This question already has an answer here:

I have 280 thousand photos to delete in a folder, but some videos to keep. In the folder, I gave the command: #rm *.jpg, but I get "argument list too long". When I create an argument to delete some of the photos, it works on a smaller set, like this: # rm 104-*.jpg.

How can I efficiently delete all the JPEG files in a directory without getting the message "Argument list too long"?

#rm -f *.jpg gives the same message.

Enter image description here

Opening the folder in Caja uses too much memory and crashes. I am using Ubuntu MATE.

marked as duplicate by muru bash Jun 23 '18 at 7:26

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I got it down to 69K photos but rm *.jpg still says argument list too long – j0h Jun 22 '18 at 23:54
  • 2
    Please don't post screenshots of text. Copy the text here and apply code formatting. – muru Jun 23 '18 at 6:50

A typical way to handle the “argument list too long” error is via the find command:

find  -maxdepth 1 -mindepth 1 -type f -name "*.jpg" -delete
  • This is a slow way to do what I already did, prior to steeldriver's answer. N-*.jpg extends from 0 to 198 or something like that. I thought about just writing a for loop to increment N in rm *N-N-N.jpg. but thought there had to be a single efficient command to do such an operation. – j0h Jun 23 '18 at 10:38
  • 1
    @j0h As far as the 104-*.jpg part goes, I apologize for that, I thought that's a pattern for all the images. But this is a single command, which doesn't call anything external. Compared to steeldriver's command - two commands which also are slowed down by a pipe ( which implies buffering ) - I don't see how this single command is slow. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jun 23 '18 at 15:55
  • ah it might not be, as a single command, just the pattern match. Im tempted to let the same issue happen again just to test the solutions. – j0h Jun 23 '18 at 22:34
  • 1
    @j0h I guess we're on the same topic then :) I'm working on an answer that should generate enough arguments that will get below or above the threshold to cause Argument list too long error intentionally. I might post a link once I figure this out. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jun 23 '18 at 22:41
  • 1
    @j0h Actually, it's not related to number of items at all. It's the total size in bytes of the names that get passed to the command. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jun 23 '18 at 22:51

You can use xargs:

printf '%s\0' *.jpg | xargs -0 rm --

In bash, the printf command is a built-in and is not subject to the same argument length limitations.

  • 2
    Alternatively, using ./*.jpg instead of relying on --. Makes it more portable – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jun 23 '18 at 0:13
  • This command failed in a later attempt, with : sudo: unable to execute /usr/bin/printf: Argument list too long .... I think it may have succeeded previously, because i had been actively removing items. prior to using the command. Sergiy's answer worked, without any file removal, so my answer has changed. – j0h Jul 8 '18 at 18:52
  • 1
    @j0h this answer works when printf is a bash shell builtin command; if you run it with sudo then (as you can see from the error message), sudo will invoke the external /usr/bin/printf - which is subject to the same argument length restrictions as any other command. – steeldriver Jul 8 '18 at 19:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.