Over the past couple of years, I’ve done a lot of articles about file management; this one will help you find recently modified files. There’s nothing too complicated about this, so most of my readers should be able to follow along.
There are a number of reasons to find recently modified files. Perhaps you need to assess a file system that shouldn’t have been altered. You may need to do so for some accountability process. Then again, you could want to check a system to see what’s changing and eating up your disk space.
You might want to find recently modified files for all sorts of reasons. Heck, you might have forgotten where you placed a file but recall that you did so within the past 48 hours. This can help you narrow down your search, helping you find the file more quickly.
Of course, this will be in the terminal. That’s how we do things around here. This will also be portable. You need only the find command and you’ll certainly have that available by default.
The find Command:
As I said, you’ll need the find command. This will be installed by default. You can verify that find is available with this command:
The output should match this:
$ which find
Next, you’ll want to check the man page (with man find) which will show you that this is the correct tool for the job. Notably, it says this:
find – search for files in a directory hierarchy
Yup. That’s what we want to do.
The find command is very capable and will seem complicated to the newer Linux users. It may even push some more advanced users away. I aim to make Linux approachable, so we’ll only be worried about a couple of flags.
The type Flag:
The first flag we’ll be using is the type flag. If you check the man page, you’ll see that there are many types. We’ll specify f which signifies we wish to find regular files.
The newermt Flag:
While you’re on the man page you will see references to newer but nothing specific about newermt. It’s a reference to time. Specifically, it means less than or equal to. For example, a file that’s one day old will be listed in the results if you ask for files one day old or newer. That’s what we’ll be doing in this article.
Find Recently Modified Files:
While you will find that you have the find command available in any distro I can think of, you’ll also need to know that this is an exercise that requires the terminal. There are GUI options out there, but we’ll be using the terminal. So, press
The syntax of the command would be this:
find /path/to/directory -type f -newermt "time frame"
In our case, we’re going to use the ~/Downloads directory in our examples.
The "time frame" is where things get interesting. For the find command, you can almost use plain English. The command understands seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years.
Let’s say you want to scan your Downloads directory for files that you have added within the past four weeks. Well, simply use this command:
find ~/Downloads -type f -newermt "4 weeks ago"
If you want to search for files within the past three months, use this command:
find ~/Downloads -type f -newermt "3 months ago"
In the case of that command, it will find any files newer than (or equal to) three months of age. It’s a very simple command to use once you understand the syntax.
You do have to use numbers.
If you want to quickly test this, try the following:
find ./ -type f -newermt "10 minutes ago"
You could have even specified that in seconds:
find ./ -type f -newermt "600 seconds ago"
You can also put dates in there.
Let’s say you want to find files newer than February 1st, 2024. You can do that. If you live in the US, you might have to use a date format that you’re not used to. So, the basic syntax would be:
find ~/Downloads -type f -newermt "YYYY-MM-DD"
Or, for today’s exercise:
find ~/Downloads -type f -newermt "2024-02-01"
I’m not sure if it’s possible to tell it to use the US date formatting. I was unable to make that work in the two attempts I made at it. Let’s just say that I didn’t invest a whole lot of energy.
There’s a lot more to the find command, but this is one way to use it. The goal is small bites that help make Linux more acceptable. Even I can be overwhelmed and I’ve been doing this for years.
Well, if you’ve ever wanted to find recently modified files, you now have the tools to do so. While there’s a lot to this command, it’s possible to use the command without being fully versed in the matter. You don’t have to know everything to take advantage of the tools. Just like you don’t have to be a carpenter to know how to swing a hammer well enough to seat a nail.
Hmm… This article isn’t even all that long!
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