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Deleting a directory (also called a folder) in Linux is a common task that all users have to do at some point. This can be done from any installed desktop environment or from the command line with the rm command. While this is a fairly basic feature, there are some important caveats to be aware of. In this guide, we will see several examples of how to delete a directory in Linux. Feel free to participate on your own system to master the rm command and the GUI process.
But let’s go back to deleting a directory on Linux. If you are looking for ways to remove a directory graphically or using the command line, you have come to the right place. Programmers should keep in mind that Linux treats everything like a file, even a directory. In other words, a directory is nothing more than a grouping of files placed together. For those who switch from the Windows or macOS operating system, a directory is the same as a folder in Windows.
Delete a directory in Linux
Linux is a very straightforward and straightforward operating system and it offers a couple of ways to delete a directory in Linux. The first method is to graphically remove it from the desktop environment. For those who are using Gnome’s File, they can delete a directory using the graphical user interface.
Another way is to use the command line, which is more efficient. The latter is common when a system uses a headless server. The command line option is even more effective when an encoder has to delete multiple directories at the same time.
Delete a Linux directory using GUI
On Linux, graphically deleting a directory is easy and straightforward, similar to Windows or macOS. Furthermore, you also have to remember that not all desktop environments are the same. On the other hand, they do not differ significantly and it is easy to understand any Linux distribution.
For example, we will use KDE Plasma is a graphical workspace environment. KDE Plasma is developed by an international software community known as KDE. Its main goal is to create free and open source software that can help the Linux community. He also develops cross-platform applications like Krita that can run on Unix, Android, and even Microsoft Windows. Let’s look at the steps to delete a directory on Linux using the KDE Plasma GUI.
- Open the file manager and select the directory you want to delete.
- Right click on the directory and select ‘Move to Trash’ from the available options. Also remember that other desktop environments may display different options, instead of “Move to Trash”. The other options include “Delete”. Some environments may show both options as well, and it is always better to choose “Move to Trash” as it can be recovered at a later stage.
- After clicking “Move to Trash”, the file manager will confirm if you really want to delete the directory.
- Accordingly, the directory will be moved to the Trash.
- Now in case you are sure you don’t need the directory, delete it from Trash as well.
- Open the Trash and right-click on the directory to permanently delete it. Another method is to click on the blank which will provide multiple options. Choose “empty the trash” to say forever, say goodbye to the directory.
Delete a Linux directory using the command line
Like all major operating systems, even Linux offers a couple of ways to permanently delete a folder using the command line. The two Linux commands for removing directories are rmdir and rm.
rmdir – The rmdir command is used to remove empty directories and folders on the system. rm: The rm command is used to remove directories that contain subdirectories.
The above commands are similar to del and deltree in the Windows operating system. The rmdir and rm are known as one of the most powerful commands in Linux. Furthermore, care must also be taken that, unlike the GUI option, deleting files using the command line does not move the folder to the trash. The directory is permanently removed from the system. However, if a programmer accidentally deleted a file using the command line, they can only recover it from a backup.
Delete directories with rmdir
Rmdir is a command line utility that programmers use to delete directories on a Linux machine. The command is often used to delete empty folders. Therefore, it is convenient for those who want to delete a directory or directories that are empty since they do not have to worry about whether they are empty or not. If the files are in them, then the command will return with an error message. But first, let’s look at the command syntax.
As mentioned above, rmdir removes directories if they do not contain any subdirectories and they are empty. Here is the syntax for the same:
rmdir directory name
For example, to remove abcd1, open the terminal and enter the following expression:
rmdir abcd1 You will get an error message, such as the following:
rmdir: could not remove ‘abcd1’: no such file or directory
If this is the case, then one has to manually move the contents of the directory or use the rm command line utility.
It is one of the significant differences between the rmdir and rm commands. So using the rmdir command is very beneficial as programmers never have to worry about deleting when they run it as it never deletes a file. Also, you can use multiple directories and even type the folder path.
For example, to remove multiple directories, all an encoder has to do is enter the following expression:
rmdir abcd1 abcd2 abcd3 Also, for those who want to delete a folder other than the current directory, they can enter the full path of that particular directory to be deleted. Here is an example of the same:
rmdir / path / to / abcd
If the directory is empty, the command line utility removes it silently and successfully. Now for example you have multiple directories in one path and you want to remove the gaps, what can you do? It’s simple, just run the rmdir command, and it will just remove the gaps. The rmdir doesn’t even make changes to files with a directory that has content. It is left intact.
But the rmdir works sequentially. So if you run a command to remove five directories and the first one returns with the “Directory not empty” error message, then the whole process is terminated. However, the following command can be used: –ignore-fail-on-non-empty, to force the process to continue and ignore the archiving directory. So for example if the folder work / abcd1 has content then one has to run the following command:
rmdir –ignore-fail-on-non-empty work / abcd1
There are several other options that a programmer can use in conjunction with rmdir, such as the -p (parents) option. The -p command removes not only the directory but also its parent directories. One reason -p is useful is that rmdir works from the destination directory and then works backwards to the main folder. Since rmdir only works when the folder is empty, it keeps going back to the parent directory path.
Here is an example demonstrating the method of using the -p option with rmdir.
rmdir -p job / abcd
Delete directories with rm
Rm is another command line utility that allows programmers to delete directories. Beyond that rm can also delete files and not just directories. Therefore, it is imperative for programmers to be careful before using it.
It is a way that rm is different from rmdir in that it removes not only empty directories but also those that are full of content if one is sure that it is a great way to remove directories that are not empty.
Interestingly, rm doesn’t work without using the -d or -r options. So if one wants to remove an empty directory, then use the -d option and use the -r (–recursive) option for those with content. So, for example, to delete a directory abcd1 that contains the entire contents of the folder, type the following:
rm -r abcd1
In case the directory you are deleting is write protected, it will ask you to confirm the deletion. Now if a programmer is sure and does not want to see the message, then he can use the -f option.
rm -rf abcd1
Similar to the rmdir command, rm can be used to delete multiple folders at the same time. All an encoder has to do is separate the directory names with a “space” in the expression. Pairing the -r (recursive) option with rm will remove all directories that have content, including subdirectories and files. Here is an example of the same:
rm -r abcd1 abcd2 abcd3
Interestingly, an encoder can also use the -i option with the rm command to confirm the removal of all subdirectories and files from a folder. The -i option is very useful as some folders have hundreds of files and using the -i option will only ask for confirmation once rather than individually for all files. Here is an example of using rm with the -i option:
rm -rI abcd1
The command will return for confirmation of the deletion, type “Y” and press Enter.
Now what if a user wants to delete specific files that have something in common? Once again rm comes to the rescue and you can easily delete particular files using regular expressions. For example, to remove everything ending with _xyz in the current directory, an encoder would write the following:
rm -r * _xyz
However, the programmer must be careful when using regular expressions with rm as it is risky. The best way is to first list all the directories using the ls command. Using ls, one can see all the directories before they are removed.
You can also take advantage of rm to remove empty directories. To do this, an encoder must use the -d (directory) option. Interestingly, you can even use wildcards like * and? when typing directory names similar to typing a file name. The expression will look like this:
rm -d abcd1
To delete multiple empty directories at the same time, type the following:
rm -d abcd1 abcd2 abcd3
As one must have noticed, there are several ways to delete a directory and any of them can be used. While a programmer can use rmdir to remove empty folders, the same may be possible with the rm command. But caution is required, especially when using the rm – rf command, as data can be lost forever.
You can always use the tree command to better understand which files will be removed before executing the rm expression. First, a user must install a package before using the command. For Ubuntu users, you can take advantage of the apt-get command to install packages. For other Linux distributions, developers can take advantage of the package management tool of that particular distribution. So the expression would look like this:
sudo apt-get install tree
The tree command gives users a simple understanding in forming a diagram of the directory structure and contents, such as the files under the directory.
Interestingly, a programmer can even specify a path to the tree command, so it starts with another directory on the file system.
tree path / to / directory
Beyond that, the –preserve-root, –one-file-system, –no-preserve-root options can also be used with the rm command. But it is highly recommended only for advanced programmers. The reason behind this is that a little accident or mistake could lead to the deletion of the entire file system and therefore its use should always be avoided.
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