24

Using the Windows CLI (cmd), how does one locate a file that he knows part of the name of? For instance, every single Windows workstation installs javac in a different location, how would one find it from the Windows CLI (cmd)?

Googling I see mention only of using the Windows Explorer (file manager) GUI or downloading some freeware application. Does Windows really not have a locate command built in? Do the server editions have it? I do not want to install cygwin or anything else, these are typically not my machines.

5
  • 3
    Nothing built-in to the Windows command-line is really similar to locate. I would recommend locate32 ( locate32.net )
    – John T
    Aug 23, 2011 at 19:58
  • javac should usually be at the same place... Aug 23, 2011 at 21:47
  • 1
    @JohnT that location no longer works - the updated locate32 home is locate32.cogit.net
    – TrojanName
    Oct 8, 2018 at 15:55
  • 1
    Try the Git-Bash.exe aka MINGW which includes locate and updatedb --per stackoverflow.com/questions/36841241/…
    – MarkHu
    Apr 4, 2019 at 22:45
  • 1
    Note: don't confuse "built-in" with 'builtins' - they are special commands specific to one command interpreter. "locate" is not a builtin. That's why where - see answer by @Kuddusi Jul 28, 2020 at 15:49

12 Answers 12

22

You should be able to do what you need to do with dir:

dir [filename] /s

Replace [filename] with the filename you're looking for, you should be able to use wildcards. /s makes it search sub-directories so if you need to you can start in the root of C: and have it check the entire drive.

6
  • If you're searching the entire drive for a common file name it may also pay to include /p to that it only presents you with a page of results at a time.
    – Windos
    Aug 23, 2011 at 19:41
  • Thank you, this looks perfect. I do often know at least that I need to search in C:\WINDOWS so this could narrow down the time that the search takes.
    – dotancohen
    Aug 23, 2011 at 20:41
  • 1
    I don't think that javac is installed to C:\WINDOWS... Aug 23, 2011 at 21:47
  • Doesn't work with multiple drives/partitions. And even back 2011, I had more than just C: Linux' locate doesn't care about filesystems. Sep 11, 2015 at 5:34
  • 1
    @JürgenA.Erhard to be fair... Linux itself doesn't really care about 'file systems' as Windows presents them (to my limited understanding.) These days if you wanted to search across more than one drive PowerShell would be my go to though, as you'd be able to group together all your volumes and gun Get-ChildItem on all of them.
    – Windos
    Sep 11, 2015 at 6:36
22

Nobody talks about "where" command? it search executable file in PATH of current environment.

where <executable>

c:\ where
The syntax of this command is:

WHERE [/R dir] [/Q] [/F] [/T] pattern...

Description:
    Displays the location of files that match the search pattern.
    By default, the search is done along the current directory and
    in the paths specified by the PATH environment variable.
2
  • I'm guessing the OP implies a utility. Nobody talks about the where command because it is not a shell built-in. Good luck finding separate console utilities in Windows. Jul 28, 2020 at 15:31
  • 3
    This should be the accepted answer Jul 28, 2020 at 15:44
4

Windos has the most straightforward answer. But if you're fond of the command line, you may want to look at powershell too. To accomplish the same type of search you'd use

get-childitem [starting path eg c:\users\] -filter [wildcarded search or filename] -recurse

Which has the nice side benefit of being able to be pumped into a handy foreach statement and run a process against the search results.

get-childitem [starting path eg c:\users\] -filter [wildcarded search or filename] -recurse |
    foreach ($_){
          [do something to $_.fullname , like maybe display my image file or relocate it etc..]
    }
3
  • 3
    This feels too long to type out. Aug 23, 2011 at 21:48
  • 2
    Get-ChildItem can be abbreviated as gci or ls.
    – digitxp
    Aug 23, 2011 at 22:19
  • Fortunately, unlike in cmd, in PowerShell you can use "Tab" to see suggestions, like in Linux. So it's not so many to type actually. And, in my case, ls in PowerShell is not working.
    – WesternGun
    Nov 25, 2016 at 9:05
4

I simply got a locate program for Windows. You just need to follow the read me instructions and copy the .dll files and .exe to system32.

Alternative includes adding the program path to the environment variable PATH.

The idea is to get locate on Windows if you're looking for something "like" locate. :)

7
  • Thank you Cheeku, that looks like a handy application. However I did mention that I cannot install applications on the system as they are typically not my systems.
    – dotancohen
    Dec 23, 2013 at 8:36
  • 2
    Yes, but I answered anyways becasue other people like me can find it useful and others won't be confused since this post already has an accepted answer!
    – Cheeku
    Dec 23, 2013 at 17:37
  • 1
    locate is on my Win7 computer. It complains about the database being 435 days old, when the intallation is not more than 3 months old. And updatedb is not included.
    – vinnief
    Jan 16, 2014 at 14:46
  • @vinnief That's a particular problem with your installation, I presume.
    – Cheeku
    Jan 16, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    @Cheeku - This is the same app pointed at by John T. It is not CLI as the OP asked, but it is awesome. Nov 6, 2014 at 14:05
4

Bottom line: dir [filename] /s and where <executable> do not seem equivalent to Unix locate.

The question is somewhat ambiguous.

You want to locate a file (stated in the body of the OP), but you also want a "locate-type" command/app (stated in the title). There is one subtle consideration with huge implications. You can locate with two different methods:

  1. Searching the target tree structure directly in each search (slow).

  2. First creating a database of the target tree structure (may be time-consuming), and then locating by searching the database (very fast). The database has to be updated periodically to obtain good results in searches. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locate_%28Unix%29.

Unix locate is of "type 2", but as per the body of your OP, you would be ok with any of the two methods. Moreover, you ask specifically about CLI options.

I list below some options (there are answers here with yet other options), and I specify whether they are CLI / GUI, type 1 / 2, and I add some comments.

  1. http://locate32.cogit.net/ (already pointed at by John T and then by Cheeku). GUI, type 2. There is a portable version. Outstanding easiness of use, and configurability. Very similar to Unix locate (which I used and liked a lot).
    Note: Being used to Unix's updatedb taking quite long to update a database (of course, it depends on the size of the scanned tree), I find locate32 extremely fast. I do not know how it can work so much faster.

  2. http://sourceforge.net/projects/winlocate/ CLI, type 2.

  3. dir [filename] /s, the solution by Windos. CLI, type 1.

  4. gci ..., the solution by OldWolf. CLI, type 1.

  5. http://gnuwin32.sourceforge.net/packages/findutils.htm CLI, type 2.

  6. Everything GUI, type ?.

3
  • 1
    Thank you, this is a good explanation and a nice summary of options.
    – dotancohen
    Nov 6, 2014 at 14:35
  • What about where?
    – ack
    Feb 9, 2021 at 21:58
  • @ack - I do not know that command (I saw it mentioned here). If you are acquainted with it, I do not mind you edit this answer to add it with its features. Otherwise, I would have to check it first, to avoid adding misleading information. Feb 10, 2021 at 11:15
3

For future space Windows historians: we have been blessed with Everything Search. Picture dmenu+find+mlocate rolled up into a tight, pretty little Windows service w/ cli options. Except this thing updates its index in real time. Nothing on Linux comes close. It will be one of the few times you will say "gee I wish this darn kernel was a little more Microsofty"

2
  • Nice utility. Thanks for posting. Nov 6, 2019 at 14:25
  • I can vouch for Everything Search. I've been using it to index and search both local and remote filesystems (\\server\share) for some months now. It's been a huge efficiency increase. I'm surprised by how responsive and quick it is. Even with over 12 million objects in my current index results are shown immediately. It does consume RAM as the size of index grows. I wish it had a command line equivalent to locate. (There is Everything.exe -name-part {search text} but results are in GUI not console. Still great, but not quite there for shell use.) Jan 18 at 18:36
2

I created a PowerShell port for locate and updatedb. Uses SQLite as a backend, and has an auto installer. Just

.\Invoke-Locate.ps1 -install. 

locates take about 300ms/query.

Then

locate whatever

and you're set.

enter image description here

https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/scriptcenter/Invoke-Locate-PowerShell-0aa2673a

2

No need to install by hand. See http://chocolatey.org

choco install winlocate

Restart shell environment

Updatedb.bat -a
Locate.bat somefile
1
  • 1
    winlocate is not (anymore) on Chocolatey.
    – Lennart
    Aug 12, 2016 at 6:11
2

I know this one was answered a long time ago, however this is my script to simulate the locate function used in unix/linux

Save this as locate.bat and place in System32 OR run from directory it's stored in. Takes one parameter like this "cmd> locate javac.exe"

The locate /c switch (as a 2nd parameter will count the number of instances ) and locate /? will display the help text

@echo off 
if [%1]==[] goto :usage
if [%1] == [/?] (
:usage
echo Usage: 
echo locate "filename" { optional } /c { shows counter }
echo note:  results are exported to C:\temp\result.txt
goto :EOF
) else (
     setlocal EnableDelayedExpansion
     dir /a /b /s C:\ | findstr /I "%1" > C:\temp\result.txt 
     type C:\temp\result.txt | more /S
     set counter=0
     if [%2] == [/c] (
         for /F %%i in ('type C:\temp\result.txt') do (
             set /a counter=!counter!+1
         )
         echo Total Matches: !counter!
      ) 
)
endlocal > nul  
goto :EOF

EDIT: (Updated Script, more organized and can handle a wider variety of situations, such as allowing for any search term not just a filename)

@echo off
::initialize local varaibles to default values
setlocal

set file=
set directory=
set toppath=top

::some switch validation ( from command line )
if [%1]==[] goto :Usage
if [%1]==[/?] goto :Usage
if [%1]==[/help] goto :Usage

::handle switches with if structures
if [%2]==[/c] (
     set count=yes
) ELSE (
     if [%2]==[/t] ( if [%3]==[] (goto :Usage) else (set toppath=%3))   
     if [%4]==[/c] (
          set count=yes
     ) ELSE (
          set count=
     )
)
set file=%1

::Directory Validation ( Goto jumps possible, along with raptors ) 
if [%toppath%] == [] ( 
    IF NOT EXIST %toppath% goto :FolderInvalid 
) else (
    if [%toppath%] neq [top] set directory=%toppath%
)
set toppath=
setlocal EnableDelayedExpansion

::Run Bulk of the Script
dir /a /b /s %directory% | findstr /I "%file%" > C:\temp\result.txt 
type C:\temp\result.txt | more /S
     set counter=0
     if [%count%]==[yes] (
         for /F %%i in ('type C:\temp\result.txt') do (
             set /a counter=!counter!+1
     )
     echo Total Matches: !counter!
) 

goto :End

:Usage
echo locate ^[file^] {term^/file to look for} ^| ^[^/t^] {dir^/subdirs to search} ^| ^[^/c^] {show counter}
echo.
echo notes to user:  1. Results are exported to C:\temp\result.txt
echo                 2. Default search dir is the current unless specified by ^/t switch
echo                 3. For best results write switches in order given ! ( or beware of raptors )
goto :End

:FolderInvalid
echo Folder Invalid

:End
endlocal > nul
0

The short answer is that there is no exact equivalent on Windows. The workaround is to use the dir command. This is a directory list command that supports special characters, and can be used as pointed out in the accepted answer.

The Locate command on many Unix like systems is an index based search. It works in tandem with the Updatedb command that indexes file systems. Since it is an index based search, it is usually much faster than text based search commands such as dir and find on Unix, especially when searching deep directory hierarchies.

3
0

I think a good way to have something like 'locate' is:

cd C:/ && dir <filename> /s /b

1
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Oct 22, 2021 at 16:35
-3

I'm not aware of any CLI method to do this in Windows. Keep in mind that the Windows CLI has been abandoned by common users, so it offers a generally less mature set of tools. Your best bet might be using the gnu find in Windows, which you can get from GnuWin32. If you're developing a script, you'd just have to include find.exe and its dependencies with the script (don't worry, it's not very big).

0

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