How to Use Command Xargs in Linux? A Comprehensive Guide


Linux command line offers a plethora of powerful tools for managing files, processes, and data. One such tool that stands out is xargs. In this guide, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of using the xargs command in Linux. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, you’ll find valuable insights and practical examples to enhance your command line skills.

How to Use Command Xargs in Linux?

Command xargs is a versatile utility that allows you to process data from standard input and execute commands based on the input. Its flexibility and efficiency make it an indispensable tool for handling complex tasks. Here’s how to utilize it effectively:

Basic Syntax:

To get started, the basic syntax of the xargs command is as follows:

<command> | xargs [options] <executable>

Here, <command> generates the input that will be processed by xargs, and <executable> represents the command you want to execute using the input data.

Practical Example: Deleting Multiple Files

Suppose you want to delete multiple files in a directory. You can use the find command to locate the files and then pipe the output to xargs for deletion:

find /path/to/directory -type f -name "*.txt" | xargs rm

In this example, find identifies all .txt files in the specified directory, and xargs passes each file as an argument to the rm (remove) command, effectively deleting the files.

Advanced Options:

xargs offers various options to customize its behavior. Some commonly used options include:

  • -n <number>: Specifies the maximum number of arguments passed to each command execution.
  • -I <placeholder>: Allows you to specify a placeholder that will be replaced with the input data in the command.
  • -t: Displays the command that xargs is going to execute.

Handling Edge Cases with xargs

Dealing with Spaces in Filenames

Filenames with spaces can lead to unexpected behavior when using xargs. To address this, use the -0 option with xargs and ensure that the input data is null-delimited:

find /path/to/directory -type f -print0 | xargs -0 <command>

Executing Commands in Parallel

You can leverage the -P <max-procs> option to execute commands in parallel, which can significantly speed up operations:

<command> | xargs -P 4 -I {} <executable> {}

Here, {} is a placeholder that gets replaced with the input data.


How can I use xargs to process files in subdirectories?

You can use the find command to search for files and then pipe the output to xargs for processing. For example, to count lines in all .txt files:

find /path/to/main_directory -type f -name "*.txt" | xargs wc -l

Can I use xargs with my custom script?

Yes, you can use xargs to execute your custom scripts. Just ensure that your script is executable and specify it as the <executable> argument with xargs.

What if my command exceeds the maximum argument limit?

If your command is too long and exceeds the maximum argument limit, you can use the -n option with a smaller value to ensure the command is executed successfully.

Is xargs available on all Linux distributions?

Yes, xargs is a standard command found on most Linux distributions and Unix-like systems.

Can I use xargs with interactive commands?

No, xargs is designed for non-interactive commands. Interactive commands may not behave as expected when used with xargs.

How can I remove files older than a certain number of days using xargs?

You can combine find and xargs to achieve this. For instance, to delete files older than 7 days:

find /path/to/directory -type f -mtime +7 | xargs rm

How to use command xargs in Linux?

To use the xargs command in Linux, simply pipe the output of a command into xargs to process it further.

How do you pass output to xargs command?

You can pass the output of a command to the xargs command by piping it into the xargs command.

What is xargs used for in Linux?

In Linux, xargs is used to take input from standard input and convert it into arguments for another command.

How to use grep in xargs?

You can use grep in conjunction with xargs by piping the output of one command to xargs and then using grep to search for specific patterns in that output.

What is xargs command with find?

When used with the find command, xargs helps process the output of find, allowing you to perform operations on the found files or directories.


Using the xargs command in Linux empowers you to efficiently process data and execute commands with ease. Whether you’re managing files, performing batch operations, or optimizing your workflow, xargs proves to be an invaluable tool in your arsenal.

Remember, mastering the xargs command takes practice. Experiment with different options and commands to fully grasp its capabilities. By incorporating xargs into your Linux command line toolkit, you’ll enhance your productivity and command line prowess.

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