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find cheat sheet

Basic options

Find has many options, but here are the ones that are commonly used. Often in combination to gain a better search job.

Long optionShort optionWhat the option does
-exec VALUEPerform some command on the search rules
-group GROUPiSearch by ownership (group)
-printJust show the search results
-size VALUELimit by file size, with minus being smaller than, plus is bigger than specified size
-type dOnly search for directories
-type fOnly search for files
-user USERNAMESearch by ownership (user)
-xdevDo not cross between different file systems (e.g. NFS)

Creating a shell script? Use the long format option, as this improves the readability. For quick use of find on the command-line consider using the short notation of the related option.


Searching for a directory with a specific name, can be done by specifying the type and name.

find / -type d -name etc

To find all empty directories under the current work directory, use the -empty option.

find . -type d -empty

By permissions

The find command has the option to limit the search to the specific [file permissions](/filesystems/file-permissions/ of a file.

Find files with setuid (SUID)

To see what files have the setuid bit, use the

find . -perm -4000

Another notation to do the same:

find . -perm /u=s

Find files with setgid (SGID)

find . -perm -2000

Similar to setuid, we can use an alternative notation and search for the ’s’ in the group:

find . -perm /g=s

By ownership: user or group

To find all the files owned by a specific user, define the username.

find . -user michael

Another option is searching all files selected by a specific group:

find . -group adm

By file size

Smaller than 1 megabyte:

find . -size -1M

Search files bigger than a specific size:

find . -size +1M

The -size option can also be combined to find a file with a minimum size and maximum size.

By modification time

Want to find the files for which the content was recently changed? Use the modified time and select the time in minutes:

find . -type f -mmin -15

When looking for files that are changed for a longer period, change the minus into a plus and specify the period (e.g. older than 1 week).

find . -type f -mtime +1w

By modification date

Looking for files that are changed after a specific date?

find . -type f -newermt 2024-05-01

To find files modified in a specific date range, set the begin and end. For example to define a specific week:

find . -type f -newermt 2024-05-01 ! -newermt 2024-05-08

By access date

Like the modification date, we can search for files that are recently accessed. To define a specific day, tell find the start date and the stop date.

find . -type f -newerat 2024-05-08 ! -newerat 2024-05-09

By depth

Sometimes you don’t want to go multiple levels deep into the underlying subdirectories. Specify the depth to search, so that find knows when to stop.

find . -maxdepth 1 -print

Applying changes to files found

Correcting file permissions

Change all files that have file permissions of ‘777’ to more a sane value of ‘644’:

find . -type f -perm 777 -print -exec chmod 644 {} \;

For directories that would most likely be 755:

find . -type d -perm 777 -print -exec chmod 755 {} \;

Relevant articles using find command

The following articles include an example on how to use find and might be worth further exploring.

Liked this cheat sheet? There are more!


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This article has been written by our Linux security expert Michael Boelen. With focus on creating high-quality articles and relevant examples, he wants to improve the field of Linux security. No more web full of copy-pasted blog posts.

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