I've searched my best through Google, but for the life of me I can't figure out what to use instead of * (asterisk) after a recent update (even Wikipedia seems to think

du -sh * and du -sh * should work)

I've used

du -sh * | sort -h

ever since just before sort got the -h option (on Fedora I think, took a while before I could use the sort -h on CentOS), but suddenly * seems to output a long list of

du: invalid option -- ' '

where the ' ' goes through all the invalid options not mentioned in the man page.

I would be very thankful if someone could tell me what would be the equivalent of

du -sh * | sort -h

on the updated versions.


You have a file with a funny name, probably starting with a -. Remember that globs (like *) are expanded by your shell, not the command being run. As an example, say you have:

$ ls -1

Simple enough directory, with two files in it. (The -1 option to coreutils ls makes its output single-column.)

When you run du -sh *, the shell notices that the second argument contains a special character (*) and isn't quoted, so it does glob expansion. It expands it to everything that matches, in this case foo and -q. The effect is exactly as if you'd run:

$ du -sh foo -q
du: invalid option -- 'q'
Try 'du --help' for more information.

The error above is clear: GNU utilities allow options mixed with file names for convenience; du is taking the file name -q as an option. And there isn't a -q option. (This is actually the best you can expect; worse would be if there were a -q option, and it did something unwanted.)

Stépahane's suggestion is to change your glob to ./*, which would result in du -sh ./foo ./-q—which of course is taken as a file name, because it no longer begins with -. The other option he suggests is to use --, which tells GNU utilities that there are no more options—only file/directory names.

Really you should always use either … ./* or … -- * instead of *, but we're all lazy…. Just be careful, especially if you don't trust all the file names.

  • ok, my bug report is already send now, but I added a link to this question, so if @jmkane could look if this is the case, it would help the devs to know if they have to search for a bug or not. I did´t know this, never had any files on my system starting with -, but nice to know this. – switch87 Apr 7 '15 at 23:08
  • 1
    Note that -- is not just GNU but POSIX too so should be honored by most du implementations. – jlliagre Apr 7 '15 at 23:34
  • You were absolutely right. I can still use du -sh * in other folders, so it must be something new in the folder I've checked regularly, but I can't see anything obvious, and I'll make sure to use ./* or -- * in the future. – jmkane May 21 '15 at 15:46

du is taking the dash in the file and taking it as an argument.

If you pass '--' to the command, that signifies no further options will be sent, so run the command like this: du -fh -- * or du -sh -- *

worked for me...

this thread helped out :-http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=1354139

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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