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Linux / Unix: Find And Remove Files With One Command On Fly

I am new to Unix and Linux command line. How do I find and delete files under Linux / UNIX operating systems using shell prompt?

Some time it is necessary to find out files and remove them. However, rm command does not support search criteria. You need to use the find command to search for files in a directory and remove them on fly. You can combine find and rm command together.
Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Estimated completion time5 minute

Linux or UNIX - Find and remove file syntax

The basic find command syntax is:

find dir-name criteria action

  1. dir-name : - Defines the working directory such as look into /tmp/
  2. criteria : Use to select files such as "*.sh"
  3. action : The find action (what-to-do on file) such as delete the file.

To remove multiple files such as *.jpg or *.sh with one command find, use:

find . -name "FILE-TO-FIND" -exec rm -rf {} \;


find . -type f -name "FILE-TO-FIND" -exec rm -f {} \;

The only difference between above two syntax is that the first command remove directories as well where second command only removes files. Options:

  1. -name "FILE-TO-FIND" : File pattern.
  2. -exec rm -rf {} \; : Delete all files matched by file pattern.
  3. -type f : Only match files and do not include directory names.

Examples of find command

WARNING! These examples may crash your computer if executed. Before removing file makes sure, you have backup of all-important files. Do not use rm command as root user it can do critical damage to the system.

Find all files having .bak (*.bak) extension in the current directory and remove them:
$ find . -type f -name "*.bak" -exec rm -f {} \;

Find all core files in the / (root) directory and remove them (be careful with this command):
# find / -name core -exec rm -f {} \;

Find all *.bak files in the current directory and removes them with confirmation from user:
$ find . -type f -name "*.bak" -exec rm -i {} \;
Sample outputs:

rm: remove regular empty file `./data0002.bak'? y
rm: remove regular empty file `./d234234234fsdf.bak'? y
rm: remove regular empty file `./backup-20-10-2005.bak'? n
See also : Other find command usage
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{ 64 comments… add one }

  • Carl March 8, 2007, 9:11 pm

    Awesome, this was exactly what I needed to delete a huge amount of files when I ran out of inodes. Just doing an rm * would result in an error, but this deletes the files one at a time. Thanks

  • Rob March 29, 2007, 3:19 pm

    do any of the above commands delete .bak files recursively throughout an entire directory tree, or would I need to cd to each directory to delete its .bak files?

  • nixCraft March 30, 2007, 3:24 am


    > would I need to cd to each directory to delete its .bak files?

    find command will go to each sub directory. For example delete all *.bak from /data2 dir, use

    find /data2 -type f -name "*.bak" -exec rm -f {} \;

  • Test September 12, 2007, 12:37 am

    Why does it require a backslash to terminate with the ;? I need to place this in an applescript under “do shell script” but it hates that backslash. Is there any way around it?

  • nixCraft September 12, 2007, 4:53 am

    A backslash is required, otherwise shell will treat ;? as part of shell command.

  • Atul February 20, 2008, 3:33 pm

    for removing directories in same manner, use command find . -type d -name “DIRNAME” -exec rm -rf {} \;

  • Atul February 20, 2008, 3:34 pm

    to recursively search and delete directories use
    find . -type d -name “DIRNAME” -exec rm -rf {} \;

  • Nick March 25, 2008, 6:33 pm

    Why not use the -delete option of find?

    • Frolic August 8, 2012, 1:43 pm

      1) Maybe because it’s rather new and not widely known (yet), or possibly not yet available everywhere?
      2) Because it cannot delete non-empty directories, in case you want to do that.

      But generally: yes, one should also consider the “-delete” action.

  • Dr Thangpa Serto April 15, 2008, 6:01 am

    [root@localhost ieee80211-1.2.18]# make
    Checking in /lib/modules/2.6.18-53.el5xen for ieee80211 components…
    make -C /lib/modules/2.6.18-53.el5xen/build M=/root/Desktop/ieee80211-1.2.18 modules
    make[1]: Entering directory `/usr/src/kernels/2.6.18-53.el5-xen-i686′
    CC [M] /root/Desktop/ieee80211-1.2.18/ieee80211_module.o
    In file included from /root/Desktop/ieee80211-1.2.18/ieee80211_module.c:52:

    I am a linux newbie. I installed RHEL5 on a compaq Presario V3000 laptop.

    Now i tried to install the wifi drivers ipw3445… but i am stuck her

    error: redefinition of ‘kmemdup’
    include/linux/slab.h:208: error: previous definition of ‘kmemdup’ was here
    make[2]: *** [/root/Desktop/ieee80211-1.2.18/ieee80211_module.o] Error 1
    make[1]: *** [_module_/root/Desktop/ieee80211-1.2.18] Error 2
    make[1]: Leaving directory `/usr/src/kernels/2.6.18-53.el5-xen-i686′
    make: *** [modules] Error 2
    [root@localhost ieee80211-1.2.18]#

    Please help

    • Robert August 24, 2010, 1:49 am

      Did you ever find a solution to this problem. If so please let me know the details because I have the exact same issue. Thank you.

  • Dani September 18, 2008, 6:26 pm

    This page has just save 3 hours of stressful, worthless work in my life. Thank you so much.

  • Anonymous November 7, 2008, 11:27 pm

    How can I remove files that contain a certain string of text? For example: if file contains any of these symbols, remove the file:

    { }
    [ ]
    ( )

    Just to name a few, but there might be others. I need a bash script to do this.

  • pfwd February 20, 2009, 4:08 pm

    Sweet thanks

  • Barack Raz February 26, 2009, 8:16 pm

    awesome…just awesome…- thank you :-) – freakin’ directory was hung…can’t ls to it for nothing or anything for that matter….but finally :-)

  • Felix February 26, 2009, 9:33 pm

    What if I wanted to remove every file from my home account except for a certain directory??
    For example:
    find . -name ‘.UCLA’ -prune -o -exec rm -rf {} +;

    This removes everything EXCEPT my .UCLA folder, however I get a message that says:
    rm: error can not remove `.’ `..’

    How do I get rid of that error message?

  • madhan February 27, 2009, 9:10 am

    Thank you. It met my requiemens. IT was a timly help.


  • Nicole March 24, 2009, 4:27 pm

    I’m trying to remove files that have a certain misc dates
    Would like to do a wild card for certain parts of the file name.
    Example – 03230800203805V274803.810

    Would ****08***********.810 work?

    Want to delete the files containing in the postions 5 and 6 for 08.


  • CorkyMoo July 14, 2009, 1:03 am

    Is it not ‘ | exec ‘ and not ‘ -exec ‘ ? Either way it does not work.

  • JimmyNY July 30, 2009, 6:01 am

    Nobody has ever asked this question online it seems…

    Problem: Stupid MAC (which I dont have anymore named files with these characters:
    etc.. in the file names.. I could not find any file renamer that would rename these files in Windows/DOS..

    So I tried FENDORA linux and I can rename the manually one by one but i have hundreds…


    No RENAME or mv command works.. I trired everything i can find online..

    I tried specifing the “:” like this “\:” “\x3a” etc.. and nothing.

    does anyone know how to strip these retardted OS-illegal characters out of the names.. in one shot.?

    I know the ren command in DOS.. but I have no clue it seems in Linux.
    and no i don’t have a mac or access to one..

    Thanks ahead of time, for your help.

  • Hank September 11, 2009, 4:26 pm

    This should do it:

    for FILE in `find . -name ‘*\:*’`; do NEW=`echo $FILE | sed -e ‘s/:/_/’`; mv $FILE $NEW; done

  • Josh October 15, 2009, 8:43 am

    Use -delete flag with find… works much faster than -exec rm

  • durga October 22, 2009, 11:38 pm

    hey, thanks!

  • Kiran October 27, 2009, 5:43 am


    I am trying to delete files and folders using the below command

    find /opt/server/Outward/logs/ -daystart \( -type d ! \) -mtime +264 -exec rm -rf {} \;
    I get the below error.
    find: /opt/server/Outward/logs/2009-02-04: No such file or directory

    The logs folder contains folders and sub-folders. After I execute the command i get the error message as above. What could be the possible reason and the solution.


  • Sailor Enlil November 17, 2009, 1:59 am

    Does find’s -delete option support or have something similar to rm’s -f flag? (i.e. force delete a file/directory even if the write permission is not set)? I need to delete files that may not be write enabled (eg r– or r-x when viewed using ls -l).

  • Roshan November 18, 2009, 6:24 am

    How to override after find command?
    Note :i know find command but dont know how to combine these operations.
    cat “I’m repled content” > test.zip .
    1> i have to find files with name “*test*.*” and replace the content of the file with “I’m replaced content”.
    2> find the file with size more than 10mb and replace the content of the file with “I’m replaced content”.

  • lupht December 3, 2009, 7:51 am


    Try the -ignore_readdir_race option

  • Tristan April 3, 2010, 4:58 pm

    Very nice find. Had a bunch of music I copied over from my Mac that had Ableton files in them which weren’t needed on my laptop.

    Quick way of getting rid of them.

    Thanks a bunch.

  • Jeremy September 26, 2010, 5:15 am

    Fantastic tips. These helped me create some commands to add to my ~/.bash_logout file to perform file/directory cleanup on logout. Cheers!

  • liveD September 30, 2010, 7:29 am

    find . -type f -name “FILE-TO-FIND” -delete;

  • Chethan October 15, 2010, 6:14 am


    int main()
    execl(“/bin/rm”, “rm”, “-f”, “/home/cc/rr* “, (char*)0);
    return 0;

    In the above program, I want to delete all file /home/cc/rr*. With above program it is not working, I mean it is not deleting. Please help.

  • TheRiley November 10, 2010, 10:14 pm

    this culls directories older than 10 days:

    find /somePath -type d -name ‘someNamePrefix*’ -mtime +10 -print | xargs rm -rf ;

    • Bruce Jenkins March 18, 2011, 1:24 pm

      Thanks for the code Riley! I have been looking for something like this.

  • Badtz March 22, 2011, 3:42 pm

    -delete will also work in a directory with say… hundreds of thousands of files, -exec rm -rf will crash.

    • E1Suave March 14, 2012, 6:54 pm

      I have never seen the exec rm -rf crash and I run it to scan over 150,000 files throughout the entire OS.

  • Badtz March 22, 2011, 3:47 pm

    For instance

    /bin/rm: Argument list too long
    -bash-3.2$ ls -l | wc -l
    -bash-3.2$ find . -delete

  • surreyian April 28, 2011, 4:30 pm

    i tried to use the command to find and delete files

    find . -name “find name” -exec rm {}\

    but the return message is missing argument to ‘-exec’

    what have I done wrong?

    • nixCraft April 28, 2011, 10:47 pm

      Add semicolon (;) to command:
      find . -name “find name” -exec rm {}\ ;

      • surreyian May 4, 2011, 8:25 am


  • rangga June 28, 2011, 6:24 am

    can we combine locate with rm ?


  • beli June 29, 2011, 12:04 pm


  • Basil July 6, 2011, 3:17 pm

    How can check and redirect to a single file with the file names that contains the certain string of text? For example:

    If my files abc.txt, aaa.txt and bbb.txt where both aaa and bbb contains ERROR, and abc not. I need to point out the names aaa.txt and bbb.txt to another file ccc.txt…

    Just to name a few, but there might be others. I need a bash script to do this.
    Am searching for a solution from a week…:(

    • Sashidhar December 10, 2013, 2:43 pm

      Sorry for the late reply. I only nw saw this and also saw there was no response for this.

      grep -lir "Text to search" / (will search all files in all filesystems and report the filenames).

      Output that to an external file as you desire.

      grep -lir "Text to search" / >> myfile_list_to_delete.log
      grep -lir "Text to search" /home >> myfile_list_to_delete.log

      The above will find only in the /home folder.

  • Question August 9, 2011, 11:34 pm

    is there supposed to be a space before -exec in the example?
    find . -type f -name “FILE-TO-FIND” -exec rm -f {} \;

  • Ankit August 25, 2011, 8:48 am

    Hi All,

    I want to find and delete some files from a single directory only, i mean i dnt want the find command to search any other sub directories how do i do tht???

  • vijay October 11, 2011, 4:39 am

    how to delete only c & java programs in red hat linux….

  • Asghar Ali October 30, 2011, 1:11 pm

    Thanks Dude! I really need it.

  • Asghar Ali March 31, 2012, 7:33 pm

    Thank you so much! it really helped..

  • Mykhailo June 24, 2012, 9:35 am


    Can someone explain me strange behavior of deleting folder via find -exec.
    So I have folder ‘test’.
    When I’m executing such command:

    find ‘/Volumes/Storage/Dropbox/Backups’ -type d -name ‘test’ -exec rm -rf {} \;

    It says: find: /Volumes/Storage/Dropbox/Backups/test: No such file or directory

    BUT deletes it successfully.

    Why does it happen? What am I doing wrong? I need to avoid this error message because it causes exception in my script.

  • Captain Mac June 26, 2012, 11:28 pm

    “\\; ” instead of “\; “. double backslash is actually represent one backslash in a C-like ASCII string
    do shell script “find /data2 -type f -name “*.bak” -exec rm -f {} \\; ”

    Test September 12, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Why does it require a backslash to terminate with the ;? I need to place this in an applescript under “do shell script” but it hates that backslash. Is there any way around it?

  • Mykhailo July 7, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Captain Mac June 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm
    “\\; ” instead of “\; “. double backslash is actually represent one backslash in a C-like ASCII string
    do shell script “find /data2 -type f -name “*.bak” -exec rm -f {} \\; ”

    Double slashes produces incorrect syntax for bash saying:
    “find: -exec: no terminating “;” or “+””

    For applescript it’s requires escaping one slash with double but it doesn’t help and produces the error above.

    Still don’t have solution :(

  • Captain Mac July 9, 2012, 6:33 am

    Can you write exact of your applescript to the site? Since It worked on my mac to clean Picasa Originals directories…

    Other option remove single quotes and if necessary “;” from your script.

    Worst case scenario, try exception handling on the script without any action, if it works OK but throws exceptions only.

  • Mykhailo July 19, 2012, 5:14 pm

    Here is my applescript:

    on run {input, parameters}
    do shell script “find /Users/moleksyuk/Temp -type d -name ‘test’ -exec rm -rf {} \\;”
    return input
    end run

    Script with one slash:

    do shell script “find /Users/moleksyuk/Temp -type d -name ‘test’ -exec rm -rf {} \;”

    Or without semicolon

    do shell script “find /Users/moleksyuk/Temp -type d -name ‘test’ -exec rm -rf {} \\”

    are not valid for Automator.


  • Mykhailo July 19, 2012, 5:19 pm

    Here is my applescript:

    on run {input, parameters}
    do shell script “find /Users/moleksyuk/Temp -type d -name ‘test’ -exec rm -rf {} \\;”
    return input
    end run

    Other combinations (with one slash or without semicolon) are not valid for Automator.

    Error screenshot here – http://goo.gl/DE7UB

  • Sanjeev August 22, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Thanks mate – worked to take out .htaccess files splattered over my directories by commitse.

  • Neeraj October 9, 2012, 6:25 am

    Hi i have a task to find the specific folder by name. I did that by using “find . -type d “example” ” now i have to find the folders of a specific user from the list of folder given by find command above.

    ex : if i have folder example-created by A, example-by B and example-by C
    then the above command will give

    now after this i just want to access or find the folders created by B user

    it should provide only example-byB user

    Can any one show some light on this and help me out


  • Vitalij October 17, 2012, 7:24 pm

    Hi! I have a problem with this commands…. I try to find file and hen delete it however i cant =\
    with this command i get the right o/p but i cant make to delete this file:
    ls -aR /media/DATA/downloads/music | grep -iF “04 Edith Piaf – Platinum Collection [CD 1] – Mon Dieu”
    the idea is to delete file passing only one parameter without changing it -> name of file
    when i try this:
    rm `ls -aR /media/DATA/downloads/music | grep -iF “04 Edith Piaf – Platinum Collection [CD 1] – Mon Dieu”` i get errors where each part of string(file name) is separated. I tried with find to, any nothing, so i hope someone an help me ;)

  • Niki July 19, 2013, 8:59 am

    Very bad article !!!
    What means -type ???
    What means -name ???
    Just a command without any explanation!

    • Vern August 21, 2014, 3:10 pm

      man find

  • komischer vogel May 6, 2014, 11:23 pm


    im using find -f folder/* -mmin +120 -delete

    to delete all files within older than 2 hours and using cron to exec the script hourly, but its gets me an error mail all time when there is no file to delete.

    how can i check, that files exist to first?

    • komischer vogel May 7, 2014, 1:15 pm

      ok found it out myself:


      if [ “$(ls -A $DIR)” ]; then
      find /folder/path/* -mmin +120 -delete
      exit 0

  • RK May 20, 2015, 8:01 pm

    How do you log the output somewhere which files were successfully deleted or not in the find and delete command?

  • solak September 24, 2015, 6:19 pm

    To delete files that contain certain strings, just include a test of that as a condition of the find before you do the deletion. Let’s say you want to get rid of text files that have empty parentheticals, those (), [], and {} that you mention. Just have grep look for them. To make it interesting, I’ve added optional spaces within the empty grouping characters and made the deletion optional. To make it more interesting, you could also accept tabs as whitespace or use egrep and put all the tests in one regular expression.

    find this-dir that-dir -name \*.txt -exec grep -q -e ‘( *)’ -e ‘\[ *]’ -e ‘{ *}’ \{} \; -ok rm -f \{} \;

    So, this starts searching at this-dir and at that-dir looking inside there for files whose names end with .txt, and then it silently searches the file content for various kinds of parentheses wrapped around zero or more spaces. For each of those, it asks you whether to delete the file.

  • s0l0m0n October 6, 2015, 4:22 pm

    Thanks for awesome example
    I would like to keep file last 3 month.
    The command below

    $ find . -mtime +90 -type f -exec rm -f {} \;

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