I would like to remove with purge all entries of locate and its database.

I tried

apt-get purge locate


rm /etc/updatedb*

But is the database gone also?
Where is the updatedb database located on debian squeeze?

I would like to delete it manually too, so I can cleanly reinstall it

6 Answers 6


No need to decompile the executable! Just kindly ask 'locate' :-)

For updatedb/locate (GNU findutils) version 4.6.0 try calling

locate --statistics

For me (on cygwin) this yields someting like

Database /var/locatedb is in the GNU LOCATE02 format.
Database was last modified at 2017:03:13 22:44:31.849172100 +0100
Locate database size: 6101081 bytes
All Filenames: 202075
File names have a cumulative length of 22094021 bytes.
Of those file names,

    2591 contain whitespace,
    0 contain newline characters,
    and 20 contain characters with the high bit set.
Compression ratio 72.39% (higher is better)

man updatedb

search for 'FILES'

mine says:

              A configuration file.  See updatedb.conf(5).

              The database updated by default.
  • 1
    That's mlocate, not locate. Though /var/lib/locate is not a bad guess for locate. Dec 1, 2012 at 11:36
  • 1
    I'm trying to give both general advice and the results of following said advice on my system.
    – ptman
    Dec 1, 2012 at 11:39
  • 2
    Oh, and it seems like mlocate is the standard locate on Debian.
    – ptman
    Dec 1, 2012 at 11:43
  • mlocate is not installed, neither slocate
    – rubo77
    Dec 2, 2012 at 8:09

On debian, the locate database is stored by default in


If you use mlocate as search indexer:

The mlocate database is stored at


see: How can I view updatedb database content, and then exclude certain files/paths?

  • locate --statistics is the cmd line to tell where for any system
    – MikeRoger
    Aug 21, 2019 at 10:01

I prefer to just strace the process, as it's going to lead you right there. This will be distribution agnostic and works if you don't have the man pages.

# strace updatedb 2>&1 |grep ^open|grep db

open("/etc/updatedb.conf", O_RDONLY)    = 3
open("/var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db", O_RDWR) = 3
open("/var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db.bUUaw4", O_RDWR|O_CREAT|O_EXCL, 0600) = 4

[REDACTED in 2017]: See above answer: locate --statistics works.

If you have an /etc/updatedb.conf, you can look in there. I don't. You can read the man page for locate, which says the default location is /var/cache/locate/locatedb. Mine isn't there. You can use locate itself to search for files named "updatedb" or "locatedb". I'm using Cygwin on Windows 7.

  • and if you search for mlocate.db?
    – rubo77
    Oct 19, 2013 at 21:06
  • 1
    @phil-goetz There's no need to decompile. You can get the exact location with a one-liner if you have strace installed: $ sudo strace updatedb 2>&1 | grep -o "^open.*O_RDWR.*"
    – Cengiz Can
    Sep 4, 2014 at 7:23
  • @Cengiz: Clever! My update db is simply /var/locatedb .
    – Phil Goetz
    Nov 14, 2017 at 19:57

on mac --statistics is invalid

man locate

FILES /var/db/locate.database locate database

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