Copying files from multiple folders into one folder, Mac OS X

Yesterday, I found myself needing to copy over 40,000 files spread across hundreds of directories into a single target directory. On Mac OS X, I used Spotlight to find all the files in the parent directory where the source files were located. Spotlight reported "more than 10,000 files", and only let me select 10,000 at a time. Initiating a mouse drag gave me a SPOD for about 15 seconds, but eventually let me continue the drag for copying / moving. After trying this a few times, Mac OS X stopped allowing me to cut, copy or paste in the Finder, and I quickly realized that this problem spanned every application currently open. I rebooted.


lots of files = headache for the finder

I'm no shell expert, but in this instance it is really the way to go. Here's what I did:

> find [source dir] -type f -iname [pattern] -exec cp {} [destination dir] ;

So if I were currently in my source directory and wanted to copy all Photoshop files to a the "/Volumes/echeng/data" directory, the command would look like this:

> find . -type f -iname *psd -exec cp {} /Volumes/echeng/data ;

Now let's say I had, hypothetically, that I had previously attempted to copy by dragging thousands of files around with varying degrees of success. I might want to ignore files that had already been copied. Adding the "-n" flag to the copy command ignores existing files.

> find . -type f -iname *psd -exec cp -n {} /Volumes/echeng/data ;

Seems to work!

Note that if your destination directory is not a directory, this will not work. If you specify "mv" instead of "cp", and your destination directory is not a directory, the command will actually have the effect of deleting all of your source files. Do some tests before you run this on your real data!