Locating Files and Directories

There will be times when you know a file or directory exists but you will not know where to find it. Searching for a file or directory can be easier with the locate command.

With locate, you will see every file or directory whose name contains the search criterion. For example, if you want to search for all files with the word finger in the name, type:

locate finger

The locate command uses a database to locate files and directories that have the word finger in the file or directory name. The search results could include a file called finger.txt, a file called pointerfinger.txt, a directory named fingerthumbnails, and so on.


To learn more about locate, read the locate man page (type man locate at a shell prompt).

The locate command works very quickly, as long as the database is up to date. That database is automatically updated on a nightly basis, from cron. Cron is a small program that runs in the background, performing various tasks, such as updating the locate database, at regularly scheduled intervals.


Cron is a daemon that executes tasks at regularly scheduled intervals. To read the cron man page, type man cron at the shell prompt.

Cron periodically updates the slocate database, which is used to catalog file location. Switching between operating systems and shutting down your machine at the end of the day can interfere with this automatic database update.

To update the database manually, log in as root (type su at a shell prompt and then your root password) and type the command updatedb.

After a few minutes, the slocate database that is used by the locate command will be current.


You can run anacron to have your system execute commands periodically, with a frequency specified in days. Unlike cron, it does not assume that the machine is running continuously. Hence, it can be used on machines that are not running 24 hours a day, to control daily, weekly, and monthly jobs that are usually controlled by cron.

Read the man page on anacron (type man anacron at the command line) for more information.