Let's say I have a file with a unique name (e.g.Screenshot20180509143013.png) that I wish to copy to /media/SD256.

The file /media/drive1/Users/name/Pictures/Screenshots/Screenshot20180509143013.png is tangled in some sub-directory levels, and I wish not to navigate to /media/drive1/Users/name/Pictures/Screenshots/ to find that file with the unique name.

Instead, I wish to run a command while my working directory is /media/drive1/, which looks similar to:

copy --find-filename-then-copy Screenshot20180509143*3.png /dev/media/SD256/DestinationFolder

Is there such a command that can first find the file and then copy?

  • If any of the answers solved your problem, please accept it by clicking the checkmark next to it. Thank you! – Jeff Schaller May 16 '18 at 10:50

Using find:

find . -type f -name Screenshot20180509143013.png -exec cp {} /dev/media/SD256/DestinationFolder ';'

This would find all regular files in or below the current directory, whose names are exactly Screenshot20180509143013.png. The found files would be copied to /dev/media/SD256/DestinationFolder. If there are multiple files with the same name (which you say there aren't), the files would overwrite each other in the destination directory.

  • 1
    If the file is unique it would help to use the -quit action to tell find to stop the search once it found a result and performed the -exec action. Or is that a non-standard action? – David Foerster May 9 '18 at 22:40

With zsh or fish or ksh -o globstar or bash -O globstar (or after shopt -s globstar in bash) or tcsh after set globstar or yash -o extended-glob:

cp -- **/Screenshot20180509143*3.png /dev/media/SD256/DestinationFolder

globstar, with the ** syntax, does a recursive search; if the remainder of the glob (filename pattern) is unique, then you'll get the results you want. Note that I copied the ...3*3 from your example, and not the e.g. filename Screenshot20180509143013.png from earlier in the question.

Note that:

  • fish and versions of bash prior to 4.3 will following symlinks when recursing. With zsh, tcsh or yash, you can use *** instead of ** to get that behaviour.
  • fish will not find the file if it's in the current directory.
  • Hidden files and files in hidden directories will not be considered. Many shells have a dotglob option to reenable them. See also the (D) glob qualifier in zsh.
  • In zsh you may also want to add ([1]) at the end of the pattern. [1] is a glob qualifier to copy only the first matching file.
  • the -i option to cp can also guard against accidental overwrite if the file is found in several directories.


If you are using zsh, you can use cp with zsh's globbing:

cp **/Screenshot20180509143013.png /dev/media/SD256/DestinationFolder

**/Screenshot20180509143013.png will try to find Screenshot20180509143013.png recursively from the current directory.

General purpose

For general purpose, you can always use find + cp:

cp "$(find ./ -type f -name "<picture_name>" )" "<destination>"

find - Search for a file.

./ - Search in the current directory.

-type f - Limit the search for the regular files.

-name "<picture_name>" - Search for a file with name <picture_name>
(* in <picture_name> can be used to match any sequence)

"$(find ./ -type f -name "<picture_name>" )" - Replace this part of code with stdout of find command.

cp "$(find ./ -type f -name "<picture_name>" )" <destination> - Copy file with path gotten from "$(find ./ -type f -name "<picture_name>" )" to <destination>.

  • @Jeff Schaller Why would you edit it like this? It's uglier now :D – Iskustvo May 9 '18 at 13:53
  • 1
    There were explicit file and directory names mentioned in the question, and using < and > as placeholders in shell commands may me confusing. – Kusalananda May 9 '18 at 13:55
  • Sorry about that; I believe it's more helpful to the asker to solve their problem directly. Feel free to revert the change if you don't like it. – Jeff Schaller May 9 '18 at 13:56
  • Well, I tried to explain it a bit and that made it harder, but nevermind, thanks for the effort! – Iskustvo May 9 '18 at 14:01
  • @Iskustvo Possible way to do it? Something like /path/to/file or /path/to/pattern (or whatever - I think you know what I'm trying to say). You could add something to it too: you give the general syntax like that but you also give an example with the precise name/glob/whatever? – Pryftan May 9 '18 at 20:17

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