Linux / Unix: Find and Delete All Empty Directories & Files

by on October 25, 2012 · 9 comments· LAST UPDATED January 3, 2015

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How do I find out all empty files and directories on a Linux / Apple OS X / BSD / Unix-like operating systems and delete them in a single pass?

You need to use the combination of find and rm command.
Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Requirementsfind command
Estimated completion time5m
GNU/find has an option to delete files with -delete option. Please note that Unix / Linux filenames can contain blanks and newlines, this default behaviour is often problematic; filenames containing blanks and/or newlines are incorrectly processed by many utilities including rm command. To avoid problems you need to pass the -print0 option to find command and pass the -0 option to xargs command, which prevents such problems.

WARNING! These examples may crash your computer if executed. Some background process (daemons) may use empty files as a lock files or as default location to lock (chroot) down daemons. Do not delete those files. Usually, located in /var/, /lib/ and other important locations.

Method # 1: Find and delete everything with find command only

The syntax is as follows to find and delete all empty directories using BSD or GNU find command:

find /path/to/dir -empty -type d -delete

Find and delete all empty files:

find /path/to/dir -empty -type f -delete

Delete empty directories

In this example, delete empty directories from ~/Downloads/

find ~/Downloads/ -empty -type d -delete

Delete empty files

In this example, delete empty files from ~/Downloads/

find ~/Downloads/ -empty -type -f -delete

Sample session:

Fig.01: Delete empty directories and files.

Fig.01: Delete empty directories and files.

How to count all empty files or directories?

The syntax is as follows:

## count empty dirs only ##
fine /path/ -empty -type d | wc -l
## count empty files only ##
fine /path/ -empty -type y | wc -l


  • -empty : Only find empty files and make sure it is a regular file or a directory.
  • -type d : Only match directories.
  • -type f : Only match files.
  • -delete : Delete files. Always put -delete option at the end of find command as find command line is evaluated as an expression, so putting -delete first will make find try to delete everything below the starting points you specified.

This is useful when you need to clean up empty directories and files in a single command.

Method # 2: Find and delete everything using xargs and rm/rmdir command

The syntax is as follows to find and delete all empty directories using xargs command:

## secure and fast version ###
find /path/to/dir/ -type d -empty -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} /bin/rmdir "{}"


## secure but may be slow due to -exec  ##
find /path/to/dir -type d -empty -print0 -exec rmdir -v "{}" \;

The syntax is as follows to delete all empty files:

## secure and fast version ###
find /path/to/dir/ -type f -empty -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} /bin/rm "{}"


## secure but may be slow due to -exec  ##
find . -type f -empty -print0 -exec rm -v "{}" \;

See man pages - find(1), rmdir(1), xargs(1)

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Scott Carlson October 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

my pruneEmptyDirs script looks like :

perl -MFile::Find -e”finddepth(sub{rmdir},’.’)”


2 Balakrishnan B October 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm

zsh only
To delete all empty directories

  1. rmdir –ignore-fail-on-non-empty **/*(/)
  2. rmdir **/*(/^F)


3 AngelVG October 11, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Take care:

If you have the directory /home/ftp/pub
empty, the command

find /home/ftp/pub -type d -empty -exec rm {} ;

deleted the pub directory (i tested this in FreeBSD 9.1)

The solution:

add the option
-depth 1


find /home/ftp/pub -depth 1 -type d -empty -exec rm {} ;

For example, for maintain my ftp directory clear (up to 7 days), y have this lines in script /usr/home/backups/scripts/ with this

#! /bin/sh

# Files
find /usr/home/ftp/pub -atime +1w -exec rm {} ;
# Directories
find /usr/home/ftp/pub -depth 1 -type d -empty -atime +1w -exec rm {} ;

Executions permissions
# chmod +x /usr/home/backups/scripts/

and in my cron add

00 01 * * * root /usr/home/backups/scripts/

This is all, bye.


4 Allen Cohen January 15, 2015 at 10:28 pm

No such syntax: “-atime +1w”
Must use: “-atime +7″

Also there’s “-amin …” for minutes ago

I prefer to use the modification times rather than access times.


5 AngelVG November 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hi, some correction…

For example, for maintain my ftp directory clear (up to 7 days)
the correct command is

# Files
find /usr/home/invitadoftp/pub -type f -mtime +1w -exec rm {} ;
# Direcories
find /usr/home/invitadoftp/pub -depth 1 -type d -empty -mtime +1w -exec rm {} ;

Please update may older command and delete this


6 uniqueinx July 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

nice one ;)


7 Anderson Figueiredo August 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

Very good… thanks!


8 Ryan T January 2, 2015 at 7:30 pm

For Delete empty directories you need ‘-type d’ not ‘-type -d’. Same with the file removal example.

find ~/Downloads/ -empty -type d -delete
find ~/Downloads/ -empty -type f -delete


9 nixCraft January 3, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for the heads up!


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