5+ “locate” Command Usage Examples in Linux

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This tutorial explains Linux “locate” command, options and its usage with examples.

locate – find files by name

Description :

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locate reads one or more databases prepared by updatedb(8) and writes file names matching at least one of the PATTERNs to standard output, one per line.

If –regex is not specified, PATTERNs can contain globbing characters. If any PATTERN contains no globbing characters, locate behaves as if the pattern were *PATTERN*. By default, locate does not check whether files found in database still exist (but it does require all parent directories to exist if the database was built with — require-visibility no). locate can never report files created after the most recent update of the relevant database.

Usage :

locate [OPTION]… PATTERN…

Options :

-b, –basename
Match only the base name against the specified patterns. This is the opposite of –wholename.
-c, –count
Instead of writing file names on standard output, write the number of matching entries only.
-d, –database DBPATH
Replace the default database with DBPATH. DBPATH is a :-separated list of database file names. If more than one –database option is specified, the resulting path is a concatenation of the separate paths. An empty database file name is replaced by the default database. A database file name – refers to the standard input. Note that a database can be read from the standard input only once.
-e, –existing
Print only entries that refer to files existing at the time locate is run.
-h, –help
Write a summary of the available options to standard output and exit successfully.
-i, –ignore-case
Ignore case distinctions when matching patterns.
-l, –limit, -n LIMIT
Exit successfully after finding LIMIT entries. If the –count option is specified, the resulting count is also limited to LIMIT.
-m, –mmap
Ignored, for compatibility with BSD and GNU locate.
-P, –nofollow, -H
When checking whether files exist (if the –existing option is specified), do not follow trailing symbolic links. This causes broken symbolic links to be reported like other files. This is the opposite of –follow.
-S, –statistics
Write statistics about each read database to standard output instead of searching for files and exit successfully.
-q, –quiet
Write no messages about errors encountered while reading and processing databases.
-r, –regexp REGEXP
Search for a basic regexp REGEXP. No PATTERNs are allowed if this option is used, but this option can be specified multiple times.
-w, –wholename
Match only the whole path name against the specified patterns. This is the default behavior. The opposite can be specified using –basename.

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Examples :

1. Search a File using locate

To search a particular file using locate, just do the following

$ locate httpd.conf
/etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf
/usr/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf
/usr/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf.bak

2. Display only the Count

To get the count of number of matching entry, use locate -c as shown below.

$ locate -c httpd.conf
3

3. Change mlocate Database Location

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The default database that locate utility reads is /var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db, but if you wish to link the locate command with some other database kept at some other location, use the -d option.

4. Ignore Case in Locate Output

The locate command by default is configured to accept the file name in a case sensitive manner. In order to make the results case insensitive, we can use the -i option :

In the following example, we created two files with both lowercase and uppercase.

# cd /tmp
# touch new.txt NEW.txt
 
# updatedb

If you use the locate command only with the lowercase, it will find only the lowercase file.

# locate new.txt
/tmp/new.txt

Use locate -i, which will ignore case, and look for both lowercase and uppercase file.

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$ locate -i new.txt
/tmp/NEW.txt
/tmp/new.txt
/usr/share/doc/samba-common/WHATSNEW.txt.gz

5. Restrict the Locate Output

$ locate -l 5 passwd
/etc/passwd
/etc/passwd-
/etc/dovecot/conf.d/auth-passwdfile.conf.ext
/etc/pam.d/passwd
/etc/security/opasswd

This displays only specified number of entries.

6. Show database statistics

$ locate -S
Database /var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db:
	15,076 directories
	172,533 files
	8,942,105 bytes in file names
	3,976,548 bytes used to store database

7. Check File Existence

We can just use ‘locate -e’, which will display only the files that exists in the system, when you are executing the locate command. i.e Even when the file exist in the mlocate.db, it will still verify to make sure the file is physically present in the system before displaying it.

# locate -e sysctl.conf
/etc/sysctl.conf
/usr/share/man/man5/sysctl.conf.5.gz

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Manish Bhojasia, a technology veteran with 20+ years @ Cisco & Wipro, is Founder and CTO at Sanfoundry. He is Linux Kernel Developer & SAN Architect and is passionate about competency developments in these areas. He lives in Bangalore and delivers focused training sessions to IT professionals in Linux Kernel, Linux Debugging, Linux Device Drivers, Linux Networking, Linux Storage, Advanced C Programming, SAN Storage Technologies, SCSI Internals & Storage Protocols such as iSCSI & Fiber Channel. Stay connected with him @ LinkedIn