I want to count the files in one folder, however there are too many files, so ls -1 | wc -l takes more than a few minutes. Is there any faster method? Preferably one with a lower complexity?

I would prefer a solution that can be run from the command-line, however other solutions would still help.

Edit: The above mentioned solution does not work at all:

$ ls -1 | wc -l
ls: memory exhausted
  • Having do many files in a single folder is not a good idea altogether - every operation on this folder will take ages. Apr 15, 2019 at 11:43
  • ls -1 suggests you're after directories, symlinks, named fifos etc. as well as regular files; non-recursively. Please confirm. Apr 15, 2019 at 11:45
  • @KamilMaciorowski correct. However a solution only including files will also work in this case.
    – Max Matti
    Apr 15, 2019 at 12:49
  • 1
    Try ls -U instead.
    – CodeIt
    Apr 15, 2019 at 12:54
  • 1
    @CodeIt $ ls -1 -U keys | wc -l did finally show that it's around 18m files. However it's still not that fast. I will try the c program later.
    – Max Matti
    Apr 15, 2019 at 20:07

3 Answers 3


One way to use find and count:

find . -type f | wc -l
  • 1
    I suspect if ls runs OOM then find will do not much better. Apr 15, 2019 at 13:09

Maybe ask Python:

python -c "import glob; print len(glob.glob('*'))"


  • Double quotes outside and single quotes around pattern or vice-versa.
  • Pattern can include a path: '/tmp/*'

I'm curious to know which is faster compared to find, I cannot create a big enough directory to make a sensible measurement.

Of course this is also subject to possible OOM...

Edit: tested with almost 1M files in a tmpfs:

▶▶time python -c "import glob; print len(glob.glob('*'))"

real    0m0.774s
user    0m0.471s
sys     0m0.303s
▶▶time find . | wc -l

real    0m0.522s
user    0m0.231s
sys     0m0.324s

So find is faster. Btw, when it works, ls is much slower than either.


I did try some of the suggestions using the zsh time function:

$ time ./getdents keys | wc -l
./getdents keys  0,29s user 4,34s system 91% cpu 5,061 total
wc -l  0,11s user 0,13s system 4% cpu 5,061 total

$ time find keys -type f | wc -l
find keys -type f  10,38s user 7,82s system 3% cpu 7:42,05 total
wc -l  0,21s user 0,25s system 0% cpu 7:42,08 total

$ time ls -1 -U keys | wc -l
ls --color=tty -1 -U keys  3,88s user 6,69s system 2% cpu 7:53,60 total
wc -l  0,21s user 0,22s system 0% cpu 7:53,60 total

$ time python -c "import glob; print len(glob.glob('*'))"
python -c "import glob; print len(glob.glob('*'))"  8,20s user 12,37s system 1% cpu 32:00,29 total

The numbers they report differ because I was copying files out of the large directory at the same time (and because the find command also lists files in subdirectories which can be fixed by using -maxdepth=1) and did not start all programs at the same time. However a general trend is clearly visible. The first one is the C variant found in this thread linked by CodeIt.

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