The updatedb database on my debian (squeeze) server is quite slow.

  • where is the database located
  • how can I view its content and find out if there are some paths with useless stuff, that I could add to the prunepaths?
  • how can I prune all paths that contain */.git/*, */.svn/* and similar?
  • why don't the files get excluded, I defined in PRUNEPATHS ?

my /etc/updatedb.conf looks like this:

# filesystems which are pruned from updatedb database
PRUNEFS="NFS nfs nfs4 afs binfmt_misc proc smbfs autofs iso9660 ncpfs coda devpts ftpfs devfs mfs shfs sysfs cifs lustre_lite tmpfs usbfs udf"
export PRUNEFS
# paths which are pruned from updatedb database
PRUNEPATHS="/tmp /usr/tmp /var/tmp /afs /amd /alex /var/spool /sfs /media /var/backups/rsnapshot /var/mod_pagespeed/"


  • The locate database is in /var/cache/locate/locatedb
  • locate / will list all files and directories in the database (I looked through the results by exporting it in a file: locate />/tmp/locatedb.txt, download this txt-file and find large amount of useless stuff)

4 Answers 4


You are probably using the GNU findutils version of locate, which doesn't support the PRUNENAMES option. Installing mlocate will provide these configuration options:

apt-get remove locate
mv /etc/updatedb.conf /etc/updatedb.conf-GNU.old
apt-get install mlocate

Now with the mlocate packge you can edit or create /etc/updatedb.conf and add these lines:

PRUNENAMES=".git .bzr .hg .svn"
PRUNEPATHS="/tmp /var/spool /var/cache /media /usr/tmp /var/tmp /sfs /afs /amd /alex /var/backups/rsnapshot /var/mod_pagespeed"
# the paths in `PRUNEPATHS` must be without trailing slashes

Then actualize the database with:


You probably can remove the huge old locate database:

rm /var/cache/locate/locatedb

(The mlocate database is stored at /var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db)

Check out https://apps.ubuntu.com/cat/applications/mlocate/ for more information about the package.

(I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to solve a similar issue!)

  • I had a problem after directly installing mlocate: pastebin.com/FLdZLXwJ - It seems the config file of mlocate doesn't understand all the options that locate does
    – rubo77
    Oct 9, 2013 at 6:35
  • Interesting. When I had GNU findutils locate installed for some reason there was no man page for updatedb.conf so I don't know what exactly is supported with that version, but the man page for mlocate's updatedb.conf states "/etc/updatedb.conf is a shell script in some implementations", but apparently not in this particular implementation. It looks like it only supports the PRUNEFS, PRUNENAMES, PRUNEPATHS, and PRUNE_BIND_MOUNTS variables.
    – JasonCG
    Oct 9, 2013 at 11:31

Use PRUNENAMES as stated in man updatedb.conf

A whitespace-separated list of directory names (without paths) which should not be scanned by updatedb(8). By default, no directory names are skipped.

The use of

PRUNENAMES=".git .hg .svn"

should do the trick (above line is the standard value on Fedora 18).

  • PRUNENAMES is not in my /etc/updatedb.findutils.cron.local
    – rubo77
    Dec 1, 2012 at 9:17
  • ... and neither in man updatedb. I use debian squeeze
    – rubo77
    Dec 1, 2012 at 9:27
  • 1
    @rubo77 Try the updatedb.conf man page, as was specified, then. Dec 1, 2012 at 14:24
  • this doesentn seem to work. where do I have to add prunenames? I added PRUNENAMES=".git .hg .svn" and export PRUNENAMES in /etc/updatedb.findutils.cron.local and created a link to /etc/updatedb.conf too. then called updatedb but still all .svn/* files are found by locate .svn
    – rubo77
    Dec 2, 2012 at 16:15
  • Any ideas? It still seems, that PRUNENAMES and PRUNEPATHS is completely ignored on my debian squeeze server. locate still shows all files from /var/backups/rsnapshot
    – rubo77
    Aug 27, 2013 at 10:50

locate / will list all files and directories in the database.


why don't the files get excluded, I defined in PRUNEPATHS

Although the OP's problem ended up being version/PRUNENAMES, as an alternative/addition to trolling through locate db output, running updatedb manually with the --debug-pruning flag prints the individual pruning decisions to stderr, and is really useful for tracking down pruning problems

For eg stick it into a file (as root in this case):

updatedb --debug-pruning > ~/updatedb_debug.log 2>&1 &

Sample output:

Matching bind_mount_paths:
Checking whether filesystem `/boot' is excluded:
 `/', type `rootfs'
 `/proc', type `proc'
 => type matches, dir `/proc'
 `/run', type `tmpfs'
Checking whether filesystem `/mnt/windows' is excluded:
Checking whether filesystem `/proc' is excluded:
Checking whether filesystem `/run' is excluded:
Skipping `/dev/mqueue': in prunefs
Skipping `/dev/pts': in prunefs


(Am using mlocate)

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