You can use ‘find’ to look for files based on their names, sizes, or other properties and execute commands against them.

Basic usage

find [<command options>] <path where you want to search> <search options>
# Add single quotes when using patterns
$ find . -name '*.pdf'

You can pipe standard error to hide “Permission denied” errors:

find . -name '*.pdf' 2>/dev/null

Command options

  • -L: follow symlinks.

Search options

  • -name <some word>: search by word, you can use wildcards (like *, remember to enclose the pattern in single quotes).
  • -iname <some word>: case insensitive search.
  • -size <bytes or number and 'b', 'k', 'M', 'G',...>: search based on file size. You can add + or - for “more than” or “less than”.
    # find files with a size of more than 10MB
    find . -size +10M
    • Bear in mind that file size is rounded up to the next unit.
      # this will only find empty files
      find . -size -1M
      # show filesize
      find . -size +100M -exec ls -sh {} \;
  • -mmin <minutes>: files that were last modified in less, more or exactly the specified minutes (use + or - for “more than” and “les than”). You can use -mtime <days> as well.
  • -amin <minutes>: files that were accessed in the last specified minutes. You can use -atime <days>as well.
  • -exec <command>: execute a command with every result. Use {} where you would put the filename and end the command with \; or + (+ can be faster with some commands because makes find to only run <command> one time appending every result as an argument. Commands that don’t allow several arguments will not work with +).
    # this will remove all txt files in current directory (note the space after {})
    find . -name '*.txt' -exec rm {} \;
    # difference between + and \;
    $ time find . -type f -exec du -a {} + > /dev/null
    real	0m0.015s
    user	0m0.008s
    sys	0m0.006s
    $ time find . -type f -exec du -a {} \; > /dev/null
    real	0m0.829s
    user	0m0.624s
    sys	0m0.213s
  • -type d: search only for folders.
  • -type f: search only for files.
  • -maxdepth <number>: limit the depth of your search. For example, -maxdepth 1 only searches at the current level. Use this parameter before any other.
  • -not: search for the inverse of a parameter placed after this parameter.
  • -not -path <path>: exclude directories.
    find . -mmin 5 -not -path "*cache/*" -not -path "*config/*"
  • -user <username>: search files/folders owned by a user.
  • -executable: search files/folders that the current user can execute.
  • -writable: files/folders writable by the user.


You can add operators (AND, OR, NOT,…) when using two or more search options. Without operators, defaults to ‘AND’.

  • -o: ‘OR’ operator.
    find . -name '*.mp3' -o -name '*.jpg'
  • \!: ‘NOT’ operator.
  • -not: similar to \! but is not POSIX compliant.
  • -a: ‘AND’.

More examples

  • Find files by type (audio, video, image, etc.):
    find . -type f -exec file --mime-type {} \; | awk -F ':' '$2 ~ /video/ {print}'
  • Find empty directories/files
    find . -type d -empty
    # '-type f' to find files
Test with this online terminal:

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