Find command examples

The find can be used to find files and directories and perform subsequent operations on them. It supports searching by file, folder, name, creation date, modification date, owner and permissions.

When used with the -exec flag, other UNIX commands can be executed on files or folders found.


The basic syntax of the find commands looks like:

find <location> <comparison-criteria> <search-term>

For example:

# find /data -type f -name

Basic find commands

find / -type f -name find file in all dirs from root downwards.
find / -name find file/dir in all dirs
find . -name search under current directory
find . -name "foo.*" find . -name "*.bar" search with wildcards
find /home/alex -type d -name tmp search /home/alex for directory tmp

Search ignoring case

find . -iname "FooBar" find foobar FOOBAR fOoBaR fooBAR, etc..
find . -type f -iname "FooBar" same search but files only
find. -type d -iname "FooBar" same search but directories only

Inverting the match

To find files that don't match a pattern use the -not switch

find / -not -iname "FooBar"  find all except foobar FOOBAR fOoBaR fooBAR, etc..
find . -type f -not -name "*.html" find all files except with .html extn

Find files by size

Use the -size switch + for greater than or - for lesser than

find / -type f -size +100M find files bigger than the given size
find . -type f -size -100M find files smaller than the given size
find /data -type f -size 100M find files that match the exact given size

Find files with multiple extensions

find . -type f \( -name "*.htm" -o -name "*.html" \) -print find all *.htm and *.html files
find . -type f \( -name "*.sh" -o -name "*.ksh" -o -name "*.csh" \) -print find all *.sh, *.ksh and *.csh files

Find files based on time

You can find files based on following three file time attribute.

  1. Modification time of the file. Modification time gets updated when the file content modified.
  2. Access time of the file. Access time gets updated when the file accessed.
  3. Change time of the file. Change time gets updated when the inode data changes.
find . -mtime 1 files modifed within last 24 hours
find . -mtime -7 modified in last 7 days
find . -mtime -7 -type f files modified in last 7 days
find . -mtime -15 -type d directories modified within last 14 days

Find files modified/accessed/changed after modifying a reference file

find . -newer /etc/passwd files modified after
find . -anewer /etc/hosts files accessed after
find . -cnewer /etc/fstab files changed after
find . \! -newer filename \! -samefile filename To avoid matching on the file you are comparing against

Search only current filesystem

Use -xdev switch to not descend directories on other filesystems

find / -name "*.log" will search all file systems from /
find / -xdev -name "*.log" will search only / and not other mount points under /

Using -exec

Using the find command with -exec allows other UNIX commands to be executed on files or folders found. For example:

find . -name "*.txt" cp {} {}.bak \; find and copy all .txt files to .bak
find /www-data -name "*.html" -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \; Change all html files to mode 644
find /www-data/cgi-bin -name "*.cgi" -type f -exec chmod 755 {} \; Change all cgi files to mode 755
find . -type f -name "*.tmp" -exec rm {} \; Find and remove all .tmp files

Finding files that contain text (find + grep)

find . -type f -exec grep -l hello {} \; -print list all files containing hello
find /www-data/app/ -name "*.php" -exec grep "debug (" {} \; -print recursively search php files and grep for debug

Misc find examples

find -name "*.txt" 2>/dev/null redirecting errors to /dev/null
find . -type f -iname “*.mp3” -exec mv “s/ /_/g” {} \; substitute space with underscore in the file name
find . -perm -g=r -type f -exec ls -l {} \; display files with group read-only permissions
find / -maxdepth 3 -name passwd Limit search to specific directory level
find . -mmin -60 -exec ls -l {} \; Long list files where were edited within last hour
find / \( -perm -4000 -fprintf /root/suid.txt '%#m %u %p\n' \) , \ \( -size +100M -fprintf /root/big.txt '%-10s %p\n' \) traverse the filesystem just once, listing setuid files and directories into /root/suid.txt and large files into /root/big.txt
find ./dir1 ./dir2 ./dir3 -type f -name "*.doc" search multiple directories together
find . -user martin -name "*.odt" find all openoffice writer documents owned by martin

To summarise, the find options are endless. Review the find(1) man page for more examples.