find - macOS


The find command in macOS is a powerful utility used to search and locate the list of files and directories based on conditions you specify. The command is very versatile, empowering users to perform searches that are simple name lookups to more complex searches involving dates, sizes, permissions, and even file content. It is most effectively used in script automation, data mining, and system maintenance tasks.


The basic syntax of the find command is:

find [path...] [expression]
  • [path…]: The directory path where the search should begin. If no path is specified, find uses the current directory by default.
  • [expression]: This can be made up of options, tests, and actions separated by operators.


Here is a list of commonly used options and flags in the find command:

  • -name [pattern]: Search for files that match the given pattern. Use quotes to avoid shell expansion.
  • -type [type]: Filters search results based on the type of file (f for regular file, d for directory, etc.).
  • -size [n]: Find files of a specific size. Use +n for greater than n, -n for less than n, and n for exactly n.
  • -perm [-|/]mode: Search for files with permissions set to mode. Use - for exact match and / for any of the specified permissions.
  • -exec cmd {} ;: Execute a command on the files found.


  1. Find all .txt files in the current directory:

    find . -name "*.txt"
  2. Find directories named src within /projects:

    find /projects -type d -name src
  3. Find all files larger than 100MB in /data:

    find /data -type f -size +100M
  4. Delete all .tmp files in /temp:

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

Common Issues

  • Permission Denied: If you run find without appropriate permissions, you may encounter permission denied errors. Use sudo to run the command with elevated privileges.
  • Complex expressions not working: Ensure that complex find expressions are correctly formatted, with proper logical operators and grouped with parentheses.


You can integrate find with other commands like grep or xargs to enhance functionality:

  • Find text within files:

    find . -type f -name "*.txt" -exec grep "searchtext" {} +
  • Compress all found JPEG files:

    find /photos -type f -name "*.jpg" -exec gzip {} +
  • grep: Search inside files for patterns.
  • locate: Quickly find file locations (uses a database).
  • xargs: Build and execute command lines from standard input.

For more detailed documentation, refer to the find man page by typing man find in your terminal.