How to remove carriage return in Linux or Unix

How do I remove all the carriage returns \r (^M) from a file in Unix using the command-line options?

A carriage return is nothing but a control character used to reset a device’s position to the beginning of a text line. In other words, whenever you hit the [Enter] key, you generate carriage return. It is a newline concept. Please note that in ASCII and Unicode, the carriage return is defined as 13. So you may see it as control+M (^M). In the C and especially on Linux/macOS or Unix-like system, we will see it as \r. In DOS/Windows text files, a line break is a combination of two characters: a Carriage Return (CR) followed by a Line Feed (LF). In Unix/Linux/macOS text files, a line break is a single character: the Line Feed (LF). This page explains how to remove carriage return and update file easily.
Tutorial details
Difficulty Easy (rss)
Root privileges No
Requirements Linux, macOS, *BSD or Unix CLI
Time 2m

Removing carriage return in Linux or Unix

The procedure to delete carriage return is as follows:

  1. Open the terminal app and then type any one of the following command.
  2. Use the sed: sed 's/\r$//' file.txt > out.txt
  3. Another option is tr: tr -d '\r' input.txt > out.txt
  4. MS-Windows (DOS)/Mac to Unix/Linux and vice versa text file format converter: dos2unix infile outfile
  5. Verify that carriage return removed or converted on Linux/Unix:
    od -c output
    cat -v filename

Let us see all commands and examples in details.

Viewing carriage return under Linux or Unix

The syntax is as follows:
cat -v input.txt
od -c /path/to/file.php

The cat command prints nonprinting chracters such as ^ and M- notation, except for LFD and TAB. To see LFD and TAB pass the -T:
cat -T filename
We use the od command to dump files in octal and other formats on screen. Pass the -c to see printable characters or backslash escapes on screen:
od -c input
cat file | od -c

Modern text editors such as vim can show carriage return too:
vim filename

Deleting carriage return using the sed on Linux/Unix/macOS

The syntax is:

sed 's/\r$//' file.txt > out.txt
sed "s/$(printf '\r')\$//" file.php > out.file.php && mv out.file.php file.php

Sed command has an option to do an in-place file update for both GNU/sed and BSD/sed on macOS. Hence, the syntax is:

sed -i sed 's/\r$//' input
cat -v input
# macos/bsd need file ext # 
sed -i'.BAKUP' input.file
cat -v input.file

DOS/Mac to Unix and vice versa text file format converter

First install dos2unix text file format converter using the apt command/apt/get command on your Ubuntu/Debian box:
sudo apt install dos2unix
RHEL/CentOS/Fedora Linux users try:
sudo yum install dos2unix # <-- RHEL/CentOS 7.x
sudo dnf install dos2unix # <-- Fedora latest/RHEL/CentOS 8.x

Now use it as follows:
dos2unix input output
cat -v output
od -c output

Using the tr command under Unix or Linux

We can convert line breaks in a text file from Unix format (Line feed) to DOS format (carriage return + Line feed) and vice versa:

cat input | tr -d '\r' > output
tr -d '\r' < input > output
cat -v output
od -c output

A note about perl

Perl is yet another method to remove all the carriage returns \r from a file in Unix or Linux systems. The syntax is:

perl -i -p -e 's/\r//g' my_file
cat -v my_file
od -v my_file

col command

The col command filters out reverse (and half reverse) line feeds so that the output is in the correct order with only forward and half-forward line feeds and replaces white-space characters with tabs where possible. We can pass the -b and tell the col not output any backspaces, printing only the last character written to each column position as follows:

col -b < input_file > output_file
cat -v output_file
od -c output_file

Deleting carriage return in Linux or Unix using the CLI options

Converting files in bulk

In the current directory try sed as follows with help of bash for loop:

for f in *.php
  sed -i'-backup.php' 's/\r$//' "$f"

In this final example, search for all PHP files in /app/ directory, including sub-folders, and run the sed command on it as follows:

find /app/ -type f -iname "*.php" -print0 \
| xargs -I {} -0 sed -i'-backup.php' 's/\r$//' "{}"


You learned how to remove or delete carriage return (\r) under Linux and Unix-like system using various commands.

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🐧 3 comments so far... add one

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3 comments… add one
  • Mostafa Kassem Feb 2, 2021 @ 14:22

    On Windows, you can use notepad++ edit-> EOL Conversion to switch between Windows and UNIX line ending.

  • Sam Stephens Feb 3, 2021 @ 16:34

    tr -d '\r' input.txt > out.txt” will not work because tr only accepts standard input and not file input. “tr -d '\r' < input.txt > out.txt” or “cat input.txt | tr -d '\r' > out.txt” should be used instead.

  • Samuel Stephens Feb 3, 2021 @ 16:39

    The last line should read “tr -d '\r' < input.txt > out.txt” or “cat input.txt | tr -d '\r' > out.txt” should be used instead.

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