I want to list all the files I've modified this year and back those up. Does anyone know if there is a command to list them? Thank you in advance.

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    I don't know that that in concept is the best idea. Modified will find a ton of files on your system that you would need to omit. Are you trying this on a user home directory? Or the entire system? – user508889 Nov 22 '16 at 18:10

If you want to find files, the find command is a powerful tool. You can look through a directory and print out the paths of all files that match some tests:

# find all files in /some/directory whose name starts with 'project_b'
find /some/directory -iname 'project_b*'

# find all files in /some/directory which are owned by user 'joe'
find /some/directory -user joe

# find all files in /some/directory whose name starts with 'project_b'
# but which are *not* owned by user 'joe'
find /some/directory -iname 'project_b*' -and -not -user joe

To get the date of the last modification of a file (or more precise, the last modification of a file's content), you can check for the mtime timestamp. find has a test for mtime:

# find all files, whose mtime is less than 365 days back
find /some/directory -mtime -365

That so far gives you a list of all files you want to backup. Now for the backup itself. find brings an option called -exec that applies a command to every file it finds:

find /some/directory -iname '*.txt' -exec cp {} /somewhere/else \;

If the find command finds test.txt, other.txt and something.txt, the -exec part would execute:

cp test.txt /somewhere/else
cp other.txt /somehwere/else
cp something.txt /somewhere/else

As you probably can see, the {} is replaced with the file in question.

EDIT: You probably need to find a better solution than just cp for the backup itself, because cp would just copy every file to /somewhere/else without keeping the directory structure.

Overall, a dedicated backup program might be a better choice.

  • I appreciate the help! Thank you very much and take care. – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 20:02
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    For such task, it's a good idea to use --parents flag with cp command, as it preserves the file hierarchy structure and backups those files sharing the same name. – Tianren Liu Nov 22 '16 at 20:48
  • @Tianren Thanks for the help! I appreciate the extra info. Take care. – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 21:51
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    If you want to maintain the directory structure of whatever find… um… finds you should probably use something like find ... -print0 | cpio -p0dv /destination. cp doesn't maintain the directory structure (unless the source object is a directory). Also, the cp variant could be written better as -exec cp -t /somewhere/else {} + which doesn't create a new process for every match. – David Foerster Nov 23 '16 at 0:15
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    You could also redirect the output of find to a file, then tell tar or rsync to use that file as the list of source files – Mark K Cowan Nov 23 '16 at 13:58

Assuming you want to keep the date confined to the current year you could use -newermt with the date.

This will look in the current directory for any files after November 1st, 2016 and copy them to /target while maintaining directory structure.

find . -newermt "2016-11-01 00:00:00" -exec cp --parents {} /target \;

The --parents added to the cp command allows you to copy the files maintaing the folders it exists within.

For example...

ubuntu@ubuntu-xenial:~$ ls
percona-release_0.1-4.xenial_all.deb  t  t2  testdir  testfile2.vm  testfile.vm
ubuntu@ubuntu-xenial:~$ cp --parents t/output.txt testdir/
ubuntu@ubuntu-xenial:~$ ls testdir/
directory2  t

When I copied t/output.txt to testdir/ it created the folder t within testdir/ and then copied the file.

  • Just to clarify, what does the "--parents" do? And thank you for both of your responses. – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 19:57
  • updated, @Peacemaker5 – user508889 Nov 22 '16 at 20:17
  • What will happen if you enter the command without the "--parents"? Thanks again. – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 20:56
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    It will copy the entire list of files into /target without creating subfolders – user508889 Nov 22 '16 at 21:20
  • Thank you for the helpful replies! I appreciate the info. [Though being a newbie, I don't understand some of it. :-) ] – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 21:35

To list all the files modified this year along with its details:

find / -mtime -365 -ls

This will list everything from last 365days.

To show only regular files add -type f to the above command.

To get a list of all the modified files(with full path):

find / -mtime -365

You may back-up these files anywhere using cp or scp etc.

Add -printf "%f\n" to end of the command to print only filenames.

  • "and back those up" – Rinzwind Nov 22 '16 at 18:27
  • Just to clarify, what are "regular files"? (And thank you for your quick response.) – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 18:48
  • @Peacemaker5 I meant non-directory files.. – Ani Menon Nov 22 '16 at 18:56
  • @Rinzwind just copy the files to where ever... – Ani Menon Nov 22 '16 at 19:00
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    It makes the output for each file long (with a lot of information similar but not the same as 'ls -l') - test it and see what it looks like in a wide terminal window (more than 80 characters wide, for example full screen). – sudodus Nov 22 '16 at 19:57

I use some aliases

alias last-24-hours='sudo find * -ctime -1 -type f'
alias last-week='sudo find * -ctime -7 -type f'

and you can make an alias

alias last-year='sudo find * -ctime -365 -type f'

but it will probably produce a very long list.


If you want a graphical overview, you can use baobab, to see where there is a lot of data (and where you could 'house-clean' before the backup).


An alternative is to use a tool, that can make an incremental backup, for example rsync. It will automatically find what needs to be added or replaced in the backup.

  • I appreciate the help! Thank you very much for both your replies, and take care. – Peacemaker5 Nov 22 '16 at 20:08

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