I want a command to shred completely the contents of a folder/directory (which may be inside folders/directories). Also please explain the command.

  • Define "shred". If you just mean what the shred command does, then there's your answer.
    – psusi
    Apr 16, 2012 at 13:17
  • Very closely related: askubuntu.com/questions/57572/…
    – Takkat
    Apr 16, 2012 at 13:41
  • @psusi- by shred i mean delete file beyond recovery. i was using the shred command but as that was applicable only to files i wanted a similar command to delete folders and files within it.
    – Ashu
    Apr 16, 2012 at 14:30
  • Which one does the job perfectly shred or secure-delete?
    – Ashu
    Apr 16, 2012 at 14:32
  • 1
    For other users that stumble here, beware the shred is not as effective as you think because modern file systems and hardware do not overwrite data in place, but instead journal the changes, or move it around for wear-levelling. Related: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/27027/… Nov 20, 2016 at 3:54

8 Answers 8

  1. Install the package secure-delete.
  2. Use the command srm -r pathname to remove your folder and files.

The default settings are for 38 (!!!) passes of overwrites which is extreme overkill imho (see more info about this here).

For my usage, I only want a single pass of random data so I use srm -rfll pathname.

If you want to create a right-click option in the GUI for files and folders, use gnome-actions to call a script like this:

if dialog=`zenity --window-icon=warning --question --title="Secure Delete" --no-wrap --text="Are you sure you want to securely delete:\n\n     $1\n\nand any other files and folders selected? File data will be overwritten and cannot be recovered."` 
then /usr/bin/srm -fllrv "$@"| zenity --progress --pulsate --text="File deletion in progress..." --title="Secure Delete" --auto-close

If you want more paranoid settings be sure to modify the above script.

  • 1
    -f fast (and insecure mode): no /dev/urandom, no synchronize mode. -l lessens the security (use twice for total insecure mode). could you please explain these two things. 38 overwrites is default how do these affect the '38' value. and why l two times in -rfll
    – Ashu
    Apr 16, 2012 at 14:57
  • 2
    OK, the whole default process is: 1 pass with 0xff (a zero wipe), 5 random passes with /dev/urandom is used for a secure RNG if available, 27 passes with special values defined by Peter Gutmann, another 5 random passes from /dev/random. Then rename the file to a random value & truncate the file. IIRC, /dev/random is considered a better random number generation system. Using -fll we skip the 1+5+27+5 passes and substitute with a single pass of random data, possibly from a less "truly random" generator.
    – Veazer
    Apr 16, 2012 at 18:16
  • @Ashu shortened from the man page (Debian Jessie) for srm; (frist) -l: only two passes, (second) -l: only one pass. For others, -f: fast (Non-secure random bits) and -r: recursive. I also highly suggest -v: verbose. I would also suggest running this in a screen instance, it can take quite a while on a lot of data. Mar 21, 2017 at 16:00
  • 1
    I have replaced /usr/bin/srm -fllrv with bleachbit -s
    – user47206
    Sep 28, 2017 at 23:01
  • You may use Bleachbit's shredder with 'bleachbit -s' as an alternative which is fast and much more widely known.
    – Habib
    Feb 27, 2021 at 15:11

For files not directories, here's a more simple way instead of -exec shred -u {} \; type of way:

cd to your directory.


find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 shred -fuzv -n 48

this does 48 passes recursively to the current directory you cd'ed into.

Hope this helps some.

  • Adding '-print0' to find and '-0' to xargs? Directories may have whitespace in their names.
    – weakish
    Jul 27, 2013 at 15:03
  • Good answer but Why do you use xargs?? I don't understand xargs.
    – Chinmaya B
    Sep 11, 2015 at 5:40

sudo apt install wipe

$ wipe -rfi dir/*

where the flags used: -r – tells wipe to recurse into subdirectories -f – enables forced deletion and disable confirmation query -i – shows progress of deletion process


Shred works only on files. You need to shred the files in the dir/subdirs first and then remove the directories. try

find [PATH_TO_DIR] 

and make sure you only see the files you want to delete

find [PATH_TO_DIR] -exec shred -u {} \;

then remove the dirs with

rm -rf [PATH_TO_DIR]
  • can u please explain {} \; . also somewhere elsi i had seen the same command as your but it was '{}' \; what is the difference between the two??
    – Ashu
    Apr 16, 2012 at 14:43
  • Since shred doesn't work on directories, how about adding the option -type f to the find commands?
    – andol
    Apr 16, 2012 at 15:49
  • @ andol : yeah i was thinking of that..
    – Ashu
    Apr 16, 2012 at 18:35
  • 1
    Cant explain it any better than the find man page .... the {} and \; are part of the -exec option of the find.
    – Ruediger
    Apr 16, 2012 at 20:03

You probably want to use something similar to this:

find dir -type f -exec shred -fuz {} +
rm -rf dir

First command finds only files and passes them to shred (as many at once as possible - no need to start a new shred process for every file like \; does). Finally, remove the directories too.


I have inserted the following bash script for this purpose in my .bashrc

function rm2 {

  for var in $@
  if [ -d $var ]
     nohup $( /usr/bin/find "$var" -type f -exec  shred -n 2 -u -z -x {} \;;/bin/rm -rf "$var" ) & 
    nohup /usr/bin/shred -x -n 2 -u -z "$var" & 

If you want to do this from Nautilus (aka 'Files' app), then you could use the nautilus-wipe package.

  • sudo apt-get install nautilus-wipe

Once installed, there will be two new options when you right-click on a folder: Wipe and Wipe available disk space. Choosing Wipe on the folder will give further options (e.g. number of passes, fast mode, last pass with zeros).


When I need to shred multiple files or an entire directory I simply use shred -vzn 20 ./shredme/*.* for example, which overwrites all files with any file extension in the "shredme" folder. Then you can use the standard rm -rf ./shredme command to remove the folder itself (or just right click and delete the folder) as all the data has been overwritten 20 times for this example.

I did a quick example of this with a bunch of duplicate images as an example.

Terminal screenshot

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