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ls command is slow in Linux. Try these 6 Proven solutions

The ls command is one of the most commonly used commands in Linux and Unix-based systems.

This command is used to list the contents of a directory. By default, ls displays the names of files and directories in the current directory (the directory where the user is currently working).

Normally, the ls command should return results very quickly.

If the ls command is slow, it could be due to various reasons such as a large number of files in the directory, issues with the disk or filesystem, network latency if the directory is on a network file system, or even DNS resolution issues.

6 Effective Strategies to Fix a Slow ‘ls’ Command on Linux Systems

1. Large Number of Files: If you’re trying to list the contents of a directory with a very large number of files, it can be slow. Using options like -f or -1 can speed it up. The -f option disables sorting, which can significantly speed up the ls command for directories with many files. The -1 option lists one file per line: ls -1. This can also make it faster.

2. Network File System: If you’re using a network file system like NFS or SMB, try to check the network connection and the status of the remote server. If the network connection is slow or the remote server is under heavy load, it can slow down the ls command. You might need to resolve network issues or contact the server administrator for further assistance.

3. Disk Issues: If your disk is under heavy load, it can slow down the ls command. You can use the top or htop command to check if your disk is under heavy load. If there are issues with the filesystem, you might need to check your disk’s health using a tool like iostat. Always backup important data before attempting to repair a filesystem.

4. Filesystem is Full: When your filesystem is nearly full, operations can become slower. Use the df command to check the disk usage. If it’s nearly full, you may need to free up some space. You can use the du command to find out which directories are taking up a lot of space and then delete unnecessary files.

5. DNS Issues: If ls is slow when using the -l option, it might be due to DNS resolution. If your system is trying to resolve user and group names and your DNS server is slow or unresponsive, this can slow down ls. You can use ls -n instead, which shows user and group IDs instead of names.

6. Hardware Issues: If your hard drive is failing, it can slow down the ls command. You might need to use a tool like smartctl to check the health of your hard drive. You might need to replace it. Always backup important data if you suspect a hardware failure.

Tips to diagnose ls command hang issue

The strace command in Linux is a powerful diagnostic, debugging, and instructional tool. It stands for “system trace” and is used to trace system calls and signals. When you use strace with a command, it displays a detailed list of system calls made by the command along with the signals received by the command.

When you apply strace to the ls command, you’re asking the system to report all the system-level operations that occur when the system lists directory contents. This can be incredibly insightful for understanding what happens under the hood when you run a seemingly simple command like ls.

Here’s a basic example of how to use strace with the ls command:

strace ls

Check if the slowness is specific to a particular directory or if it’s system-wide.

FAQ: ls command options

The ls command can accept options to modify its behavior and arguments to choose which directories should be listed. Here are a few examples:

  • ls -l: Displays the output in a long listing format, which includes additional information such as file permissions, number of links, owner, group, size, and time of last modification.
  • ls -a: Lists all files, including those that are hidden. In Unix-based systems, files and directories that start with a dot (.) are hidden.
  • ls -h: When used with -l, sizes are displayed in a “human-readable” format (e.g., KB, MB).
  • ls -R: Lists files in the directory and its subdirectories recursively.
  • ls -t: Sorts files by modification time, with newest first.
  • ls dir_name: Lists the contents of the directory dir_name.


Remember, some of these commands might require superuser (root) privileges. You might need to prepend them with sudo (for example, sudo nfsiostat ) and enter your password when prompted.