Mastering the Terminal: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Check File Size in Linux


In the world of computing, Linux stands as a foundation for many operating systems that power various devices, from supercomputers to smartwatches. Giving you a command-line interface, Linux offers a robust, efficient, and flexible way to manage your system and files. One of the essential tasks you'll often need in Linux is checking file sizes, which often forms an integral part of disk space management, , or cleaning up space.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to check file size in Linux using various commands, shedding light on Linux file system, understanding file size units and offering practical tips and tricks.

Overview of Linux File System

The Linux file system forms the basis of how data is stored, organized, and managed. It's a hierarchical structure starting from the root (represented by ‘/') and branches out into various subdirectories like /home, /bin, /etc, and so on. Understanding the Linux file system is crucial, and it is beneficial when it comes to checking file sizes as it helps you to navigate and locate the files more effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide on Checking File Sizes in Linux

Checking file size using the ‘ls' command

The ‘ls' command, short for ‘list', is one of the most common commands used in Linux to list directory contents.

To check a file size, you can type ‘ls -lh' in the terminal. Here ‘l' stands for ‘long format', which includes detailed information about files like file type, permissions, number of links, owner, group, size, and time of last modification. Then ‘h' stands for ‘human-readable', displaying file size in easily comprehensible formats like KB, MB, GB, etc.

For example, entering ‘ls -lh /home/user/Documents' will display all files in the /home/user/Documents directory, including their sizes.

Checking file size using the ‘du' command

The ‘du' command, short for ‘disk usage', provides the estimated amount of space a file or directory consumes.

To use the ‘du' command, you can type ‘du -sh *' in the terminal. Here, ‘s' is for ‘summarize', ‘h' for ‘human-readable', and ‘*' signifies ‘all files in the current directory'.

For instance, if you type ‘du -sh /home/user/Documents*', it'll present the total size of the Documents directory.

Checking file size using the ‘ncdu' command

The ‘ncdu', short for ‘NCurses Disk Usage', is not built into most Linux distributions by default but can be installed via its package manager (eg: ‘sudo apt install ncdu' for Ubuntu). It is a simple and efficient tool that provides a nice, detailed visual interface and navigable menus.

Running ‘ncdu /path/to/directory' in your terminal will give you a complete breakdown of the directory sizes, sorted by size.

Checking file size using the ‘find' command

The ‘find' command is a powerful tool that can search for files in directories based on various criteria like name, size, type, etc.

For example, to find and list files of a specific size in the current directory and its subdirectories, you may use the command ‘find . -type f -size +1M', where ‘1M' represents files larger than 1 Megabyte.

Understanding File Size Units in Linux

In Linux, file sizes are typically displayed in bytes (B), kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), etc., with each unit being 1024 times larger than the unit before it.

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If you need to convert between different units, you can use online conversion tools or do simple math. For example, to convert gigabytes to megabytes, you multiply the number of gigabytes by 1024.

Tips and Tricks on Managing File Sizes in Linux

Apart from checking file sizes, you can use various other commands like ‘sort' to sort files by size, ‘grep' to filter out search results based on certain parameters, and others that can significantly simplify and augment the way you manage and interact with files in Linux.


Understanding how to check file sizes in Linux not only caters to efficient disk space management but also helps you develop a better understanding of your Linux system's workings. With the commands like ‘ls', ‘du', ‘ncdu', and ‘find', you have a multifaceted approach to manage your Linux files more efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is it crucial to check file size in Linux?

Checking file sizes in Linux is essential for efficient disk space management. It helps you to identify large files or directories that may be consuming unnecessary space and enables you to clean up and free disk space more effectively.

Are there any third-party applications to check file sizes in Linux?

Yes, there are numerous third-party applications for Linux that can help you check file sizes, including ‘ncdu', ‘Filelight', and ‘Baobab', to name a few.

How can I check the size of a specific folder in Linux?

You can check the size of a specific folder in Linux using the ‘du' or ‘ncdu' command followed by the directory path, for instance, ‘du -sh /home/user/Documents'.

What can I do if I'm running out of space on my Linux system?

If you're running out of space on your Linux system, you can clear cache, eliminate unnecessary files or , check for large files consuming excessive space and remove them if not needed.

Can I limit the size of a file in Linux?

While Linux doesn't inherently provide a feature to limit file size, it gives the leverage of using disk quotas, which can limit the amount of disk space a user or group can use.

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