Take the 2-minute tour ×
Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems.. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sometimes I use an unreliable medium (flash) to store a good deal of data. To at least recognise bit flips I store a file with the md5sums alongside. This file is usually created by a variation of find -type f -exec "{}" \; >MD5SUM. Later I copy some more files on it and now I would like to add the checksums of the new files without having to recalculate the old ones. Sadly, the time of some the machines I use are screwed, so using find -newer <file> -exec md5sum "{}"\; >>MD5SUM is not an option. Basically I would like to get the difference between the file list created by find -type f and the list in the MD5SUM file.

Any ideas how to do this in an easy and elegant manner? Thanks in advance!

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If this is going to be an on-going process, then you'll need two files, the old and new (which would become the old for next time).

# change directory to either first argument or to current directory
cd ${1:-"."} || exit 1 # if cannot cd, then exit
# get the md5 values for all the files in the directory tree
find . -type f -not -name .md5sum.last -exec md5sum {} \; | sort > .md5sum.tmp
# if called before, then get only the differences in the newer
if [ -f .md5sum.last ]; then
    comm -13 .md5sum.last .md5sum.tmp
else  # otherwise show all the output
    cat .md5sum.tmp
# replace the older with the current for next time
mv .md5sum.tmp .md5sum.last

The sort and comm -13 are the key. Sort is obvious, but comm (short for "common") will show lines that are in the first file (column 1), second file (column 2) or both (column 3). The -13 option says to "take away column one and three" leaving only lines that are not in just the older and not common to both. Unfortunately, if you cannot trust the time stamps on the files, then this would be a very intensive process for large directory trees.

share|improve this answer
Thank you for pointing out comm. Now I can do what I wanted: comm -13 <( cat MD5SUM | sed 's/^[a-z0-9]* //' | sort) <( find -type f -not -name MD5SUM | sort) | xargs -d "\n" md5sum >>MD5SUM At least as long as the filenames do not contain a newline character. :) –  antje-m Feb 18 '12 at 16:25
add comment

I think the easiest way would be to store the checksum of file _my_file_ in the file _my_file_.md5 avoid storing all checksum in a single file. This way, it is much simpler to know if a checksum has been computer before.

However, if you only add files to your flash drive (never modify, maybe delete, but never add a file that has once existed before), you could:

find _your_drive_path_ -type f |
  while read file; do
    grep -q $file _your_md5_file_ || md5sum $file >> _your_md5_file_

This grep your checksum file many times and could be optimized by sorting the file list and keeping your checksum file sorted on the filename, but if you do not need this optimization, why bothering with its complexity...

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you can't trust the timestamps, then there's really no way to process only the files that have changed. Just repeat your original find command.

I would save the new MD5SUM file to a temporary location, and then diff the old and new files to see what changed before copying the updated file to flash. You might need to sort the file in order to get a useful diff.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.