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How To Delete Empty Directories in One Command on Ubuntu

Ubuntu 19

In this article, we will discuss how you can delete empty directories in Ubuntu using a single command. This can be particularly useful when you’re dealing with a large number of directories and manual deletion is not feasible. We will cover various methods using different commands like find, rm, rmdir, and even Python.

Quick Answer

To delete empty directories in Ubuntu using a single command, you can use the find command with the -empty and -type d options, followed by the -delete option. The command would be: find . -empty -type d -delete. This will search for empty directories starting from the current directory and delete them.

Understanding Directories in Ubuntu

Before we dive into the deletion of directories, let’s first understand what a directory is. In Ubuntu, a directory is a file that is used to store information about where other files and directories are located on your disk. An empty directory is one that doesn’t contain any files or other directories.


Deleting directories, especially with a command that automates the process, can be risky. You might end up deleting directories that you didn’t intend to. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the command you’re using and to double-check before executing it. Always ensure you have a backup of your important data.

Deleting Empty Directories

Using find and rm

The find command in Ubuntu is a powerful tool for searching files and directories. You can use it with the -empty and -type d options to find empty directories and delete them. Here’s how:

find . -empty -type d -delete

In this command, . tells find to start searching from the current directory. -empty instructs it to look for empty directories, and -type d specifies that we’re looking for directories (not files). The -delete option deletes the directories that match the criteria.

Using find and rmdir

You can also use find with the rmdir command, which removes empty directories. Here’s the command:

find . -depth -type d -exec rmdir {} \;

In this command, -depth tells find to process the directories’ contents before the directory itself. -exec rmdir {} \; executes the rmdir command on each directory found.

Using rmdir with Wildcard

The rmdir command can also be used with a wildcard (*) to attempt to remove all directories. However, rmdir only removes empty directories, so non-empty directories will be left untouched:

rmdir * 2>/dev/null

In this command, * represents all directories, and 2>/dev/null redirects error messages (which occur when rmdir attempts to remove non-empty directories) to /dev/null, effectively silencing them.

Using Python

If you’re more comfortable with Python, you can use it to remove empty directories as well:

python -c 'import os;empty=[r for r,s,f in os.walk(".") if not f and not s and r != "." ];map(lambda x: os.rmdir(x),empty)'

This Python command uses the os.walk() function to recursively walk the directory tree and identify empty directories. It then uses os.rmdir() to remove each empty directory.


Deleting empty directories in Ubuntu can be done quickly and efficiently using a single command. However, always be cautious when deleting directories to avoid unintentional data loss. Always double-check the directories you’re about to delete, and keep a backup of your important data.

What is the difference between `rm` and `rmdir` commands?

The rm command is used to remove files and directories, while the rmdir command is specifically used to remove empty directories. rm can delete both files and directories, but it requires additional options to remove directories. rmdir is designed to only remove empty directories.

What does the `-empty` option do in the `find` command?

The -empty option in the find command is used to search for empty files and directories. When used with the -type d option, it specifically looks for empty directories. This option helps in finding and deleting empty directories efficiently.

How can I delete non-empty directories using a single command?

To delete non-empty directories, you can use the rm command with the -r (recursive) option. For example, rm -r directory_name will delete the specified directory and its contents recursively. However, be cautious when using this command as it permanently removes all files and subdirectories within the specified directory.

Can I recover deleted directories or files?

Once a directory or file is deleted using the find or rm command, it is not sent to the trash or recycle bin and cannot be easily recovered using standard methods. It is crucial to have a backup of your important data to avoid permanent data loss. There are specialized data recovery tools that may be able to recover deleted files, but their success is not guaranteed.

How can I check if a directory is empty before deleting it?

To check if a directory is empty before deleting it, you can use the ls command with the -l (long format) option. If the directory is empty, the ls command will not display any files or subdirectories within it. If there are files or subdirectories listed, it means the directory is not empty and should not be deleted without caution.

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