10 Useful du (Disk Usage) Commands to Find Disk Usage of Files and Directories


Understanding and managing your disk space is crucial when using a Linux system. The “du” command, which stands for “disk usage,” is a powerful tool that enables you to examine the space occupied by files and directories on your disk. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into ten valuable du commands to help you efficiently manage your disk space. These commands are explained in easy-to-understand language to ensure that both beginners and experienced users can make the most of their Linux systems.

1. What is the du Command?

The “du” command, short for “disk usage,” is a fundamental utility in Linux that helps you estimate and display the amount of disk space utilized by files and directories. It is an essential tool for monitoring your system’s storage and identifying which files or directories consume the most space.

2. Basic Usage of du

Let’s start with the basics of using the du command. To employ du, you’ll need to open your terminal or command prompt. The basic syntax of du is as follows:

du [options] [file or directory]
  • options: These are optional parameters that modify how the du command functions.
  • file or directory: This is the file or directory for which you want to determine the disk usage. If you don’t specify a file or directory, du will default to the current directory.

3. Finding Disk Usage of a Specific Directory

To begin exploring the disk usage of a particular directory, simply provide the path to that directory as an argument. For example, if you want to discover the disk usage of the “/var/log” directory, use the following command:

du /var/log

Executing this command will reveal the amount of disk space used by the files and subdirectories within “/var/log.”

4. Displaying Disk Usage in Human-Readable Format

By default, du displays disk usage in bytes, which might not be the most user-friendly format. To make the output more readable for humans, you can use the -h option. Here’s how you can do it:

du -h /var/log

This command will present the disk usage in a format that uses units like kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), or gigabytes (GB), making it much easier to comprehend.

5. Sorting Disk Usage Results

To sort the disk usage results in descending order, you can utilize the sort command in conjunction with du. For instance, if you want to identify the largest directories in the current directory and display them in descending order by size, use this command:

du -h | sort -rh

This command will provide you with a list of directories, with the largest disk usage appearing at the top.

6. Displaying the Total Disk Usage

Sometimes, you may need to find the cumulative disk usage of a directory and its subdirectories. To achieve this, you can use the -c or --total option with du. For example:

du -ch /var/log

This command will not only display the disk usage of each subdirectory within “/var/log” but also provide a final total sum of disk space usage for the entire directory.

7. Excluding Specific Directories or Files

In some cases, you may want to exclude particular directories or files from the disk usage calculation. The --exclude option allows you to do just that. For instance, if you want to determine the disk usage of “/var” while excluding the “/var/log” directory, use this command:

du -h --exclude=/var/log /var

By employing this command, you can calculate the disk usage of “/var” while omitting the “/var/log” directory from the results.

8. Finding the Largest Files and Directories

Identifying the largest files and directories within a specific directory can be valuable for optimizing your storage. To do this, you can combine the find command with du. For example, if you want to locate the top 10 largest files in the current directory, use the following command:

find . -type f -exec du -ch {} + | sort -rh | head -n 10

This command will furnish you with a list of the ten largest files in the current directory.

9. Limiting the Depth of the Search

In some instances, you may wish to restrict the depth of the disk usage search to a specific level of subdirectories. The --max-depth option comes in handy for this purpose. For example, if you only want to calculate the disk usage of the current directory and its immediate subdirectories (up to a depth of 1), execute the following command:

du -h --max-depth=1

This command will display disk usage information solely for the current directory and its immediate subdirectories, without delving further into deeper levels.

10. Using du with Other Commands

The versatility of the du command allows it to be combined with other Linux commands, enabling more advanced disk usage analysis. For example, suppose you want to find files that haven’t been accessed in a specific number of days and display their disk usage. In that case, you can utilize the following command:

find /path/to/directory -type f -atime +30 -exec du -ch {} + | sort -rh

By executing this command, you will obtain a list of files that haven’t been accessed in over 30 days, along with their respective disk usage.


Congratulations! You’ve now acquired a comprehensive understanding of the du command and its various applications in managing disk space on a Linux system. These ten du commands will empower you to efficiently monitor, analyze, and optimize your disk space usage.

By mastering these du commands, you can make informed decisions about storage allocation, identify space-consuming files and directories, and maintain the health and performance of your Linux environment. Regularly monitoring disk usage is a proactive approach to ensuring that your system operates smoothly and efficiently.

In conclusion, effective disk space management is a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy Linux system. With the knowledge gained from this guide, you are well-equipped to tackle any disk usage challenges that may arise. Happy disk space analysis and management!

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