Recursively counting files in a Linux directory


How can I recursively count files in a Linux directory?

I found this:

find DIR_NAME -type f ¦ wc -l

But when I run this it returns the following error.

find: paths must precede expression: ¦

7/10/2015 2:24:59 AM

Accepted Answer

This should work:

find DIR_NAME -type f | wc -l


  • -type f to include only files.
  • | (and not ¦) redirects find command's standard output to wc command's standard input.
  • wc (short for word count) counts newlines, words and bytes on its input (docs).
  • -l to count just newlines.


  • Replace DIR_NAME with . to execute the command in the current folder.
  • You can also remove the -type f to include directories (and symlinks) in the count.
  • It's possible this command will overcount if filenames can contain newline characters.

Explanation of why your example does not work:

In the command you showed, you do not use the "Pipe" (|) to kind-of connect two commands, but the broken bar (¦) which the shell does not recognize as a command or something similar. That's why you get that error message.

9/20/2016 10:13:15 AM

For the current directory:

find -type f | wc -l

If you want a breakdown of how many files are in each dir under your current dir:

for i in */ .*/ ; do 
    echo -n $i": " ; 
    (find "$i" -type f | wc -l) ; 

That can go all on one line, of course. The parenthesis clarify whose output wc -l is supposed to be watching (find $i -type f in this case).


You can use

$ tree

after installing the tree package with

$ sudo apt-get install tree

(on a Debian / Mint / Ubuntu Linux machine).

The command shows not only the count of the files, but also the count of the directories, separately. The option -L can be used to specify the maximum display level (which, by default, is the maximum depth of the directory tree).

Hidden files can be included too by supplying the -a option .


On my computer, rsync is a little bit faster than find | wc -l in the accepted answer:

$ rsync --stats --dry-run -ax /path/to/dir /tmp

Number of files: 173076
Number of files transferred: 150481
Total file size: 8414946241 bytes
Total transferred file size: 8414932602 bytes

The second line has the number of files, 150,481 in the above example. As a bonus you get the total size as well (in bytes).


  • the first line is a count of files, directories, symlinks, etc all together, that's why it is bigger than the second line.
  • the --dry-run (or -n for short) option is important to not actually transfer the files!
  • I used the -x option to "don't cross filesystem boundaries", which means if you execute it for / and you have external hard disks attached, it will only count the files on the root partition.

Since filenames in UNIX may contain newlines (yes, newlines), wc -l might count too many files. I would print a dot for every file and then count the dots:

find DIR_NAME -type f -printf "." | wc -c

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