How to Use Rm Command in Linux

Learn how to delete files from the Linux terminal.

Rm Command Featured Image

There are times when you need to delete files in the Linux terminal. The rm command lets you delete directories, files, symbolic links, and more. This in-depth guide shows you how to use the rm command effortlessly.

Note: The rm command removes the file permanently without moving it to the Trash/Recycle Bin. Hence, ensure you fully understand the rm command, or you might end up losing your important files forever.

Knowing more about rm

To get started, you might want to use --help to find out more about rm and its usage:

rm --help
Help Option Of Rm Command In Linux

How to Remove a Single File

You can remove a single file using the following command:

rm <filename>
Removing A Single File Using Rm Command In Linux

How to Remove Multiple Files

For removing multiple files, you only need to add the names of the files, separated with a space:

rm <filename1> <filename2> <filename3>.....
Removing Multiple Files Using Rm Command In Linux

If you want to remove all the files with the same extension, you can use * as the placeholder. For example, to remove all “.txt” files:

rm *.txt
Remove Multiple Files In Linux

Similarly, to remove all files (with extension) in a directory, you can use:

rm *.*

How to Remove a Directory

For removing an empty directory, you can use the -d option, or rmdir command:

rm -d <empty_directory_name>


rmdir <empty_directory_name>

For director with files, you have to use the -r (recursive) option to remove a directory. This will also remove all files within the folder.

rm -r <directory_name>
Remove A Directory With Rm Command

Similarly, you can remove everything, including subfolders and the files within, from a directory:

rm -r *
Delete Everything From A Directory 1

Get a Prompt Before Removing a File

If you want to verify everything before removing any file, it is better to use the -i option. This option shows a confirmation prompt before removing any file from the system.

rm -i <filename>

Once you execute the above command, the system will ask you to press Y or N to confirm your selection.

Get A Prompt Before Deleting Any File Using Rm Command

In case you are deleting more than three files with the rm command, please use the -I option instead:

rm -I <filename1> <filename2> <filename3>.....


rm -I *.txt
Get A Single Prompt Before Removing Multiple Files

Get a Message After Removing Files

With the -v option, the rm command shows what is being done by the command:

rm -v <filename>
Get A Message After The successful Removal Of Files

You can use both the -v and -i option to remove files interactively:

rm -vi <filename>
Remove A File interactively

Remove a File Forcefully

The -f option overrides any minor protection of a write-protected file to remove it forcefully.

rm -f <filename>
Remove A File Forcefully

You can combine this with the -r option to forcefully remove a directory and its subfolders.

rm -rf <directory_name>

Note: the -rf option coupled with sudo can be a lethal command that can remove any/all files and folders in the system. Use it with care.

Remove a File Named with a Dash (-)

If you try to remove a file that has a dash in its name, you may get an error message.

Remove A File That Has In Its Name 1

To deal with the above error, please use a double dash (–) that works as an “end of options” instruction for a command in Linux:

rm -v -- -tech_info(sample_file).txt
Remove A File That Has In Its Name Using Rm Command

Combine Rm with Xargs Command

You can combine the rm command with the xargs command in Linux to delete many files efficiently. For instance, let’s delete the files listed in the info.txt file:

xargs rm < info.txt
Rm Command With Xargs Command

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the rm command different from unlink?

unlink is a system call while rm is a shell utility that call unlink. Fundamentally, they work the same to delete files from system, but they work differently.

Is the rm command available for macOS and Windows?

The rm command is available in macOS. For Windows, the rmdir command is available, but not the rm command. To delete files in Windows command prompt, one have to use the del command.

Do I need to use "sudo" with the rm command?

If you are only deleting your own files, or you are logged in as the root user, there is no need to use “sudo”. You will have to use “sudo” if you are deleting system files, or files owned by others.

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