*nix: find the largest files/directories within a directory

An article, posted more than 5 years ago filed in how i do it, unix, command line, terminal, sort, linux, macos & osx.

Every now and then I’m searching for this little snippet in my notes using NotationalVelocity (or currently actually a fork):

du -hsx * | sort -rh | head -100

It’s a variation of a snippet I found somewhere, but hardly invested any time in understanding what it actually does. Let’s decompose, from head to taildu.


head -100

head simply limits the results to a maximum of 100 lines. Not much more to explain here


sort sorts. by default it sorts the files by filename, but adding ‘-h’ to it allows it to sort by “human readable numbers” (e.g. 5M > 6K); if ‘-n’ would be added as option 6K would be > 5M. The ‘-r’ options reverses the sort wich is by default ascending.


du by defaults crawls a directory recursively for all files. passing ‘-s’ tells it to sum the values of files within directories. the ‘-x’ option is used to not crawl beyond the current file system (useful when you want to discover what is causing this filesystem to fill up), and ‘-h’ makes it all human readable (to make sure you’re not overly focussed on a file that is just a megabyte in size.

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The pipe character (‘|’) takes the output of the previous command and passes it on to the following command (instead of displaying it).

Bonus: Where I typically find insanely large files



Well, Photo’s Library consumes already a 180GB worth of photo’s. Some deletable.

Make sure to check ~/Library/com.docker.docker when you are a developer … I sometimes drop the entire directory as I only use it as development support. And also ~/.rbenv is often overlooked as a container of years of outdated gems.


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