The default behavior of du on my system is not the proper default behavior.

If I ls my /data folder, I see (removing the stuff that isn't important):

ghsb -> ghs
rssf -> roper

Inside each folder is a set of folders with numbers as names. I want to get the total size of all folders named 14, so I use:

du -s /data/*/14

And I see...

161176 /data/ghs/14
161176 /data/ghsb/14
8 /data/hope/14
681564 /data/rssf/14
681564 /data/roper/14

What I want is only:

161176 /data/ghs/14
8 /data/hope/14
681564 /data/roper/14

I do not want to see the symbolic links. I've tried -L, -D, -S, etc. I always get the symbolic links. Is there a way to remove them?

4 Answers 4


This isn't du resolving the symbolic links; it's your shell.

* is a shell glob; it is expanded by the shell before running any command. Thus in effect, the command you're running is:

du -s /data/ghs/14 /data/ghsb/14 /data/hope/14 /data/rssf/14 /data/roper/14

If your shell is bash, you don't have a way to tell it not to expand symlinks. However you can use find (GNU version) instead:

find /data -mindepth 2 -maxdepth 2 -type d -name 14 -exec du -s {} +

Make du skip symbolic links:

du isn't smart enough to not chase links. By default find will skip symlinks. So creating an unholy alliance between find, du, and awk, the proper dark magic incantation becomes:

find /home/somedirectory/ -exec du -s {} + | awk '{total = total + $1}END{print total}'



To force the output to be human readable:

find /home/somedirectory/ -exec du -s {} + | awk '{total = total + $1}END{print (total / 1024 / 1024) "MB"}'



What's going on here:

/home/somedirectory/      directory to search.
-exec du -s +             run du -s over the results, producing bytes
awk '...'                 get the first token of every line and add them up,
                          dividing by 1024 twice to produce MB
  • 1
    should be cat /tmp/tmp.txt
    – Meta Fan
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 16:00
  • What if one wanted to exclude certain directories (in my case /home/user and /media?
    – Erwann
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 1:23
  • Please specify du -b (binary size) to avoid wrong size reporting. default du report the size in BLOCK (which can be 512 or 1024 ecc)
    – Roy
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 18:22

Simply use the flag -L:

From the man page:

-L, --dereference
              dereference all symbolic links

Then du calculates the size no matter whether they are symbolic or not.

  • 3
    This would not stop the * glob used on the command line from matching symbolic links.
    – Kusalananda
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 13:11
  • Although I don't think this answers the question, it is exactly what I needed. Thank you!
    – jmort253
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 5:56
du -P

-P, --no-dereference don't follow any symbolic links (this is the default)

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