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LOCATE(1) General Commands Manual LOCATE(1)

locatefind filenames quickly

locate [-bciS] [-d database] [-l limit] pattern ...

The locate utility searches a database for all pathnames which match the specified pattern. By default, the database is recomputed weekly(8) and contains the pathnames of all files which are publicly accessible.

Shell globbing and quoting characters (‘*’, ‘?’, ‘\’, ‘[’, and ‘]’) may be used in pattern, although they will have to be escaped from the shell. Preceding any character with a backslash (‘\’) eliminates any special meaning which it may have. The matching differs in that no characters must be matched explicitly, including slashes (‘/’).

As a special case, a pattern containing no globbing characters (“foo”) is matched as though it were “*foo*”.

The database stores all bytes occurring in filenames except newline (‘\n’) and NUL (‘\0’). Internally, it uses a dedicated, compressed, undocumented format. For example, bytes less than 32 or greater than 127 are encoded as two bytes, whereas the 128 most frequent two-byte sequences are encoded as single bytes.

The options are as follows:

For each entry in the database, perform the search on the last component of path.
Suppress normal output; instead print a count of matching filenames.
Search in database instead of the default filename database. Multiple -d options are allowed. Each additional -d option adds the specified database to the list of databases to be searched.

database may be a colon-separated list of databases. An empty database name is a reference to the default database.

$ locate -d $HOME/lib/mydb: foo

will first search for the string “foo” in $HOME/lib/mydb and then in /var/db/locate.database.

$ locate -d $HOME/lib/mydb::/cdrom/locate.database foo

will first search for the string “foo” in $HOME/lib/mydb and then in /var/db/locate.database and then in /cdrom/locate.database.

$ locate -d db1 -d db2 -d db3 pattern

is the same as

$ locate -d db1:db2:db3 pattern


$ locate -d db1:db2 -d db3 pattern
Ignore case distinctions in both the pattern and the database. Since filenames are not character strings but merely opaque byte strings, locate ignores the locale(1) set by the user, always operates under the "C" locale, and the case rules employed are those of the ASCII character set.
Limit output to a specific number of files and exit.
Print some statistics about the database and exit.

Path to the locate database if set and not empty; ignored if the -d option was specified.

script that starts the database rebuild
script to update the locate database
locate database

The locate utility exits 0 on success, and >0 if an error occurs. Zero matches are not considered an error.

find(1), fnmatch(3), locate.updatedb(8), weekly(8)

Woods, James A., Finding Files Fast, ;login, 8:1, pp. 8-10, 1983.

The locate command appeared in 4.3BSD-Reno.

locate may fail to list some files that are present, or may list files that have been removed from the system. This is because locate only reports files that are present in a periodically reconstructed database (typically rebuilt once a week by the weekly(8) script). Use find(1) to locate files that are of a more transitory nature.

The locate database is built by user “nobody” using find(1). This will skip directories which are not readable by user “nobody”, group “nobody”, or the world. E.g., if your home directory is not world-readable, your files will appear in the database.

The locate database is not byte order independent. It is not possible to share the databases between machines with different byte order. The current locate implementation understands databases in host byte order or network byte order. So a little-endian machine can't understand a locate database which was built on a big-endian machine.

August 4, 2022 OpenBSD-current