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Tags: find   locate  
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Title: find vs. locate
ID: /2018/03/31/find-vs.-locate
Created: March 31, 2018    Edited:  April 1, 2018
Upload: November 24, 2022    Layout:  post
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As much as I like Oli (which is a lot!) I disagree with him on the find command. I don’t like it.

find command takes over three minutes

Take for example this simple command:

$ time find / -type f -name ""
find: ‘/lost+found’: Permission denied
find: ‘/etc/ssmtp’: Permission denied
find: ‘/etc/ssl/private’: Permission denied
    (... SNIP ...)
find: ‘/run/user/997’: Permission denied
find: ‘/run/sudo’: Permission denied
find: ‘/run/systemd/inaccessible’: Permission denied

real	3m40.589s
user	0m4.156s
sys	    0m8.874s

It takes over three minutes for find to search everything starting from /. By default reams of error messages appear and you must search through them to find what you are looking for. Still it is better than grep to search the whole drive for a string which takes 53 hours: greping all files for a string takes a long time

I know I can fiddle with the find command’s parameters to make it work better but the point here is the amount of time it takes to run.

locate command takes less than a second

Now let’s use locate:

$ time locate

real	0m0.816s
user	0m0.792s
sys	    0m0.024s

The locate command takes less than a second!

updatedb only run once a day by default

It is true the updatedb command which updates the locate database is only run once a day by default. You can run it manually before searching for files just added by using:

$ time sudo updatedb

real	0m3.460s
user	0m0.503s
sys	    0m1.167s

Although this will take 3 seconds, it’s small in comparison to find command’s 3+ minutes.

I’ve updated my sudo crontab -e to include the line at the bottom:

# m h  dom mon dow   command
  0 0  1   *   *     /bin/journalctl --vacuum-size=200M
*/5 *  *   *   *     /usr/bin/updatedb

Now every five minutes updatedb is run and locate commands database is almost always up-to-date.

But there are no attributes?

You can pipe locate output to other commands. If for example you want the file attributes you can use:

$ locate | xargs stat
  File: '/lib/systemd/system/'
  Size: 473       	Blocks: 8          IO Block: 4096   regular file
Device: 10305h/66309d	Inode: 667460      Links: 1
Access: (0644/-rw-r--r--)  Uid: (    0/    root)   Gid: (    0/    root)
Access: 2018-03-31 18:11:55.091173104 -0600
Modify: 2017-10-27 04:11:45.000000000 -0600
Change: 2017-10-28 07:18:24.860065653 -0600
 Birth: -


I posted this answer to show the speed and ease of use of locate. I tried to address some of the command short-comings pointed out by others.

The find command needs to traverse the entire directory structure to find files. The locate command has it’s own database which gives it lightning speed in comparison.

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