25+ Examples of Linux find Command – How to search for Files

By | January 4, 2023

Linux find command

The Linux find command is a very useful and handy command to search for files from the command line. It can be used to find files based on various search criterias like permissions, user ownership, modification date/time, size etc. In this post we shall learn to use the find command along with various options that it supports.

The find command is available on most linux distros by default so you do not have to install any package. The find command is an essential one to learn, if you want to get super productive with the command line on linux.

The basic syntax of the find command looks like this

$ find location comparison-criteria search-term

1. List all files in current and sub directories

This command lists out all the files in the current directory as well as the subdirectories in the current directory.

$ find

The command is same as the following

$ find .
$ find . -print

2. Search specific directory or path

The following command will look for files in the test directory in the current directory. Lists out all files by default.

$ find ./test

The following command searches for files by their name.

$ find ./test -name "abc.txt"

We can also use wildcards

$ find ./test -name "*.php"

Note that all sub directories are searched recursively. So this is a very powerful way to find all files of a given extension.

Trying to search the "/" directory which is the root, would search the entire file system including mounted devices and network storage devices. So be careful. Of course you can press Ctrl + c anytime to stop the command.

When specifying the directory ("./test" in this example), its fine to omit the trailing slash. However, if the directory is actually a symlink to some other location then you MUST specify the trailing slash for it to work properly (find ./test/ ...)

Ignore the case

It is often useful to ignore the case when searching for file names. To ignore the case, just use the "iname" option instead of the "name" option.

$ find ./test -iname "*.Php"
Its always better to wrap the search term (name parameter) in double or single quotes. Not doing so will seem to work sometimes and give strange results at other times.

3. Limit depth of directory traversal

The find command by default travels down the entire directory tree recursively, which is time and resource consuming. However the depth of directory travesal can be specified. For example we don't want to go more than 2 or 3 levels down in the sub directories. This is done using the maxdepth option.

$ find ./test -maxdepth 2 -name "*.php"

$ find ./test -maxdepth 1 -name *.php

The second example uses maxdepth of 1, which means it will not go lower than 1 level deep, either only in the current directory.

This is very useful when we want to do a limited search only in the current directory or max 1 level deep sub directories and not the entire directory tree which would take more time.

Just like maxdepth there is an option called mindepth which does what the name suggests, that is, it will go atleast N level deep before searching for the files.

4. Invert match

It is also possible to search for files that do no match a given name or pattern. This is helpful when we know which files to exclude from the search.

$ find ./test -not -name "*.php"

So in the above example we found all files that do not have the extension of php, either non-php files. The find command also supports the exclamation mark inplace of not.

find ./test ! -name "*.php"

5. Combine multiple search criterias

It is possible to use multiple criterias when specifying name and inverting. For example

$ find ./test -name 'abc*' ! -name '*.php'

The above find command looks for files that begin with abc in their names and do not have a php extension. This is an example of how powerful search expressions can be build with the find command.

OR operator

When using multiple name criterias, the find command would combine them with AND operator, which means that only those files which satisfy all criterias will be matched. However if we need to perform an OR based matching then the find command has the "o" switch.

$ find -name '*.php' -o -name '*.txt'

The above command search for files ending in either the php extension or the txt extension.

6. Search only files or only directories

Sometimes we want to find only files or only directories with a given name. Find can do this easily as well.

$ find ./test -name abc*

Only files

$ find ./test -type f -name "abc*"

Only directories

$ find ./test -type d -name "abc*"

Quite useful and handy!

7. Search multiple directories together

So lets say you want to search inside 2 separate directories. Again, the command is very simple

$ find ./test ./dir2 -type f -name "abc*"

Check, that it listed files from 2 separate directories.

8. Find hidden files

Hidden files on linux begin with a period. So its easy to mention that in the name criteria and list all hidden files.

$ find ~ -type f -name ".*"

9. Find files with certain permissions

The find command can be used to find files with a specific permission using the "perm" option. The following command searches for files with the permission 0664

$ find . -type f -perm 0664

This can be useful to find files with wrong permissions which can lead to security issues. Inversion can also be applied to permission checking.

$ find . -type f ! -perm 0777

10. Find files with sgid/suid bits set

The "perm" option of find command accepts the same mode string like chmod. The following command finds all files with permission 644 and sgid bit set.

# find / -perm 2644

Similarly use 1664 for sticky bit. The perm option also supports using an alternative syntax instead of octal numbers.

$ find / -maxdepth 2 -perm /u=s 2>/dev/null

Note that the "2>/dev/null" removes those entries that have an error of "Permission Denied"

11. Find readonly files

Find all Read Only files.

$ find /etc -maxdepth 1 -perm /u=r
... output truncated ...

12. Find executable files

The following command will find executable files

$ find /bin -maxdepth 2 -perm /a=x
... output truncated ...

13. Find files owned to particular user

To find all or single file called tecmint.txt under /root directory of owner root.

$ find . -user bob

We could also specify the name of the file or any name related criteria along with user criteria

$ find . -user bob -name '*.php'

Its very easy to see, how we can build up criteria after criteria to narrow down our search for matching files.

14. Search files belonging to group

Find all files that belong to a particular group.

# find /var/www -group developer

Did you know you could search your home directory by using the ~ symbol ?

$ find ~ -name "hidden.php"


Search file and directories based on modification date and time

Another great search criteria that the find command supports is modification and accessed date/times. This is very handy when we want to find out which files were modified as a certain time or date range. Lets take a few examples

15. Find files modified N days back

To find all the files which are modified 50 days back.

# find / -mtime 50

16. Find files accessed in last N days

Find all files that were accessed in the last 50 days.

# find / -atime 50

17. Find files modified in a range of days

Find all files that were modified between 50 to 100 days ago.

# find / -mtime +50 –mtime -100

18. Find files changed in last N minutes.

Find files modified within the last 1 hour.

$ find /home/bob -cmin -60

19. Files modified in last hour

To find all the files which are modified in last 1 hour.

# find / -mmin -60

20. Find Accessed Files in Last 1 Hour

To find all the files which are accessed in last 1 hour.

# find / -amin -60

21. Find files of given size

Search files and directories based on size. To find all 50MB files, use.

# find / -size 50M

22. Find files in a size range

To find all the files which are greater than 50MB and less than 100MB.

$ find / -size +50M -size -100M

23. Find largest and smallest files

The find command when used in combination with the ls and sort command can be used to list out the largest files.
The following command will display the 5 largest file in the current directory and its subdirectory. This may take a while to execute depending on the total number of files the command has to process.

$ find . -type f -exec ls -s {} \; | sort -n -r | head -5

Similary when sorted in ascending order, it would show the smallest files first

$ find . -type f -exec ls -s {} \; | sort -n | head -5

24. Find empty files and directories

The following command uses the "empty" option of the find command, which finds all files that are empty.

# find /tmp -type f -empty

To file all empty directories use the type "d".

$ find ~/ -type d -empty

Really very simple and easy

Some advanced operations

The find command not only finds files based on a certain criteria, it can also act upon those files using any linux command. For example, we might want to delete some files.

Here are some quick examples

25. List out the found files

Lets say we found files using find command, and now want to list them out as the ls command would have done. This is very easy.

$ find . -exec ls -ld {} \;
drwxrwxr-x 4 enlightened enlightened 4096 Aug 11 19:01 .
-rw-rw-r-- 1 enlightened enlightened 0 Aug 11 16:25 ./abc.txt
drwxrwxr-x 2 enlightened enlightened 4096 Aug 11 16:48 ./abc
drwxrwxr-x 2 enlightened enlightened 4096 Aug 11 16:26 ./subdir
-rw-rw-r-- 1 enlightened enlightened 0 Aug 11 16:26 ./subdir/how.php
-rw-rw-r-- 1 enlightened enlightened 29 Aug 11 19:13 ./abc.php
-rw-rw-r-- 1 enlightened enlightened 0 Aug 11 16:25 ./cool.php

26. Delete all matching files or directories

The following command will remove all text files in the tmp directory.

$ find /tmp -type f -name "*.txt" -exec rm -f {} \;

The same operating can be carried out with directories, just put type d, instead of type f.

Lets take another example where we want to delete files larger than 100MB

$ find /home/bob/dir -type f -name *.log -size +10M -exec rm -f {} \;


So that was a quick tutorial on the linux find command. The find command is one of the most essential commands on the linux terminal, that enables searching of files very easy. Its a must of all system administrators. So learn it up. Have any questions ? Leave a comment below.

About Silver Moon

A Tech Enthusiast, Blogger, Linux Fan and a Software Developer. Writes about Computer hardware, Linux and Open Source software and coding in Python, Php and Javascript. He can be reached at [email protected].


25+ Examples of Linux find Command – How to search for Files
  1. Damien Brock

    Long Path tool can resolve error messages like: path too long, cannot delete file, too long path, destination path is too long, etc.

  2. Inukaze

    Very good article but how i can use find to search names with (S) for example ?

    Becuase i try :
    find . -iname ‘(S)’
    find . -iname “(S)”

    but the no results

  3. James Wood

    Was after a solid search and replace technique for file names today, and uncovered this page on ‘find’. Thanks for the tips. I am sure I’ll incorporate them into day-to-day operations.

  4. Ivan

    Thanks for the article. It’s really useful. I am wondering how can I use the find command and exclude the files that are using by some processes? I can find if files are used by process by:
    find path_to_files -type f -name “some_name” -exec fuser {} \;
    The output will show if there are files used by any processes but how can I get output that will show only files that are currently not used by any process?

  5. Aung Myat

    It would become more perfect if “Delete all files which are older than X time” in the last. This is a good article. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Will Stites

    You use the word “criterias”. That’s a mistake. Criteria is already plural. The singular is criterion. Thanks for providing the info here.

  7. horseandbuggy

    In connection with -o need to mention use of escaped parentheses \(, \) to group the criteria

    Note: one criterion, two criteria, no criterias.

    Also “Its” is a possessive adjective. “it’s” is short for “it is”.

  8. albina elvira

    The path you entered, is too long. Enter a shorter path
    File Name could not be found. Check the spelling of the filename,
    and verify that the file location is correct.

  9. albina elvira

    The path you entered, is too long. Enter a shorter path
    File Name could not be found. Check the spelling of the filename,
    and verify that the file location is correct.

  10. barryk desteve

    Do not worry if you want to remove the blocked files or too long path files from your system, here I suggest a smooth way. Use “Long path tool” software and keep yourself cool.

  11. George K.

    Great intro! Thanks!
    I think I have found a typo, in the Section “Find readonly files”: instead of “-perm /u=r” (which means: at least user-readable — compare with the following section), it should be “-perm -u=r”. That is, according to the man, ‘/’ means “at least” and ‘-‘ means “exactly”. I admit though that the man daunted me before I saw this page.

  12. naga

    find . -type f -exec ls -s {} \; | sort -n -r | head -5

    what is ls -s {} ??

    -s what it will do ??

    what about braces “{ } ” in that ?

    1. Jim Ward

      find . -type f -exec ls -s {} \; | sort -n -r | head -5

      find = find files
      . = directory to start at
      -type = only match regular files

      -exec = when you find a matching file, run this command
      {} = the matching file
      \; = the end of the command

      So when find matches find foo.txt, it runs:

      ls -s foo.txt

      What -s means depends on the ls command.

  13. Satya

    Thank you very much. i FIND it very helpful :-)
    Could you also please post some info regarding finding all files that contains a particular search text.

  14. Bob K

    Rakesh, when you use {} ; with an exec statement the find utility will replace {} with the path and filename. In essence in the the example above if the following were the results without an exec command:

    $ find /home/bob/dir -type f -name *.log -size +10M

    What find would do is run 2 separate statements:

    $ find /home/bob/dir -type f -name *.log -size +10M -exec rm -f {} ;
    rm -f /home/bob/dir/large.log
    rm -f /home/bob/dir/even_larger.log

    It is helpful to know that the path is relative, so if you were to say be in the /home/bob folder and use:
    find . type f -name *.log -size +10M

    Your results would end up like this:

  15. Wolfgang

    I think you’ve got an mistake: Hidden files do NOT start with a period, they start with a dot. In your example you search in your home dir for hidden files.
    The way to find executable files by usind find ist the “-executable” flag and you have to know that directories executeables, too.
    If you just want to find executable files you can use

    find PATH -executable -type f -name “whatever*”

    on the other hand, if you looking for directories you can use

    find PATH -executable -type d -name “whatever*”

  16. flatcap

    Good examples, well explained.
    You need to quote all the wildcards in examples 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 26.
    Unless you’re going to explain to your readers why commands might fail unexpectly :-)

  17. Maze

    Nice article, I bookmarked it for reference. It’d be interesting to have an offline version available for download, preferably as simple text, manpage or texinfo format.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *