How to Find All Files Containing Specific Text (String) on Linux

To find all files containing a specific text or string on a Linux system, you can “use the grep command, which searches for patterns within files.”

Here’s how you can use grep to search for files containing a specific text:

Basic Usage

grep -rl "search_string" /path/to/search
  1. -r or –recursive: It tells grep to search recursively.
  2. -l: It lists only the file names (instead of the matching lines).


  1. “search_string”: This is the text or string you want.
  2. “/path/to/search”: This is the directory where you want to start your search. If you wish to search the current directory, you can use “.”.

Example 1: Finding all files in the current directory (and subdirectories)

To find all files in the current directory (and subdirectories) containing the string “hello”.

grep -rl "hello" .

Example 2: Search in a specific directory

To search in a specific directory, for example, /var/log, for the string “error”:

grep -rl "error" /var/log

Example 3: Ignore case

If you want to ignore the case (case-insensitive search).

grep -ril "error" /var/log

Example 4: -i: makes the search case-insensitive

To find files that do not contain a specific string, you can use the -L option:

grep -rL "unwanted_string" .

Additional Tips

If you’re searching in directories with many files, the search can take a while. To speed things up, you can combine grep with find or use tools like ag (The Silver Searcher) or rg (ripgrep), designed to be faster than grep for specific use cases.

Always be careful when using commands that search or modify files recursively, especially if you’re logged in as the root user.

That’s it!

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