How can I find only the executable files under a certain directory in Linux?

  • Here is a kind of BASH script, it is not-bad is what I can say :) stackoverflow.com/a/20209457/2067125 – AjayKumarBasuthkar Mar 26 '14 at 7:49
  • What about using the standard file command? – Breakthrough Dec 8 '14 at 14:22
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    For anyone wanting to do this on a Mac (tested on OS X 10.9.5): ls -l | egrep '^[^d]..x..x..x.*$' The above will list all executables (for all/user and group) in the current directory. Note: The -executable option does not work on a Mac hence the above workaround. – techfoobar Dec 8 '14 at 14:28
  • Also relevant: Unix find: search for executable files – Slothworks Aug 14 '15 at 6:10
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    @techfoobar: The question is ambiguous: Does it mean files that contain executable code, or does it mean files that have executable permission?  But even if we assume that executable permission is what is wanted (as the majority of the responses seem to), the question doesn't say world-executable.  Your solution will find files (and also fifos, sockets, symlinks, etc.) that have world execute permission, but not 750 (-rwxr-x---), which is still executable to some users. – G-Man Says 'Reinstate Monica' Feb 20 '16 at 3:06

Checking for executable files can be done with -perm (not recommended) or -executable (recommended, as it takes ACL into account). To use the -executable option:

find <dir> -executable

if you want to find only executable files and not searchable directories, combine with -type f:

find <dir> -executable -type f
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    a shebang doesn’t mean they’re executable. it tells us only which interpreter to use. and by linux definition “executable files” are files with the executable (x) bit set – knittl Sep 10 '09 at 12:09
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    What version of find supports that type for -type? man find lists b, c, d, p, f, l, s and D on my system. – innaM Sep 10 '09 at 15:51
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    If you have an old version of find (probably before 4.3.8) which lacks -executable use find . -perm /u=x,g=x,o=x. – Ludwig Weinzierl May 14 '10 at 19:06
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    -executable isn't at all portable and should be avoided – Good Person Oct 26 '12 at 15:54
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    find: invalid predicate -executable' on RHEL – SSH This May 17 '13 at 20:57

Use the find's -perm option. This will find files in the current directory that are either executable by their owner, by group members or by others:

find . -perm /u=x,g=x,o=x


I just found another option that is present at least in GNU find 4.4.0:

find . -executable

This should work even better because ACLs are also considered.

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    This only works on a newer version of find. The one that comes by default with CentOS gives the error find: invalid mode /u=x,g=x,o=x'` – davr Sep 10 '09 at 17:18
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    Then you should try the "-perm +" version which is now deprecated in GNU find: find . -perm +111" – innaM Sep 10 '09 at 19:32
  • Seems like -perm /111 may be the most portable version. – Scott Apr 24 '16 at 4:01

I know the question specifically mentions Linux, but since it's the first result on Google, I just wanted to add the answer I was looking for (for example if you are - like me at the moment - forced by your employer to use a non GNU/Linux system).

Tested on macOS 10.12.5

find . -perm +111 -type f
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    Works in RHEL 5 too. – José Tomás Tocino May 23 '18 at 6:30
  • This is the only variant I could get working on OS X 10.14, thx – Justin Jan 16 '19 at 19:17
  • Needed this while using a busybox build of find. -executable did not work. -perm +111 is perfect. – jmcarter9t Dec 17 '19 at 17:31

I have another approach, in case what you really want is just to do something with executable files--and not necessarily to actually force find to filter itself:

for i in `find -type f`; do [ -x $i ] && echo "$i is executable"; done

I prefer this because it doesn't rely on -executable which is platform specific; and it doesn't rely on -perm which is a bit arcane, a bit platform specific, and as written above requires the file to be executable for everyone (not just you).

The -type f is important because in *nix directories have to be executable to be traversable, and the more of the query is in the find command, the more memory efficient your command will be.

Anyhow, just offering another approach, since *nix is the land of a billion approaches.

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  • (0) Which do you prefer, arcane and correct or intuitive and flawed?  I prefer correct.  (1) innaM’s answer, featuring find -perm, finds files that have any execute permission bit set.  (2) By contrast, this answer finds only files for which the current user has execute permission.  Granted, that might be what the OP wants, but it’s unclear.  … (Cont’d) – Scott Apr 24 '16 at 4:36
  • (Cont’d) …  (3) For clarity, you might want to change `…` to $(…) — see this, this, and this.  (4) But don’t do for i in $(find …); do …; it fails on filenames that contain space(s).  Instead, do find … -exec ….  (5) And, when you do work with shell variables, always quote them (in double quotes) unless you have a good reason not to, and you’re sure you know what you’re doing. – Scott Apr 24 '16 at 4:36
  • @scott OK, I stand corrected :) I read the -perm argument as requiring all three, not one of them. Also, thank you for the input on protecting shell arguments, that's all stuff I wasn't aware of. – Mark McKenna Apr 25 '16 at 13:50
  • @MarkMcKenna you have a typo in there: for i in find . -type f; do [ -x $i ] && echo "$i is executable"; done; you are missing the <dir> part, which I use a dot(.) – Devy Aug 31 '16 at 20:07

A file marked executable need not be a executable or loadable file or object.

Here is what I use:

find ./ -type f -name "*" -not -name "*.o" -exec sh -c '
    case "$(head -n 1 "$1")" in
      ?ELF*) exit 0;;
      MZ*) exit 0;;
exit 1
' sh {} \; -print
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    What does this do? – DerMike Jan 14 '15 at 8:04
  • @DerMike, It is one of the ways to find executable in current directory, including .so files, even if a file is not marked executable it can discover. – AjayKumarBasuthkar Jan 14 '15 at 21:59
  • Well, I mean, how does it do that? – DerMike Jan 15 '15 at 10:05
  • It reads from the header of the file to discover, every binary file or script file has header. – AjayKumarBasuthkar Jan 15 '15 at 13:44
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    @nonchip I strongly disagree. @OP did not ask what files were set to executable/+x, but what files were actually executable. The definition of what that means is left to the reader, but I would not consider portrait.png executable, even with a+x, and I would consider /usr/bin/grep an executable, even if it was accidentally changed to miss the x flag. – Torque Mar 20 at 10:16

As a fan of the one liner...

find /usr/bin -executable -type f -print0 | xargs file | grep ASCII

Using 'xargs' to take the output from the find command (using print0 to ensure filenames with spaces are handled correctly). We now have a list of files that are executable and we provide them, one by one, as the parameter for the 'file' command. Then grep for the term ASCII to ignore binaries. Please substitute -executable in find command with what style you prefer (see earlier answers) or what works on your 'NIX OS

I required the above to find files with eval in scripts owned by root, so created the following to help find priv escalation weaknesses where root user runs scripts with unsafe parameters...

echo -n "+ Identifying script files owned by root that execute and have an eval in them..."
find /  -not \( -path /proc -prune \)  -type f -executable -user root -exec grep -l eval {} \; -exec file {} \; | grep ASCII| cut -d ':' -f1 > $outputDir"/root_owned_scripts_with_eval.out" 2>/dev/null &
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  • That won't work if the script contains non-ASCII characters. file reports the encoding, so a python script can be reported as a /usr/bin/python script, UTF-8 Unicode text executable. find ... | xargs file -b | grep -v '^ELF' could work better to spot the non-binaries. – xenoid Jul 12 '17 at 19:34

I created a function in ~/.bashrc tonight to find executable files not in the system path and not directories:

# Quickly locate executables not in the path
xlocate () {
    locate -0r "$1" | xargs -0 -I{} bash -c '[[ -x "$1" ]] && [[ ! -d "$1" ]] \
        &&  echo "executable: $1"'  _  {}
} # xlocate ()

The advantage is it will search three Linux distros and a Windows installation in under a second where the find command takes 15 minutes.

For example:

$ time xlocate llocate
executable: /bin/ntfsfallocate
executable: /home/rick/restore/mnt/e/bin/llocate
executable: /mnt/clone/bin/ntfsfallocate
executable: /mnt/clone/home/rick/restore/mnt/e/bin/llocate
executable: /mnt/clone/usr/bin/fallocate
executable: /mnt/e/bin/llocate
executable: /mnt/old/bin/ntfsfallocate
executable: /mnt/old/usr/bin/fallocate
executable: /usr/bin/fallocate

real    0m0.504s
user    0m0.487s
sys     0m0.018s

Or for a whole directory and all it's subs:

$ time xlocate /mnt/e/usr/local/bin/ | wc -l

real    0m0.741s
user    0m0.705s
sys     0m0.032s
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  • This is the solution I will be using. Very time-efficient, and I like being able to put it in ~/.bashrc. – bballdave025 May 1 at 21:25

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