How to show the largest files under a directory on Mac OS X (Unix)

Here’s an example that shows how to find the largest files under a directory on MacOS and Linux/Unix systems.

A command to show the largest files under a directory on Mac OS X

The Unix/Linux command that worked for me on my MacOS system is this:

$ du -a * | sort -r -n | head -10

du is the disk usage command, and the -a flag says, “Display an entry for each file in a file hierarchy.” Then I use the sort command to sort the du output numerically and in reverse. After that, head -10 shows only the first ten lines of output. In the Music folder on my Mac the command and output look like this:

/Users/Al/Music> du -a * | sort -r -n | head -10

122833752    iTunes
119838520    iTunes/iTunes Music
30359456     iTunes/iTunes Music/Movies
15656496     iTunes/iTunes Music/Home Videos
10431024     iTunes/iTunes Music/Podcasts
9745248      Amazon MP3
8120392      iTunes/iTunes Music/Compilations
8049464      iTunes/iTunes Music/Unknown Artist
7976536      Unknown Artist
6101880      iTunes/iTunes Music/Unknown Artist/Unknown Album

Variations of that command

As mentioned, that command shows how to display the largest 10 files and folders under the current OS X directory. To show the first 20 files/directories you’d use this command:

du -a * | sort -r -n | head -20

To show files 21-30 you can add in the tail command, like this:

du -a * | sort -r -n | head -30 | tail -10

In that command, head -30 prints the first 30 results, but then the tail command shows only the last 10 files, which displays files 21-30 in the end.

Note: I was pointed towards this solution by this cyberciti.biz page. Their solution was very close, but just needed a minor change or two to work on MacOS.

In summary, if you wanted to see how to show the largest files under a directory on MacOS, Unix, and Linux systems, I hope this is helpful.

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