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Locate Files using Terminal

Let’s locate files using the terminal! This is just a cool little trick you can use if you’re doing a bunch of stuff in the terminal, and you don’t want to leave, or you’re just interested in cool terminal tricks. Let’s say you’re looking for a file, anywhere on your machine, but you don’t know exactly where it is. You can install a very cool search package called mlocate (or merging locate).


On Ubuntu/Debian you can run:

sudo apt-get install mlocate

Or if you’re on that Manjaro/Arch life:

sudo pacman -S mlocate


To locate files in the terminal by using mlocate, just type:

locate [name of the file] [directory in which you want to start recursively searching]

If you’re using mlocate for the first time, it’s not gonna work just yet. mlocate is actually a pair of tool bundled into one. The other half of mlocate is called updatedb. So by running updatedb, you’re essentially creating/updating an index so that you can run your search. So any time you want to run a locate command and it’s not giving you the results you are expecting, there’s a good chance your index is outdated, so you can just run updatedb, then run your locate search again, and you should be good to go.

Update your junk by running updatedb then run locate [file] to get your mind blown!

Bonus Tip

If the results of your locate command are crazy long, like… CRAZY long…. too long to view everything in the terminal because your terminal only has a finite history, here’s a tip: You can print the results of ANY command to a text file and save it anywhere by using >. For example:

sudo locate myfile.txt / > ~/Desktop/searchresults.txt

The above command will run a system-wide search for anything matching myfile.txt recursively from the root directory / and print the results to searchresults.txt on the Desktop.

Good luck and have fun! Now that you’ve found the file you’re looking for, perhaps you want to do something cool with it! If you wanna learn more cool stuff you can do in the terminal, check this out.

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