I need to organise an external HDD such that there is no more than 500 folders on it. Ubuntu's "Properties" pane shows only the file count, not the folder count.

Is there a simple command line that will tell me the number of subdirectories?

I need to count recursively, and the drive is an external HDD mounted at /media/MUSIC/. It's for a car stereo system whose documentation says it only reads the first 500 folders.


Navigate to your drive and simply execute

ls -lR | grep ^d | wc -l
  • This appears to provide a more correct number than the answer I accepted 3 years ago. It counted the directory I was in whereas this done not. – Dean Rather Aug 5 '13 at 0:50
  • I see different numbers as well, but not too different. – SPRBRN Apr 16 '14 at 12:49
  • Personally I prefer the grep -c over the wc -l. Maybe it's just me. – Maxim_united Feb 15 '16 at 15:17
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    The above will overcount if any directory entry contains the sequence \nd (where \n is the NL character). – Toby Speight Feb 6 '17 at 12:58
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    Toby is right, ls output is not supposed to be piped. Moreover this will be much slower because it has to output the whole tree and then run grep through it – phuclv Jun 17 '18 at 17:04

Find all folders in total, including subdirectories?

find /mount/point -type d | wc -l

...or find all folders in the root directory (not including subdirectories)?

find /mount/point -maxdepth 1 -type d | wc -l
  • That first one is exactly what I'm after. Thanks! – Dean Rather Apr 9 '10 at 6:07
  • @Dean: yeah, i've used it for counting directories in my music collection before too. :) for braggin' rights, count your MP3s: find /mount/point -type f | grep -i mp3 | wc -l – quack quixote Apr 9 '10 at 6:17
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    @Dean: yeah, i don't know the find syntax offhand, but i'd usually use grep -v for that: find /mount/pt -type f | grep -vi mp3 | grep -vi wav | wc -l ...(and <i></i> doesn't work in comments, use *foo* to italicize: foo ) – quack quixote Apr 9 '10 at 6:25
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    @Dean: i think you'd just use find /path -not -iname '*.mp3' | wc -l to filter MP3s, or to get both MP3s and WAVs use find /path -not -iname '*.mp3' -not -iname '*.wav' | wc -l – quack quixote Apr 9 '10 at 6:28
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    Needed to add the -type f in order for it to ignore folders as well, but congrats! I just found a whole bunch of m4a files I had no idea about... Thanks! – Dean Rather Apr 9 '10 at 6:53

New lines are valid characters in directory names. I suggest letting find print an empty line for each directory found and then letting wc count those lines.

find /mount/point -type d -printf '\n' | wc -l

Try the following [see below]:

ls -1 -p | grep "/" | wc -l

This will print a one-column list of the current directory, with trailing slashes for items that are subdirectories, then count the lines with the slashes.

EDIT: you should probably go with quack quixote's answer, as it is a little more explicit, but I've corrected mine (after taking quack's suggestions into account).

ls -Rp | grep "/$" | wc -l
  • Need to add -R to go recursive (sorry for failing to mention), and need to specify the path to ls, but yeah, this works: ls -1 -p -R /media/MUSIC/ | grep "/" | wc -l Thanks! – Dean Rather Apr 9 '10 at 6:05
  • After trying both this and quack quixote's suggestion, I got 2 different results... I'm inclined to believe the other one. Thanks anyway! – Dean Rather Apr 9 '10 at 6:07
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    you don't need the -1 since ls will detect the pipe and won't format columns. also you can grab recursive listings with -R, but then you probably want to grep for "/$" to only match trailing slashes (or the count will be off). final version: ls -Rp | grep "/$" | wc -l – quack quixote Apr 9 '10 at 6:10
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    the find version i posted will count . (ie /mount/point) in its count, the ls version in my above comment won't. those counts differ by 1, tho you could use /mount/point/* in the find command to correct that (assuming no hidden dot-directories). – quack quixote Apr 9 '10 at 6:13
  • i'm not sure why you got the two differnent results, but @quack's method will include "hidden" directories (ie. those that begin with '.'). – stuntmouse Apr 9 '10 at 8:45

I have written ffcnt to speed up recursive file counting under specific circumstances: rotational disks and filesystems that support extent mapping.

It can be an order of magnitude faster than than ls or find based approaches


When there is a large number of directories, tools like tree might take an eternity to finish or even hang, so you might want to use something more efficient.

The most efficient way to count the directories I can think of would be the following, since find will only print one . for each folder found instead of the complete path and file name and wc only needs to iterate over the number of characters:

find /mount/point -type d -printf '.' |wc -c

To exclude /mount/point itself from the calculation and only count the sub directories:

find /mount/point -mindepth 1 -type d -printf '.' |wc -c

I have found du --inodes useful, but I'm not sure which version of du it requires. On Ubuntu 17.10, the following works:

du --inodes      # all files and subdirectories
du --inodes -s   # summary
du --inodes -d 2 # depth 2 at most

Combine with | sort -nr to sort descending by number of containing inodes.


I like to use tree to pull directory count with

tree -d -R -fi --noreport | wc -l

Or, ill use find to show bulk of the folders are located with

find . -type d -printf "%h\n" | cut -d/ -f-2 | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn
  • Or something like: tree | grep -e '^.*directories,' – mindcrime Feb 17 '16 at 23:49

To find number of folders and directory in current directory

Type the following command in your terminal

echo */ | wc

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