How to remove all files and subdirectories in a directory WITHOUT deleting the directory in bash?

  • Is there a command to remove all files and subdirectories in a directory without deleting the directory?

    For example if I have directory dontDeleteMe with subdirectories 1, 2, 3 and each subdirectory has a few pictures in it, how can I remove the subdirectories 1, 2, and 3 and all the files in the them, without removing the parent directory dontDeleteMe?

  • Matt

    Matt Correct answer

    9 years ago

    To remove everything in a directory without removing the directory, type in:

    rm -rfv dontDeleteMe/*
    

    Please note, the /* part is very important. If you put a space before the *, it will delete all your files in your current directory.

    Also, be very careful playing with rm, -r and * all in the same command. They can be a disastrous combination.

    Update: Okay, I realized if you do have hidden/dot files [filenames with dots at the beginning, e.x. .hidden] then this will leave those files intact.

    So really, the simplest solution to the original question is:

    rm -rfv dontDeleteMe && mkdir dontDeleteMe
    

    Another one would be to use find's -exec option or pipe to xargs (below):

    find dontDeleteMe/* -print0  | xargs -0  rm -rv
    

    Can you give an example of using xargs? What is xargs?

    @justingrif: `find dontDeleteMe/* -print0 | xargs -0 rm -rv` I believe in most cases this will work, regardless of spaces, and what not. But cd to `/tmp/` and make a test directory and try it out. :)

    Oh, and from the manpage: *"xargs - build and execute command lines from standard input"*

    Re-making a directory does not equal deleting its contents. e.g. umask directory permission differences, owner differences, etc... enzotib's answer would solve the issues with your original syntax

    This is not a good answer. Using * is dangerous, and won't work on dotfiles without "dotglob" (see below). `rm -rf dontDeleteMe && mkdir dontDeleteMe` doesn't ensure that the dir is re-created with the same permissions/owner(s). Instead, use one of the `find dontDeleteMe/ -mindepth 1 -delete` variants below.

    @NilsToedtmann, with all due respect, I did give fair warning in my answer that the * should be used with care.

  • The only reason rm -r ./* do not always work is because you can have hidden files and/or folder that are not matched by *.

    To this end, bash provide an option to make * match everything, even hidden objects:

    cd dont-delete-me
    shopt -s dotglob
    rm -r ./*
    

    It can be useful to reset dotglob to its default (unset) state, if you keep on using the shell where you executed the above commands:

    shopt -u dotglob 
    

    It can also not work when you have a large number of files

  • Open terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) ant type this:

    find somedir -mindepth 1 -delete
    

    This will match all files and directories within somedir and its (grand-)children including "hidden" dot files but excluding somedir itself because of -mindepth 1, then -delete them.

    Welcome to AskUbuntu! While your answer could potentially help the original poster, the lack of information to explain what this would do to help him/her makes your answer incomplete.

    Lacks explanation, but still the best answer. Also works in OSX (except for the way of opening Terminal, of course).

  • find /dontDeleteMe/ -xdev -depth -mindepth 1 -exec rm -Rf {} \;
    

    Use xdev option to delete files only within device boundary.

    GNU find has `-delete`. It implies `-depth` and is easier to remember than `-depth -exec rm -Rf {} \;`

  • To delete (in terminal) all files and subdirectories except for the base directory named "dontdelete":

    rm -rf dontdelete/*
    

    This doesn't delete hidden files, so "all files" might be too bold a statement.

  • You can use find with the -delete flag:

    find dontDeleteMe/* -delete
    

    The /* is important as it tells find to search only INSIDE the folder called "dontDeleteMe".

    Also ensure that the -delete flag is at the end of the find command.

    This solution doesn't delete any hidden files, unless you enable `dotglob`. Otherwise, using the `-mindepth 1` flag option seems the only way to get it working.

  • rm -rf  directory/{.*,/*}
    

    What says:

    Remove all files starting with . in "directory" and all other files too.

    Though as kindly noted by Neftas this solution is not safe!

    Safer solution is:

     rm -rf directory/!(.|..)
    

    This command could potentially be dangerous, since you're also including `.` and `..` directories. This may be avoided by changing `{.*}` to `{.??*}`, but then you won't delete hidden files with only one character, such as `.a`.

    what's about this? rm -rf directory/!(.|..)

    That looks like a much better solution than what I came up with. May I suggest you edit your answer?

    suggestion accepted )

  • There is an even simpler answer:

    1. cd dontDeleteMe

    2. rm -rf *

    Basic system administration lecture time: Be sure to pay attention to where you are when you use sweeping commands like this.

    I can't say that enough. I've had to recover a box because someone wasn't paying attention and typed in rm -rf * while in /.

    *nix assumes that if you are root or if you are sudo-ing as root that you know what you are doing. So make sure that you know what you're doing before you do it.

    An alternative which makes sure your 'cd' command works before you issue the 'rm' is to use

    cd dontDeleteMe && rm -rf *
    

    This is a dangerous suggestion. What you want is: `cd dontDeleteMe && rm -rf *`

    @Izkata Or make sure to check that the cd operation was successful, before issuing the rm command.

    @EliahKagan That's exactly what my code snippet does...

    Actually it's not any more or any less dangerous than what you suggest. All the && does is to chain the two commands together so that they execute at the same time. If anything my method is actually SAFER since you have to stop and .look before you execute the rm -rf *. Pausing to double check is always better.

    @user30619 The `&&` operator doesn't just chain the commands together; it requires that each command be successful before the next one will be executed. If the `cd` command fails for any reason (directory doesn't exist, privileges, etc) then the `rm` command won't be executed. I'd call that safer.

  • I am not sure why this is so complex, help me if i am wrong

    cd DoNotDeleteDir #<- this is just to make sure we are inside
    find . | xargs rm -rf
    

    That's it

    This has the slight flaw of trying to delete the current directory as well, which, of course, doesn't work, because it's still in use as the working directory of the invoking shell.

  • rm -rf ${PWD}/*
    

    will clear the present working directory

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM