Recursively Count the Number of Files in a Directory

Why would you want to recursively count the number of files or folders in a directory? There could be a lot of different reasons. For myself, I had a client that repeatedly added new directories to a folder. Some of those directories had unique contents in them, and some were copies of other folders. The folders contained text documents, zip files, images, database files, you name it it was in there. Running a recursive ‘du’ command on the root folder showed a size of approximately 50GB. And it was obvious that there were thousands of folders and subfolders to check.

One might think of trying to use ‘ls’ (list) to get count the number of files in a directory. But running an ‘ls’ command alone will only show you the files in the directory. It won’t count the files for you. You can pair it with the ‘wc’ (word count) command and get a count of the number of lines returned. Using a command like this will give you the number of files in your current working directory:

ls -1 | wc -l

But that will only give us the number of files and folders in the current directory. So it will not give you an accurate picture of the number of files or folders in subfolders of your current working directory.

How To Recursively Count the Number of Files in a Directory

So since the “ls” command won’t give us a recursive listing of files or folders we will have to turn to the “find” utility to fulfill that requirement. Find searches recursively through a directory tree to find specific filenames or attributes you want to search for. We can use its versatility to fulfill the searching requirement of our command. For example the following command will search recursively through your current directory tree to hunt for all files and return a list of those files.

find . -type f

And likewise you can do the same to specify searching for only directories.

find . -type d

Or removing the “-type” option will return all files and folders in this folder and its children.

find .

So now that we have the list of all folders or files in this directory and its subdirectories we can count them up by adding our old friend “wc” again. Thus with a command like this we can get the full list of all the files in your current working directory and its children:

find . -type f | wc -l

or for directories only:

find . -type d | wc -l

Now you can quickly count the files and folders in a given directory to easily assess how many files you are dealing with.

A special thanks to these sites that I referenced when searching this topic myself. And may have some more details for you. You can visit those sites Here and Here.