Over time, your disk drive may get cluttered with a lot of  unnecessary files taking up large amounts of disk space. Usually, Linux  systems run out of disk space due to large log or backup files.

This tutorial explains how to find the largest files and directories in Linux systems using the find and du commands.

Find Large Files Using the find Command

The find command is one of the most powerful tools in the Linux system  administrators arsenal. It allows you to search for files and  directories based on different criteria including the file size.

For example, if want to search for files with size greater than 100MB, in the current working directory you would use the following command:

sudo find . -xdev -type f -size +100M

Replace . with the path to the directory where you want to search for the largest files.

The output will show a list of files without any additional information.


The find command also can be used in combination with other tools such as ls or sort to perform operations on those files.

In the example below, we are passing the output of the find command to ls which will print the size of each found file and then pipe that output to the sort command to sort it based on the 5th column which is the file size.

find . -xdev -type f -size +100M -print | xargs ls -lh | sort -k5,5 -h -r

The output will look something like this:

-rw-------  1 root   root 40967M Jan  5 14:12 /var/lib/libvirt/images/win10.qcow2
-rw-------  1 root   root  3725M Jan  7 22:12 /var/lib/libvirt/images/debian-9_default.img
-rw-------  1 root   root  1524M Dec 30 07:46 /var/lib/libvirt/images/centos-7-desktop_default.img
-rw-------  1 root   root   999M Jan  5 14:43 /var/lib/libvirt/images/ubuntu-18-04-desktop_default.img
-rw-------  1 root   root   562M Dec 31 07:38 /var/lib/libvirt/images/centos-7_default.img
-rw-------  1 root   root   378M Jan  7 22:26 /var/lib/libvirt/images/bionic64_default.img

If the output contains a lot of lines of information you can use the head command to print only the first 10 lines:

find . -xdev -type f -size +100M -print | xargs ls -lh | sort -k5,5 -h -r | head

Let’s break down the command:

  • find . -xdev -type f -size +100M -print - search only for files (-type f) in the current working directory (.), larger than than 100MB (-size +100M), don’t descend directories on other filesystems (-xdev) and print the full file name on the standard output, followed by a new line (-print).
  • xargs ls -lh - the output of the find command is piped to xargs which executes the ls -lh command that will print the output in long listing human-readable format.
  • sort -k5,5 -h -r - sort lines based on the 5th column (-k5,5), compare the values in human-readable format (-h) and reverse the result (-r).
  • head : prints only the first 10 lines of the piped output.

The find command comes with a lot of powerful options. For example, you can  search for large files that are older than x days, large files with a  specific extension or large files that belong to a particular user.

Find Large Files and Directories Using the du Command

The du command is used to estimate file space usage and it is particularly  useful for finding directories and files that consume large amounts of  disk space.

The following command will print the largest files and directories:

du -ahx . | sort -rh | head -5

The first column includes the size of the file and the second one the file name:

55G	.
24G	./.vagrant.d/boxes
24G	./.vagrant.d
13G	./Projects
5.2G	./.minikube

Explanation of the command:

  • du -ahx . : estimate disk space usage in the current working directory (.), count both files and directories (a), print sizes in a human-readable format (h) and skip directories on different file systems (x).
  • sort -rh : sort lines by comparing values in human-readable format (-h) and reverse the result (-r).
  • head -5 : prints only the first 5 lines of the piped output.

The du command includes other options that you can use to refine the output of the disk space usage.


Finding large files is very useful when your disk is full and you want to free it up.

Now that you have found the largest files on your system you may want to read our guide about How to Remove Files and Directories Using Linux Command Line.

If you have any questions or remarks, please leave a comment below.