locate - Linux


The locate command in Linux is a powerful tool used to quickly search for files and directories on a system. It uses a prebuilt database of the files on the system, which enables faster searching compared to commands like find that search in real time. locate is particularly useful for finding the paths of files and directories that match a specified pattern.


locate [OPTION]... PATTERN...
  • PATTERN: The string or pattern to search for in the filenames.

Common Variations

  • Search while ignoring the case of both the pattern and database contents:
    locate -i pattern


  • -i
    Ignores the case when searching. By default, locate searches are case-sensitive.

  • -l, --limit LIMIT
    Limit the number of search results displayed. The default is no limit, displaying all matches.

  • --existing, -e
    Only print files that exist at the time locate is run. Helps to avoid showing files indexed in the database that have been deleted.

  • --regex
    Treats the pattern as a regular expression instead of a basic string.

  • -S, --statistics
    Displays statistics about the database used by locate, such as the number of files and directories stored in it.

  • --database DBPATH
    Specify a particular database to use, rather than the default.


  1. Simple search for a filename:

    locate file.txt

    Finds all files and directories that include file.txt.

  2. Case insensitive search:

    locate -i File.txt

    Finds files named file.txt, File.TXT, etc.

  3. Limit search results:

    locate -l 5 config

    Displays only the first 5 matches of config.

  4. Search using regular expressions:

    locate --regex "^/usr.*[0-9]log$"

    Finds files under /usr that end with a digit followed by log.

  5. Check only existing files:

    locate --existing config

    Shows paths containing config which still exist on the filesystem.

Common Issues

  1. Outdated Database:

    • The database might not include the latest files or directories if it hasn’t been updated recently. Running sudo updatedb will refresh it.
  2. Database grows too large:

    • Managing the database’s size by adjusting which directories to index can be modified in the configuration file typically found at /etc/updatedb.conf.
  3. Permission Denied error:

    • Some files may have permissions that prevent them from being included in the database, requiring suitable permissions to access them.


Combine locate with other commands for more complex tasks:

  • Count the number of files found:
    locate pattern | wc -l
  • Search and execute a command on the files:
    locate pattern | xargs grep "search-text"

These integrations demonstrate how locate can be a part of a larger command pipeline, enhancing both utility and functionality.

  • find – Searches for files in a directory tree, checking each file for matches.
  • updatedb – Updates the database used by locate. It is typically run automatically but can be invoked manually to ensure an up-to-date database.
  • which – Displays the path of the shell commands.

For more detailed information, consult the official GNU findutils manual.