Linux: More Than 4000 Files in One Folder

Started by janiman, Mar 01, 2023, 07:36 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

janimanTopic starter

I was concerned about hosting and the potential negative consequences of storing more than 4000 files in a single folder, which can result in slower performance when accessing those files. However, after doing some research, it seems that many individuals store hundreds of thousands of files without issue.

Is there a definitive answer to this question or is it subjective?


The answer to this question ultimately comes down to the limitations of the file system being used. The number of files that can be stored without slowing down will vary depending on the system in question.

When a folder contains a large number of files, it may take longer for the system to list them. However, accessing a single file is not likely to be affected (unless done through the terminal). It is important to note that listing all the files may take several minutes and could potentially strain the processor.

Based on personal experience, it is convenient to distribute files into folders containing a few hundred or up to a thousand files to aid in copying and archiving.


When dealing with extremely large amounts of files, it's not uncommon to run into certain inconveniences that can cause panic for inexperienced users. For instance, even if there is still ample space left according to "df -h", a file may fail to be created due to a lack of available inodes. Additionally, when using commands such as "rm*" with multiple file masks, errors can occur due to the shell objecting to too many arguments.

As for performance issues, I have not noticed anything particularly concerning. However, it's important to keep in mind that managing an excessive number of files can lead to difficulties with organization and accessibility, especially for those who are new to file management.


Having a large number of files in a single folder can significantly slow down access to those files. When I was faced with the task of organizing hundreds of thousands of files and needing quick access to them, I created a hierarchical structure as suggested in the preceding comment.

It's worth noting that each file system has its limitations in terms of the number of files that can be stored within a single folder, typically around 64,000 files. With a continuously growing number of files, it's important to consider implementing a hierarchical structure from the outset to help with organization and improve accessibility.



If you have multiple websites working in a single directory, it's likely that you will accumulate a large number of files over time. This is especially true for cached files that can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions in number, and standard methods of deletion become impossible. In this article, we will discuss effective ways of deleting massive amounts of files in Linux.

One issue with using the ls command to view the contents of a directory is that it may consume all available RAM. Similarly, using the rm -rf ./* command may consume all disk resources when attempting to delete an overwhelming amount of files. Furthermore, the limit on the number of possible IO operations or CPU resources may also be reached.

To avoid these issues, you can use the find utility to iteratively delete files. Unlike ls or rm, find does not create a list of contents upfront, but rather processes files one by one. You can count the total number of files in a directory by running the following command:

find /home/web/ -type f | wc -l

To delete a massive amount of files, you can use the find utility with the -exec rm -f option. However, note that this process may take a long time depending on the number of files.

find /home/web/ -type f -exec rm -f {} \;

Another option is to use the find utility with the -delete option.

find /home/web/ -type f -delete

If there are too many files and the above options fail, you can try using the ls -f command and redirecting output to xargs to delete files in batches.

cd /home/web/ ; ls -f . | xargs -n 100 rm

It's best to use the find with -exec rm -f command as it is the most effective, but you can experiment with various options to see what works best for you. If manual deletion of large file amounts is a regular requirement, you can add aliases to .bashrc of the user and run the commands using the CRON scheduler. Finally, you may also consider lowering the priority of processes using the nice and ionice commands during deletion.


The ability to efficiently store and retrieve large numbers of files from a single directory can largely depend on the file system and operating system you're using.

File System: Different file systems have different capacities and performance characteristics. For instance, the NTFS file system used by Windows can technically handle millions of files in a directory, but performance can degrade after a few thousand due to the structure of the file index. On the other hand, file systems like ext4 (commonly used in Linux environments) and HFS+ (used in macOS) are capable of handling larger numbers of files in a single directory more efficiently.

Operating System: The operating system's internal mechanisms for handling file I/O also play a role. Some may handle larger numbers of files in a directory more efficiently than others.

Hardware: The hardware can also make a difference. Faster drives (like SSDs) and more powerful CPUs can handle larger directory sizes better than slower or older hardware.

Software: Finally, the particular application or software you're using to access these files can have its own limitations or performance characteristics in relation to large directories.

Data Access Patterns: The performance of directories with many files often depends on not just the number of files, but how you're accessing them. If you're always working with the same few files and they get cached, then you might not notice any slowdown. On the other hand, if you're frequently scanning the entire directory or frequently accessing different files which can't all be cached, then performance might degrade more significantly.

6. Metadata Operations: Operations that require reading file metadata (like details about the file's size, creation time, etc.) - can be very slow with large directories. That's because these operations usually require checking each file individually. An operation like "ls -l" in a directory with thousands of files could be quite slow.

7. Network: If you're accessing files over a network (such as on a networked file system like NFS or SMB), then network latency and bandwidth can become the limiting factors on performance. In these cases, having too many files in one directory can exacerbate network-related slowdowns.

8. Backup/Restore times: The backup utility may take a longer time to process directories with a large number of files. The same applies to restore operations.

9. Sharding: Evenly distribute the files across multiple directories based on some aspect of the files (like their name, type, etc.). This could improve performance, as it reduces the number of files each directory has to manage.

10. Hashing: This is another common strategy to distribute files across directories. It involves using a hash function to determine the directory in which to place each file. Hash functions provide an easy way to generate a predictable and evenly distributed output based on an input (your filename, or some other aspect of your files). You might then have directories named based on the output of your hash function, which could distribute your data quite evenly and improve performance.

11. B-Trees or similar structures: Some filesystems use B-Trees or similar data structures to store their directory structures. These self-balancing tree data structures maintain their balance even when files are added or removed, which helps keep you safe from worst-case performance degradation.

12. Object Storage: Sometimes, if you're working with large numbers of files, it might be worth considering a move away from traditional filesystems to object storage systems. These systems, like Amazon S3, or Google Cloud Storage, are designed to handle enormous amounts of files and could perform better for some use cases.

13. Profiling and Monitoring: Regularly monitor your I/O operations and identify any bottlenecks or issues. Profiling tools can give you insights on what's happening under the hood. For instance, tools like iostat or sar on Linux can help monitor disk I/O.

To mitigate these potential issues, it's often wise to devise a suitable directory organization strategy that is based on your specific data, use cases, and access patterns. For example, you might create subdirectories based on date (if the files are time-based), the first few characters of the filename or file hash (if the files are randomly named), or some categorization inherent to the data itself.

It's worth noting that even in systems designed to handle large numbers of files efficiently, retrieval of a specific file in a large directory can still take significantly longer than retrieval from a smaller directory due to the time it takes to traverse the directory's index.

When dealing with a large quantity of files, indexing and database tools may also be helpful. For instance, a database might be used to store file metadata and allow for quick searches, while the files themselves might be stored on the filesystem in a structure designed to minimize directory size.

Although the exact size and nature of performance degradation would be dependent on the operating system, file system, hardware, and other specifics of the environment, these general guidelines are broad recommendations for managing large numbers of files in a directory.