How to find and delete directory recursively on Linux or Unix-like system

I type ‘find . -type d -iname foo -delete‘ command to find the foo directories and delete them. However, I am getting an error message that read as find: cannot delete './hourly.4/data/foo': Directory not empty on Linux server. How do delete directories based on find command output on Linux or Unix-like system?

The -delete option remove the DIRECTORY(ies), if they are empty. You need to use the -exec option to delete all directories and its contents. The syntax is as follows.

Find command syntax to delete dirs

find /dir/to/search/ -type d -name "dirName" -exec rm -rf {} +
find /dir/to/search/ -type d -name "dirName" -exec rm -rf ;

Warning: Be careful with the rm command when using with find. You may end up deleting unwanted data.

Find will execute given command when it finds files or dirs. For example:
find . -type d -name "foo" -exec rm -rf {} +
find . -type d -name "bar" -exec rm -rf "{}" ;
Sample outputs:

removed './daily.0/bar/.cache/'
removed directory './daily.0/bar/root/.cache'
removed './daily.0/bar/.lesshst'
removed './daily.0/bar/.viminfo'
removed './daily.0/bar/.vim/.netrwhist'
removed directory './daily.0/bar/root/.vim'
removed './daily.0/bar/root/.bashrc'
removed './daily.0/bar/.ssh/authorized_keys'
removed directory './daily.0/bar/root'
removed directory './daily.0/bar/var/spool/cron/crontabs'

You can find directories that are at least four levels deep in the working directory /backups/:
find /backups/ -type d -name "bar" -depth +4 -print0 -exec rm -rf {} +

Find and xargs

The syntax is as follows to find and delete directories on Linux/Unix system:
## delete all empty dirs ##
find /path/to/dir/ -type d -empty -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} /bin/rm -rf "{}"
## delete all foo dirs including subdirs in /backups/
find /backups/ -type d -name "foo*" -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} /bin/rm -rf "{}"

The second command is secure and fast version as it deals with weird dir names such as:

  • “foo bar”
  • “Foo _ *bar”

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Posted by: SXI ADMIN

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.


How to KVM, QEMU start or stop virtual machine from command line (CLI)

KVM or Kernel Based Virtual Machine is a popular virtualization technology. It allows you to run virtual guest machines over a host machine. To start...

How to Docker backup Saving and restoring your volumes

Running a Docker volume backup First, we spin up a temporary container, and we mount the backup folder and the target Docker volume to this container....

How to Start and Enable Firewalld on CentOS 7

In this article, we discuss how to start and enable firewalld. It is highly recommended that you have a firewall protecting your server.Pre-Flight CheckThese...