When find is invoked to find nothing, it still exits with code 0. Is there a way to make it return an exit code indicating failure when no file was found?

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    I don't think find directly supports it. You can do something like find ... -print0 | grep -qz ., perhaps, if your grep supports it. – muru Apr 23 '15 at 22:50
  • My grep is gnu grep so it supports this nice idea. Unfortunately, I also need the find output to be piped somewhere and I cannot replace the pipe with -exec. – XZS Apr 23 '15 at 22:56
  • I'm making something. – PNDA Apr 23 '15 at 22:57
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    @XZS you can skip the -q, then grep will simply pass through the data, while still breaking the pipeline and reporting a failure if nothing comes through. – muru Apr 23 '15 at 23:02
  • @muru A do-nothing grep guarding the pipe, very elegant. Turn this into an answer and it will be accepted. – XZS Apr 23 '15 at 23:19

If your grep supports reading NUL-delimited lines (like GNU grep with -z), you can use it to test if anything was output by find:

find /some/path -print0 | grep -qz .

To pipe the data to another command, you can remove the -q option, letting grep pass on the data unaltered while still reporting an error if nothing came through:

find /some/path -print0 | grep -z . | ...

Specifically, ${PIPESTATUS[1]} in bash should hold the exit status of grep.

If your find doesn't support -print0, the use grep without -z and hope that newlines in filenames don't cause problems:

find ... | grep '^' | ...

In this case, using ^ instead of . might be safer. If output has consecutive newlines, ^ will pass them by, but . won't.

  • Grep's -z is a GNU extension. Do you have something for more Posixy? – user56041 Oct 21 '17 at 9:11
  • @jww unlikely, since with pure POSIX, I don't think you can detect a failure in the middle of a shell pipe. If you have a shell which can do that (via PIPE_STATUS or something similar), then it probably has a read which can do null-delimited input; then you can read a single line, fail if empty; or print it back out and cat the rest. (Assuming you want to pass on the data to something else, otherwise you can probably do find ... -exec echo foo {} \+ | grep -q foo.) – muru Oct 22 '17 at 14:17

You ask specifically for a return code... which I don't see in options. But this is how I solved it (because grep -z is not on Mac port):

Gives code 0 if 1 line was found

test 1 == `find */.kitchen/ -name private_key | wc -l`


if [ 0 == `find */.kitchen/ -name my-file.txt | wc -l` ] ; then
   echo "Nothing found"; exit;

Also, as a generic solution, this might be useful:

Check if pipe is empty and run a command on the data if it isn't

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