How to Delete a Directory in Linux

Deleting a directory in Linux might seem like a chore if you’re new to the command line, but fear not! It’s simpler than you think. By the end of this quick guide, you’ll learn how to remove a directory using a few straightforward commands. Whether the directory is empty or filled with files, you’ll be able to tackle the task with confidence.

After deleting a directory, it will no longer be available on your system. This means any files or subdirectories inside it will also be removed. Make sure you’ve backed up any important data before proceeding.

How to Remove a Directory in Linux: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before we dive into the steps, let’s clarify what we’re about to do. Removing a directory in Linux can be done in different ways, depending on whether the directory is empty or contains files. We’ll cover both scenarios, ensuring you’re prepared for anything. You can visit for tech guides about other topics like Windows, mobile devices, and more.

Step 1: Open the Terminal

The first step is to open your Linux terminal. This is where you’ll enter the commands to delete your directory.

Opening the terminal might vary depending on your Linux distribution. Generally, you can find it in your system’s applications menu or by searching for “terminal”.

Step 2: Navigate to the Parent Directory

Before removing a directory, you need to navigate to its parent directory using the cd command.

For example, if your directory is located in /home/username/documents, you would type cd /home/username in the terminal.

Step 3: Use the rmdir Command for Empty Directories

If the directory you want to remove is empty, you can use the rmdir command followed by the directory name.

For instance, rmdir documents would remove the documents directory, provided it’s empty.

This command only works with empty directories. It’s a safety feature to prevent accidental deletion of files.

Step 4: Use the rm Command for Directories with Files

For directories that contain files or other directories, use the rm command with the -r (recursive) option, like rm -r documents.

This command will remove the directory and all its contents. Be cautious, as this action cannot be undone.

Step 5: Verify the Directory Has Been Removed

After running the command, you can check if the directory has been successfully removed by listing the contents of the current directory using the ls command.

If the directory name doesn’t appear in the list, you’ve successfully removed it.

Tips for Removing a Directory in Linux

  • Always double-check the directory name before deleting it. A typo can result in deleting the wrong directory.
  • Use the ls command to list the contents of a directory before removing it to ensure it contains no important files.
  • Consider using the rm -ri command for a safer removal process. This option asks for confirmation before deleting each file.
  • Remember that deleting a directory with the rm command is permanent. Linux does not have a recycle bin like Windows.
  • If you’re unsure about deleting a directory, you can move it to a temporary location before deciding to remove it permanently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I undo a directory deletion in Linux?

Once a directory is deleted using the rm command, it cannot be easily undone. Always ensure you have backups of important files.

What does the -r option in the rm command do?

The -r option stands for “recursive,” allowing the rm command to delete the directory and all its contents, including subdirectories and files.

How do I remove a directory without being prompted?

Use the rm -rf command to remove a directory and its contents without any prompts. Be very careful with this command, as it doesn’t ask for confirmation.

Can I delete multiple directories at once?

Yes, you can delete multiple directories by listing them after the rm -r command, separated by spaces.

What if rmdir says the directory is not empty?

If rmdir reports that the directory is not empty, you’ll need to use the rm -r command to remove the directory along with its contents.


Removing a directory in Linux is a basic but essential skill for anyone navigating the Linux operating system. Whether you’re cleaning up your workspace, managing files, or configuring software, knowing how to safely and effectively delete directories is crucial. Remember, the power of the command line comes with the responsibility to use it wisely. Always double-check your commands and ensure you have backups for important files. With practice, these commands will become second nature, and you’ll handle directory management in Linux with ease. For further learning, consider exploring more about file system management and command-line tools in Linux. This will not only broaden your understanding but also enhance your efficiency and confidence in using Linux for a wide range of tasks.