I want to parallelize spliting of many directories into subdirectories using parallel or using another tool or method.

E.g. I have 1 000 000 directories with content, but it's too much for one directory, so I want to create 10 dirs in the main dir and move in each of them 100 000 original dirs. I also want to use sorting by date. I already asked similar question here, but this isn't duplicate, because I tried new commands, got new results and now I reformulated the question.

So, I already tried this

ls -tr|parallel -n100000 mkdir "dir_{#}"\;mv {} "dir_{#}" 

and this

ls -tr | parallel -j10 -n100000 --no-notice -k 'mkdir -p dir_{#}; mv {} -t dir_{#}' 

commands, but it moves only ~10 000 into one subdir(sometimes ~6200, sometimes ~12 500) and create too much subdirs - sometimes in 10 times more than I need.

I also tried to use this:

ls -dtr * | parallel -j10 -n100000 --no-notice -k 'mkdir -p dir_{#}; mv {} -t dir_{#}'

but it gave bash: /bin/ls: Argument list too long.

Of course, I don't need exactly 100 000 dirs in each subdir, it can be 101 000 or 98 500 dirs, it should be a number in the range of 100 000

How can I execute this task in parallel or using parallel?

  • 2
    I/O actions don't parallelize well; everyone needs access to the disk, but the disk can only do so much at once. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Nov 25 '17 at 3:01
  • 1
    @IgnacioVazquez-Abrams as I wrote, I already parallelized it(or just accelerated), the only problem is that I get the wrong number of dirs and subdirs. – don-prog Nov 25 '17 at 3:06
  • Regarding parallelization and I/O: Try sorting by inode: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/124527/… – Ole Tange Nov 27 '17 at 9:19

This problem deals with heavy IO. I doubt that parallel is really useful in this situation.

Anyway I suggest that you consider a "traditional" approach:

 mkdir dir_{1..10}
 ls -tr | nl | \
    awk '$2 !~ /^dir_/ {i=1+int($1/100000); print $2 | "xargs mv -t dir_"i}'


  • ls -tr | nl sorts the directories by date and adds an auxiliar dir-number
  • $2 !~ /^dir_/ is used to skip the just-created folders.
  • i=1+int($1/100000) calculates the number of the folder based on the dir-number
  • print $2 | "xargs mv -t dir_"i moves without process proliferation

If possible compare also the respective times: time .... (and share the results with us ☺)

  • Thanks for your answer! time results: your command - 1.24 minutes, etopylight's command - 2.45 minutes for 300 000 dirs. – don-prog Nov 27 '17 at 2:56
  • Nice, didn't know that print can be piped to an external command inside awk :) – etopylight Nov 27 '17 at 6:46
  • 1
    @etopylight, thank you! Awk has some very cool details. The main reason why why awk is fast is that disk mechanical elements end up making it "serial". Your solution (that I up-voted) is very useful for the (and faster) for the not-so-IO-intensitive situations. – JJoao Nov 27 '17 at 8:29
  • @don-prog, thank you the comment and for the time results. – JJoao Nov 27 '17 at 14:10

The problem is that there is an upper limit of bytes that a command line can take after shell expansion, this limit depends on the system's limit

getconf ARG_MAX

thus causing the number of argument by mv {} to vary depending on the input filename's length whenever you hit the max limit.

A solution to avoid this limit while not giving up using parallel is to split the task into two stages

ls -tr | parallel -N 100000 --pipe -k "mkdir dir_{#}; parallel -X mv -t dir_{#}"


  • The first stage uses the option --pipe to split the stdin into a determined number of smaller stdins, each containing n lines as specified by the option -N. You can observe the effect by using this example

    seq 1000000 | parallel -N 100000 --pipe wc -l

    which gives an exact split at the 100000 mark

  • On the second stage, the inner parallels take the smaller stdins as their new stdin to execute their jobs, the -X option inserts as many arguments as the command line length permits

    mkdir dir_{#}; parallel -X mv -t dir_{#}
  • 1
    Thanks for your answer! time results: JJoao's command - 1.24 minutes, your command - 2.45 minutes for 300 000 dirs. – don-prog Nov 27 '17 at 2:56

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