Google technique that do not rank this sort of informative internet sites in top of the list. Usually the superior web web sites are full of garbage.

That’s not even 10 minutes well spent!

Whom ever it is, the cyclones are still going to suck. Outside of the the big 12 and Iowa, no one gives a crap about ISU athletics. They will always be a bottom feeder that will only one about 8 games max at best.

Unbelievable how well-written and informative this was.

Does your website have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating
it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some
recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing.

Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing
it improve over time.

x2esr8 You got a very good website, Gladiola I detected it through yahoo.

Very good blog article.Thanks Again. Will read on

just beneath, are quite a few totally not connected web-sites to ours, even so, they may be surely really worth going over

Red your blog post and loved it. Have you at any time imagined about visitor putting up on other relevant weblogs equivalent to your blog?

I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will often

It is advisable to focus on company once you may. It is best to bring up your company to market this.

Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to search out any person with some unique ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the net, somebody with a bit originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the internet!

wow, awesome article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

YES! I finally found this web page! I ave been looking just for this article for so long!!

Your method of explaining all in this piece of writing is truly good, all be able to simply be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

Your house is valueble for me. Thanks!?

Needed to send you a tiny note in order to say thank you again about the nice concepts you have prov… 阅读更多 »

Thanks so much for the blog post.Really thank you! Great.

This very blog is without a doubt entertaining and amusing. I have chosen many useful things out of this amazing blog. I ad love to go back again soon. Thanks!

Some genuinely fantastic posts on this web site , thankyou for contribution.

This website was how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!

I’а†ve read various exceptional stuff right here. Surely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how lots try you set to produce this sort of great informative internet site.

Very good info. Lucky me I came across your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I ave bookmarked it for later!

Hi there! I understand this is kind of off-topic but I had to
ask. Does running a well-established website like yours take a lot of work?
I am completely new to writing a blog however I do write
in my diary on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I can share
my personal experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or
tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful article. Thanks for providing this info.

Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So nice to search out any individual with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thanks for beginning this up. this web site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with slightly originality. useful job for bringing something new to the web!

Thank you for your blog article.Really thank you! Fantastic.

Thanks for your entire effort on this blog. My aunt delights in participating in investigations and it’s simple to grasp why. A number of us notice all about the lively manner you render useful tips via your website and as well as foster participation from other people about this situation so our own simple princess is certainly studying a lot. Have fun with the rest of the year. You’re the one conducting a stunning job.

This excellent website definitely has all the information and facts I needed abo

Some really choice blog posts on this site, saved to favorites.