LOCATE(1) FreeBSD General Commands Manual LOCATE(1)


locatefind filenames quickly


locate [ -0Scims][ -l limit][ -d database] pattern ...


The locate program searches a database for all pathnames which match the specified pattern. The database is recomputed periodically (usually weekly or daily), 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*”.

Historically, locate only stored characters between 32 and 127. The current implementation store any character except newline (‘\n’) and NUL (‘\0’). The 8-bit character support does not waste extra space for plain ASCII file names. Characters less than 32 or greater than 127 are stored in 2 bytes.

The following options are available:

Print pathnames separated by an ASCII NUL character (character code 0) instead of default NL (newline, character code 10).
Print some statistics about the database and exit.
Suppress normal output; instead print a count of matching file names.
-d database
Search in database instead of the default file name database. Multiple -d options are allowed. Each additional -d option adds the specified database to the list of databases to be searched.

The option database may be a colon-separated list of databases. A single colon is a reference to the default database.

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

will first search 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 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

If - is given as the database name, standard input will be read instead. For example, you can compress your database and use:

$ zcat database.gz | locate -d - pattern

This might be useful on machines with a fast CPU and little RAM and slow I/O. Note: you can only use one pattern for stdin.

Ignore case distinctions in both the pattern and the database.
-l number
Limit output to number of file names and exit.
Use mmap(2) instead of the stdio(3) library. This is the default behavior and is faster in most cases.
Use the stdio(3) library instead of mmap(2).


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


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


find(1), whereis(1), which(1), fnmatch(3), locate.updatedb(8)

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


The locate command first appeared in 4.4BSD. Many new features were added in FreeBSD 2.2.


The locate program 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 the database, which is typically only regenerated once a week by the /etc/periodic/weekly/310.locate script. Use find(1) to locate files that are of a more transitory nature.

The locate database is typically built by user “nobody” and the locate.updatedb(8) utility skips directories which are not readable for user “nobody”, group “nobody”, or world. For example, if your HOME directory is not world-readable, none of your files are 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 if both architectures use the same integer size. So on a FreeBSD/i386 machine (little endian), you can read a locate database which was built on SunOS/sparc machine (big endian, net).

The locate utility does not recognize multibyte characters.

August 17, 2006 FreeBSD