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LOCATE(1) General Commands Manual LOCATE(1)


locate - list files in databases that match a pattern


locate [-d path | --database=path] [-e | -E | --[non-]existing] [-i | --ignore-case] [-0 | --null] [-c | --count] [-w | --wholename] [-b | --basename] [-l N | --limit=N] [-S | --statistics] [-r | --regex ] [--regextype R] [--max-database-age D] [-P | -H | --nofollow] [-L | --follow] [--version] [-A | --all] [-p | --print] [--help] pattern...


This manual page documents the GNU version of locate. For each given pattern, locate searches one or more databases of file names and displays the file names that contain the pattern. Patterns can contain shell-style metacharacters: `*', `?', and `[]'. The metacharacters do not treat `/' or `.' specially. Therefore, a pattern `foo*bar' can match a file name that contains `foo3/bar', and a pattern `*duck*' can match a file name that contains `lake/.ducky'. Patterns that contain metacharacters should be quoted to protect them from expansion by the shell.

If a pattern is a plain string — it contains no metacharacters — locate displays all file names in the database that contain that string anywhere. If a pattern does contain metacharacters, locate only displays file names that match the pattern exactly. As a result, patterns that contain metacharacters should usually begin with a `*', and will most often end with one as well. The exceptions are patterns that are intended to explicitly match the beginning or end of a file name.

The file name databases contain lists of files that were on the system when the databases were last updated. The system administrator can choose the file name of the default database, the frequency with which the databases are updated, and the directories for which they contain entries; see updatedb(1).

If locate's output is going to a terminal, unusual characters in the output are escaped in the same way as for the -print action of the find command. If the output is not going to a terminal, file names are printed exactly as-is.


-0, --null
Use ASCII NUL as a separator, instead of newline.
Print only names which match all non-option arguments, not those matching one or more non-option arguments.
Results are considered to match if the pattern specified matches the final component of the name of a file as listed in the database. This final component is usually referred to as the `base name'.
Instead of printing the matched filenames, just print the total number of matches we found, unless --print (-p) is also present.
Instead of searching the default file name database, search the file name databases in path, which is a colon-separated list of database file names. You can also use the environment variable LOCATE_PATH to set the list of database files to search. The option overrides the environment variable if both are used. Empty elements in the path are taken to be synonyms for the file name of the default database. A database can be supplied on stdin, using `-' as an element of path. If more than one element of path is `-', later instances are ignored (and a warning message is printed).
The file name database format changed starting with GNU find and locate version 4.0 to allow machines with different byte orderings to share the databases. This version of locate can automatically recognize and read databases produced for older versions of GNU locate or Unix versions of locate or find. Support for the old locate database format will be discontinued in a future release.
Only print out such names that currently exist (instead of such names that existed when the database was created). Note that this may slow down the program a lot, if there are many matches in the database. If you are using this option within a program, please note that it is possible for the file to be deleted after locate has checked that it exists, but before you use it.
Only print out such names that currently do not exist (instead of such names that existed when the database was created). Note that this may slow down the program a lot, if there are many matches in the database.
Print a summary of the options to locate and exit.
Ignore case distinctions in both the pattern and the file names.
Limit the number of matches to N. If a limit is set via this option, the number of results printed for the -c option will never be larger than this number.
If testing for the existence of files (with the -e or -E options), consider broken symbolic links to be non-existing. This is the default.
Normally, locate will issue a warning message when it searches a database which is more than 8 days old. This option changes that value to something other than 8. The effect of specifying a negative value is undefined.
Accepted but does nothing, for compatibility with BSD locate.
If testing for the existence of files (with the -e or -E options), treat broken symbolic links as if they were existing files. The -H form of this option is provided purely for similarity with find; the use of -P is recommended over -H.
Print search results when they normally would not, because of the presence of --statistics (-S) or --count (-c).
The pattern specified on the command line is understood to be a regular expression, as opposed to a glob pattern. The Regular expressions work in the same was as in emacs except for the fact that "." will match a newline. GNU find uses the same regular expressions. Filenames whose full paths match the specified regular expression are printed (or, in the case of the -c option, counted). If you wish to anchor your regular expression at the ends of the full path name, then as is usual with regular expressions, you should use the characters ^ and $ to signify this.
Use regular expression dialect R. Supported dialects include `findutils-default', `posix-awk', `posix-basic', `posix-egrep', `posix-extended', `posix-minimal-basic', `awk', `ed', `egrep', `emacs', `gnu-awk', `grep' and `sed'. See the Texinfo documentation for a detailed explanation of these dialects.
Accepted but does nothing, for compatibility with BSD locate.
Print various statistics about each locate database and then exit without performing a search, unless non-option arguments are given. For compatibility with BSD, -S is accepted as a synonym for --statistics. However, the output of locate -S is different for the GNU and BSD implementations of locate.
Print the version number of locate and exit.
Match against the whole name of the file as listed in the database. This is the default.


Colon-separated list of databases to search. If the value has a leading or trailing colon, or has two colons in a row, you may get results that vary between different versions of locate.


The locate program started life as the BSD fast find program, contributed to BSD by James A. Woods. This was described by his paper Finding Files Fast which was published in Usenix ;login:, Vol 8, No 1, February/March, 1983, pp. 8-10. When the find program began to assume a default -print action if no action was specified, this changed the interpretation of find pattern. The BSD developers therefore moved the fast find functionality into locate. The GNU implementation of locate appears to be derived from the same code.

Significant changes to locate in reverse order:

4.3.7 Byte-order independent support for old database format
4.3.3 locate -i supports multi-byte characters correctly
Introduced --max_db_age
4.3.2 Support for the slocate database format
4.2.22 Introduced the --all option
4.2.15 Introduced the --regex option
4.2.14 Introduced options -L, -P, -H
4.2.12 Empty items in LOCATE_PATH now indicate the default database
4.2.11 Introduced the --statistics option
4.2.4 Introduced --count and --limit
4.2.0 Glob characters cause matching against the whole file name
4.0 Introduced the LOCATE02 database format
3.7 Locate can search multiple databases


The locate database correctly handles filenames containing newlines, but only if the system's sort command has a working -z option. If you suspect that locate may need to return filenames containing newlines, consider using its --null option.


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This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it. There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.


find(1), updatedb(1), xargs(1), glob(3), locatedb(5)

Full documentation <>
or available locally via: info locate