Linux: compute a single hash for a given folder & contents?


Linux Problem Overview

Surely there must be a way to do this easily!

I've tried the Linux command-line apps such as sha1sum and md5sum but they seem only to be able to compute hashes of individual files and output a list of hash values, one for each file.

I need to generate a single hash for the entire contents of a folder (not just the filenames).

I'd like to do something like

sha1sum /folder/of/stuff > singlehashvalue

Edit: to clarify, my files are at multiple levels in a directory tree, they're not all sitting in the same root folder.

Linux Solutions

Solution 1 - Linux

One possible way would be:

sha1sum path/to/folder/* | sha1sum

If there is a whole directory tree, you're probably better off using find and xargs. One possible command would be

find path/to/folder -type f -print0 | sort -z | xargs -0 sha1sum | sha1sum

And, finally, if you also need to take account of permissions and empty directories:

(find path/to/folder -type f -print0  | sort -z | xargs -0 sha1sum;
 find path/to/folder \( -type f -o -type d \) -print0 | sort -z | \
   xargs -0 stat -c '%n %a') \
| sha1sum

The arguments to stat will cause it to print the name of the file, followed by its octal permissions. The two finds will run one after the other, causing double the amount of disk IO, the first finding all file names and checksumming the contents, the second finding all file and directory names, printing name and mode. The list of "file names and checksums", followed by "names and directories, with permissions" will then be checksummed, for a smaller checksum.

Solution 2 - Linux

  • Use a file system intrusion detection tool like aide.

  • hash a tar ball of the directory:

    tar cvf - /path/to/folder | sha1sum

  • Code something yourself, like vatine's oneliner:

    find /path/to/folder -type f -print0 | sort -z | xargs -0 sha1sum | sha1sum

Solution 3 - Linux

If you just want to check if something in the folder changed, I'd recommend this one:

ls -alR --full-time /folder/of/stuff | sha1sum

It will just give you a hash of the ls output, that contains folders, sub-folders, their files, their timestamp, size and permissions. Pretty much everything that you would need to determine if something has changed.

Please note that this command will not generate hash for each file, but that is why it should be faster than using find.

Solution 4 - Linux

You can do tar -c /path/to/folder | sha1sum

Solution 5 - Linux

So far the fastest way to do it is still with tar. And with several additional parameters we can also get rid of the difference caused by metadata.

To use tar for hash the dir, one need to make sure you sort the path during tar, otherwise it is always different.

tar -C <root-dir> -cf - --sort=name <dir> | sha256sum

ignore time

If you do not care about the access time or modify time also use something like --mtime='UTC 2019-01-01' to make sure all timestamp is the same.

ignore ownership

Usually we need to add --group=0 --owner=0 --numeric-owner to unify the owner metadata.

ignore some files

use --exclude=PATTERN

Solution 6 - Linux

A robust and clean approach

  • First things first, don't hog the available memory! Hash a file in chunks rather than feeding the entire file.
  • Different approaches for different needs/purpose (all of the below or pick what ever applies):
    • Hash only the entry name of all entries in the directory tree
    • Hash the file contents of all entries (leaving the meta like, inode number, ctime, atime, mtime, size, etc., you get the idea)
    • For a symbolic link, its content is the referent name. Hash it or choose to skip
    • Follow or not to follow(resolved name) the symlink while hashing the contents of the entry
    • If it's a directory, its contents are just directory entries. While traversing recursively they will be hashed eventually but should the directory entry names of that level be hashed to tag this directory? Helpful in use cases where the hash is required to identify a change quickly without having to traverse deeply to hash the contents. An example would be a file's name changes but the rest of the contents remain the same and they are all fairly large files
    • Handle large files well(again, mind the RAM)
    • Handle very deep directory trees (mind the open file descriptors)
    • Handle non standard file names
    • How to proceed with files that are sockets, pipes/FIFOs, block devices, char devices? Must hash them as well?
    • Don't update the access time of any entry while traversing because this will be a side effect and counter-productive(intuitive?) for certain use cases.

This is what I have on top my head, any one who has spent some time working on this practically would have caught other gotchas and corner cases.

Here's a tool, very light on memory, which addresses most cases, might be a bit rough around the edges but has been quite helpful.

An example usage and output of dtreetrawl.

> Usage: > dtreetrawl [OPTION...] "/trawl/me" [path2,...] >
> Help Options: > -h, --help Show help options >
> Application Options: > -t, --terse Produce a terse output; parsable. > -j, --json Output as JSON > -d, --delim=: Character or string delimiter/separator for terse output(default ':') > -l, --max-level=N Do not traverse tree beyond N level(s) > --hash Enable hashing(default is MD5). > -c, --checksum=md5 Valid hashing algorithms: md5, sha1, sha256, sha512. > -R, --only-root-hash Output only the root hash. Blank line if --hash is not set > -N, --no-name-hash Exclude path name while calculating the root checksum > -F, --no-content-hash Do not hash the contents of the file > -s, --hash-symlink Include symbolic links' referent name while calculating the root checksum > -e, --hash-dirent Include hash of directory entries while calculating root checksum

A snippet of human friendly output:

> ... > ... //clipped > ... > /home/lab/linux-4.14-rc8/CREDITS > Base name : CREDITS > Level : 1 > Type : regular file > Referent name : > File size : 98443 bytes > I-node number : 290850 > No. directory entries : 0 > Permission (octal) : 0644 > Link count : 1 > Ownership : UID=0, GID=0 > Preferred I/O block size : 4096 bytes > Blocks allocated : 200 > Last status change : Tue, 21 Nov 17 21:28:18 +0530 > Last file access : Thu, 28 Dec 17 00:53:27 +0530 > Last file modification : Tue, 21 Nov 17 21:28:18 +0530 > Hash : 9f0312d130016d103aa5fc9d16a2437e >
> Stats for /home/lab/linux-4.14-rc8: > Elapsed time : 1.305767 s > Start time : Sun, 07 Jan 18 03:42:39 +0530 > Root hash : 434e93111ad6f9335bb4954bc8f4eca4 > Hash type : md5 > Depth : 8 > Total, > size : 66850916 bytes > entries : 12484 > directories : 763 > regular files : 11715 > symlinks : 6 > block devices : 0 > char devices : 0 > sockets : 0 > FIFOs/pipes : 0

Solution 7 - Linux

If this is a git repo and you want to ignore any files in .gitignore, you might want to use this:

git ls-files <your_directory> | xargs sha256sum | cut -d" " -f1 | sha256sum | cut -d" " -f1

This is working well for me.

Solution 8 - Linux

If you just want to hash the contents of the files, ignoring the filenames then you can use

cat $FILES | md5sum

Make sure you have the files in the same order when computing the hash:

cat $(echo $FILES | sort) | md5sum

But you can't have directories in your list of files.

Solution 9 - Linux

Another tool to achieve this:

As is sounds: like md5sum but also recursive, plus other features.

md5deep -r {direcotory}

Solution 10 - Linux

There is a python script for that:

If you change the names of a file without changing their alphabetical order, the hash script will not detect it. But, if you change the order of the files or the contents of any file, running the script will give you a different hash than before.

Solution 11 - Linux

I had to check into a whole directory for file changes.

But with excluding, timestamps, directory ownerships.

Goal is to get a sum identical anywhere, if the files are identical.

Including hosted into other machines, regardless anything but the files, or a change into them.

md5sum * | md5sum | cut -d' ' -f1

It generate a list of hash by file, then concatenate those hashes into one.

This is way faster than the tar method.

For a stronger privacy in our hashes, we can use sha512sum on the same recipe.

sha512sum * | sha512sum | cut -d' ' -f1

The hashes are also identicals anywhere using sha512sum but there is no known way to reverse it.

Solution 12 - Linux

Here's a simple, short variant in Python 3 that works fine for small-sized files (e.g. a source tree or something, where every file individually can fit into RAM easily), ignoring empty directories, based on the ideas from the other solutions:

import os, hashlib

def hash_for_directory(path, hashfunc=hashlib.sha1):                                                                                            
    filenames = sorted(os.path.join(dp, fn) for dp, _, fns in os.walk(path) for fn in fns)         
    index = '\n'.join('{}={}'.format(os.path.relpath(fn, path), hashfunc(open(fn, 'rb').read()).hexdigest()) for fn in filenames)               
    return hashfunc(index.encode('utf-8')).hexdigest()                          

It works like this:

  1. Find all files in the directory recursively and sort them by name
  2. Calculate the hash (default: SHA-1) of every file (reads whole file into memory)
  3. Make a textual index with "filename=hash" lines
  4. Encode that index back into a UTF-8 byte string and hash that

You can pass in a different hash function as second parameter if SHA-1 is not your cup of tea.

Solution 13 - Linux

adding multiprocessing and progressbar to kvantour's answer

Around 30x faster (depending on CPU)

100%|██████████████████████████████████| 31378/31378 [03:03<00:00, 171.43file/s]
# to hash without permissions
find . -type f -print0 | sort -z | xargs -P $(nproc --all) -0 sha1sum | tqdm --unit file --total $(find . -type f | wc -l) | sort | awk '{ print $1 }' | sha1sum
# to hash permissions
(find . -type f -print0  | sort -z | xargs -P $(nproc --all) -0 sha1sum | sort | awk '{ print $1 }'; 
  find . \( -type f -o -type d \) -print0 | sort -z | xargs -P $(nproc --all) -0 stat -c '%n %a') | \
  sort | sha1sum | awk '{ print $1 }'

make sure tqdm is installed, pip install tqdm or check documentation

awk will remove the filepath so that if the parent directory or path is different it wouldn't affect the hash

Solution 14 - Linux

Try to make it in two steps:

  1. create a file with hashes for all files in a folder
  2. hash this file

Like so:

# for FILE in `find /folder/of/stuff -type f | sort`; do sha1sum $FILE >> hashes; done
# sha1sum hashes

Or do it all at once:

# cat `find /folder/of/stuff -type f | sort` | sha1sum

Solution 15 - Linux

I would pipe the results for individual files through sort (to prevent a mere reordering of files to change the hash) into md5sum or sha1sum, whichever you choose.

Solution 16 - Linux

I've written a Groovy script to do this:


public static String generateDigest(File file, String digest, int paddedLength){
    MessageDigest md = MessageDigest.getInstance(digest)
    def files = []
    def directories = []
        file.eachFileRecurse(){sf ->
    else if(file.isFile()){
    files.sort({a, b -> return a.getAbsolutePath() <=> b.getAbsolutePath()})
    files.each(){f ->
        println file.toURI().relativize(f.toURI()).toString()
        f.withInputStream(){is ->
            byte[] buffer = new byte[8192]
            int read = 0
            while((read = > 0){
                md.update(buffer, 0, read)
    directories.each(){d ->
        println d
    byte[] digestBytes = md.digest()
    BigInteger bigInt = new BigInteger(1, digestBytes)
    return bigInt.toString(16).padLeft(paddedLength, '0')

println "\n${generateDigest(new File(args[0]), 'SHA-256', 64)}"

You can customize the usage to avoid printing each file, change the message digest, take out directory hashing, etc. I've tested it against the NIST test data and it works as expected.

gary-macbook:Scripts garypaduana$ groovy dirHash.groovy /Users/garypaduana/.config


Solution 17 - Linux

Quick summary: how to hash the contents of an entire folder, or compare two folders for equality

# 1. How to get a sha256 hash over all file contents in a folder, including
# hashing over the relative file paths within that folder to check the
# filenames themselves (get this bash function below).
sha256sum_dir "path/to/folder"

# 2. How to quickly compare two folders (get the `diff_dir` bash function below)
diff_dir "path/to/folder1" "path/to/folder2"
# OR:
diff -r -q "path/to/folder1" "path/to/folder2"

The "one liners"

Do this instead of the main answer, to get a single hash for all non-directory file contents within an entire folder, no matter where the folder is located:

This is a "1-line" command. Copy and paste the whole thing to run it all at once:

# This one works, but don't use it, because its hash output does NOT
# match that of my `sha256sum_dir` function. I recommend you use
# the "1-liner" just below, therefore, instead.

time ( \
    starting_dir="$(pwd)" \
    && target_dir="path/to/folder" \
    && cd "$target_dir" \
    && find . -not -type d -print0 | sort -zV \
    | xargs -0 sha256sum | sha256sum; \
    cd "$starting_dir"

However, that produces a slightly different hash than my sha256sum_dir bash function, which I present below, produces. So, to get the output hash to exactly match the output from my sha256sum_dir function, do this instead:

# Use this one, as its output matches that of my `sha256sum_dir`
# function exactly.

all_hashes_str="$( \
    starting_dir="$(pwd)" \
    && target_dir="path/to/folder" \
    && cd "$target_dir" \
    && find . -not -type d -print0 | sort -zV | xargs -0 sha256sum \
    )"; \
    cd "$starting_dir"; \
    printf "%s" "$all_hashes_str" | sha256sum

For more on why the main answer doesn't produce identical hashes for identical folders in different locations, see further below.

[My preferred method] Here are some bash functions I wrote: sha256sum_dir and diff_dir

Place the following functions in your ~/.bashrc file or in your ~/.bash_aliases file, assuming your ~/.bashrc file sources the ~/.bash_aliases file like this:

if [ -f ~/.bash_aliases ]; then
    . ~/.bash_aliases

You can find both of the functions below in my personal ~/.bash_aliases file in my eRCaGuy_dotfiles repo.

Here is the sha256sum_dir function, which obtains a total "directory" hash of all files in the directory:

# Take the sha256sum of all files in an entire dir, and then sha256sum that
# entire output to obtain a _single_ sha256sum which represents the _entire_
# dir.
# See:
# 1. [my answer]
sha256sum_dir() {
    if [ "$#" -eq 0 ]; then
        echo "ERROR: too few arguments."
    # Print help string if requested
    if [ "$#" -eq 0 ] || [ "$1" = "-h" ] || [ "$1" = "--help" ]; then
        # Help string
        echo "Obtain a sha256sum of all files in a directory."
        echo "Usage:  ${FUNCNAME[0]} [-h|--help] <dir>"
        return "$return_code"

    cd "$target_dir"

    # See my answer:
    filenames="$(find . -not -type d | sort -V)"
    IFS=$'\n' read -r -d '' -a filenames_array <<< "$filenames"
    time all_hashes_str="$(sha256sum "${filenames_array[@]}")"
    cd "$starting_dir"

    echo ""
    echo "Note: you may now call:"
    echo "1. 'printf \"%s\n\" \"\$all_hashes_str\"' to view the individual" \
         "hashes of each file in the dir. Or:"
    echo "2. 'printf \"%s\" \"\$all_hashes_str\" | sha256sum' to see that" \
         "the hash of that output is what we are using as the final hash" \
         "for the entire dir."
    echo ""
    printf "%s" "$all_hashes_str" | sha256sum | awk '{ print $1 }'
    return "$?"
# Note: I prefix this with my initials to find my custom functions easier
alias gs_sha256sum_dir="sha256sum_dir"

Assuming you just want to compare two directories for equality, you can use diff -r -q "dir1" "dir2" instead, which I wrapped in this diff_dir command. I learned about the diff command to compare entire folders here: how do I check that two folders are the same in linux.

# Compare dir1 against dir2 to see if they are equal or if they differ.
# See:
# 1. How to `diff` two dirs:
diff_dir() {
    if [ "$#" -eq 0 ]; then
        echo "ERROR: too few arguments."
    # Print help string if requested
    if [ "$#" -eq 0 ] || [ "$1" = "-h" ] || [ "$1" = "--help" ]; then
        echo "Compare (diff) two directories to see if dir1 contains the same" \
             "content as dir2."
        echo "NB: the output will be **empty** if both directories match!"
        echo "Usage:  ${FUNCNAME[0]} [-h|--help] <dir1> <dir2>"
        return "$return_code"

    time diff -r -q "$dir1" "$dir2"
    if [ "$return_code" -eq 0 ]; then
        echo -e "\nDirectories match!"

    # echo "$return_code"
    return "$return_code"
# Note: I prefix this with my initials to find my custom functions easier
alias gs_diff_dir="diff_dir"

Here is the output of my sha256sum_dir command on my ~/temp2 dir (which dir I describe just below so you can reproduce it and test this yourself). You can see the total folder hash is b86c66bcf2b033f65451e8c225425f315e618be961351992b7c7681c3822f6a3 in this case:

$ gs_sha256sum_dir ~/temp2

real    0m0.007s
user    0m0.000s
sys 0m0.007s

Note: you may now call:
1. 'printf "%s\n" "$all_hashes_str"' to view the individual hashes of each 
file in the dir. Or:
2. 'printf "%s" "$all_hashes_str" | sha256sum' to see that the hash of that 
output is what we are using as the final hash for the entire dir.


Here is the cmd and output of diff_dir to compare two dirs for equality. This is checking that copying an entire directory to my SD card just now worked correctly. I made the output indicate Directories match! whenever that is the case!:

$ gs_diff_dir "path/to/sd/card/tempdir" "/home/gabriel/tempdir"

real    0m0.113s
user    0m0.037s
sys 0m0.077s

Directories match!

Why the main answer doesn't produce identical hashes for identical folders in different locations

I tried the most-upvoted answer here, and it doesn't work quite right as-is. It needs a little tweaking. It doesn't work quite right because the hash changes based on the folder-of-interest's base path! That means that an identical copy of some folder will have a different hash than the folder it was copied from even if the two folders are perfect matches and contain exactly the same content! That kind of defeats the purpose of taking a hash of the folder if the hashes of two identical folders differ! Let me explain:

Assume I have a folder named temp2 at ~/temp2. It contains file1.txt, file2.txt, and file3.txt. file1.txt contains the letter a followed by a return, file2.txt contains a letter b followed by a return, and file3.txt contains a letter c followed by a return.

If I run find /home/gabriel/temp2, I get:

$ find /home/gabriel/temp2

If I forward that to sha256sum (in place of sha1sum) in the same pattern as the main answer states, I get this. Notice it has the full path after each hash, which is not what we want:

$ find /home/gabriel/temp2 -type f -print0 | sort -z | xargs -0 sha256sum
87428fc522803d31065e7bce3cf03fe475096631e5e07bbd7a0fde60c4cf25c7  /home/gabriel/temp2/file1.txt
0263829989b6fd954f72baaf2fc64bc2e2f01d692d4de72986ea808f6e99813f  /home/gabriel/temp2/file2.txt
a3a5e715f0cc574a73c3f9bebb6bc24f32ffd5b67b387244c2c909da779a1478  /home/gabriel/temp2/file3.txt

If you then pipe that output string above to sha256sum again, it hashes the file hashes with their full file paths, which is not what we want! The file hashes may match in a folder and in a copy of that folder exactly, but the absolute paths do NOT match exactly, so they will produce different final hashes since we are hashing over the full file paths as part of our single, final hash!

Instead, what we want is the relative file path next to each hash. To do that, you must first cd into the folder of interest, and then run the hash command over all files therein, like this:

cd "/home/gabriel/temp2" && find . -type f -print0 | sort -z | xargs -0 sha256sum

Now, I get this. Notice the file paths are all relative now, which is what I want!:

$ cd "/home/gabriel/temp2" && find . -type f -print0 | sort -z | xargs -0 sha256sum
87428fc522803d31065e7bce3cf03fe475096631e5e07bbd7a0fde60c4cf25c7  ./file1.txt
0263829989b6fd954f72baaf2fc64bc2e2f01d692d4de72986ea808f6e99813f  ./file2.txt
a3a5e715f0cc574a73c3f9bebb6bc24f32ffd5b67b387244c2c909da779a1478  ./file3.txt

Good. Now, if I hash that entire output string, since the file paths are all relative in it, the final hash will match exactly for a folder and its copy! In this way, we are hashing over the file contents and the file names within the directory of interest, to get a different hash for a given folder if either the file contents are different or the filenames are different, or both.

Solution 18 - Linux

You could sha1sum to generate the list of hash values and then sha1sum that list again, it depends on what exactly it is you want to accomplish.

Solution 19 - Linux

You can try hashdir which is an open source command line tool written for this purpose.

hashdir /folder/of/stuff

It has several useful flags to allow you to specify the hashing algorithm, print the hashes of all children, as well as save and verify a hash.

  A command-line utility to checksum directories and files.

  hashdir [options] [<item>...] [command]

  <item>    Directory or file to hash/check

  -t, --tree                                         Print directory tree
  -s, --save                                         Save the checksum to a file
  -i, --include-hidden-files                         Include hidden files
  -e, --skip-empty-dir                               Skip empty directories
  -a, --algorithm <md5|sha1|sha256|sha384|sha512>    The hash function to use [default: sha1]
  --version                                          Show version information
  -?, -h, --help                                     Show help and usage information

  check <item>    Verify that the specified hash file is valid.


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