rmdir when directory is not empty

Mike McCarty mike.mccarty at sbcglobal.net
Tue Dec 20 18:37:06 UTC 2005

Chasecreek Systemhouse wrote:
> On 12/20/05, kebbelj at scripting-solutions.com
> <kebbelj at scripting-solutions.com> wrote:
>>In the GUI, I can trash a non-empty directory with a right-click and Move to Trash. What command line option would I use with rmdir to remove a non-empty directory?
> The best way to nuke a directory is -
> # Delete the files.
> su - -c "find /path/to/dirName -type f -exec rm -f {} \;"


$ rm -fr /path/to/dirName

is far safer. It won't work if there is a directory with
too many files in it, in which case the find will work.

But to do it as root! Man, not for the faint-hearted!

I rarely do anything as root. I've used

# rm -fr /path/to/dirName

before, but I've always, always, always looked away from the screen,
and then looked back, at least twice, carefully reading the

I recall a shop where I worked for a while where we had a small
VAX running Mt. Xinu (UNIX tm backwards, means Xinu Is Not Unix).
The sys admin had no clue about security, so all users were
aliases of user 0 (IOW, everyone was root). We did marketing
research, and the people who built the questionnaires were
called "Wookies" (from Star Wars), which was an appropriate
term. About once a month or so one of them would want to delete
a study from the disc, and would mis-type

# rm /studies/s12345


# rm / studies/s12345
rm: cannot remove `studies/s12345': No such file or directory

After which

# ls /studies/s12345
bash: ls: command not found

(Actually, I think it was the cshell.)

> # Delete the directory paths.
> su - -c "rmdir -p /path/to/dirName"
> HTH/Bill
> --
> WC -Sx- Jones | http://ccsh.us/ | Open Source Consulting

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