Don Quijote de la Mancha -Miguel de Cervantes-


Remove a Directory in Linux CLI


How to Remove a Directory in Linux?

There are two Linux commands you can use to remove a directory from the terminal window or command line:

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  • The rm command removes complete directories, including subdirectories and files.
  • The rmdir command removes empty directories.

It is important to note that the rm and rmdir commands permanently remove directories without moving them to the Trash directory. This means that you cannot restore a directory removed using these commands.

Note: Even though rm and rmdir permanently remove files and directories, users with enough skill and time still have a chance of restoring some of the removed files. If you want to learn more about removing files permanently, have a look at our shred command tutorial.

rm Command

The rm command in Linux removes files and directories.

rm [options] [file or directory name]

Note: To remove multiple files or directories using the rm command, add multiple file or directory names, separated by blank spaces.

The different rm command options include:

  • f: Forces the removal of all files or directories.
  • -i: Prompts for confirmation before removing.
  • -I: Prompts once before removing more than three files or when removing recursively.
  • -r: Removes directories and their content recursively.
  • -d: Removes empty directories.
  • -v: Provides a verbose output.
  • --help: Displays the help text.
  • --version: Displays the command version.

Trying to use the rm command without any options to remove a directory results in an error message:

If you want to remove an empty directory, add the -d flag to the rm command:

$ rm -d Example

Note: If you want to remove a directory whose name starts with a hyphen (), use the rm -- [directory name] or rm ./[directory name] syntax.

Use the -r flag to delete a directory that contains subdirectories and files.

Using the -r flag removes the entire directory, including subdirectories and files, while the -v flag lists each step of the process as the output:

$ rm -r -v Example

The -i option displays a prompt asking you to confirm directory removal. Type Y and press Enter to confirm.

$ rm -d -i Example

Write-protected directories require user input when deleting. Create such a directory with:

$ sudo mkdir Example

To remove the directory, use:
$ rm -d Example

Type Y and press Enter to confirm deletion. To avoid the confirmation, use the -f flag or elevate the command privileges to sudo:

$ rm -d -f Example
$ sudo rm -d Example

If the write-protected directory contains other files and directories, use the following command:

rm -rf <directory name>

Note: rm -rf / is a dangerous Linux command   that forces a recursive deletion on the root directory, rendering your system unusable.
Avoid using -f and sudo while removing directories, unless you know what you’re doing.

rmdir Command

The Linux rmdir command removes empty directories only. The command uses the following syntax:

rmdir [options] [directory name]

The rmdir command includes the following options:

  • --ignore-fail-on-non-empty: Doesn’t show an error message when trying to remove a non-empty directory.
  • -p: Removes the directory along with its parent in the hierarchy.
  • -v: Provides a verbose output.
  • --help: Displays help text.
  • --version: Displays the command version.

Using the rmdir command on a non-empty directory produces an error.

In this case, the Example directory contains the Test subdirectory:

To remove these directories using the rmdir command, add them in reverse order of hierarchy. Using the -v option lists each step of the process as the output:

$ rmdir -v Example/Test Example

A simpler method of doing this is to use the -p option with the subdirectory’s name. This removes both the subdirectory and its hierarchical parent:

$ rmdir -p -v Example/Test

The rmdir command allows you to remove multiple directories with similar names using wildcards. For instance, if you want to remove directories named Example1Example2, and Example3:

$ rmdir -v Example*


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