How do I safely delete all files with a specific extension (e.g. .bak) from current directory and all subfolders using one command-line? Simply, I'm afraid to use rm since I used it wrong once and now I need advice.


9 Answers 9


You don't even need to use rm in this case if you are afraid. Use find:

find . -name "*.bak" -type f -delete

But use it with precaution. Run first:

find . -name "*.bak" -type f

to see exactly which files you will remove.

Also, make sure that -delete is the last argument in your command. If you put it before the -name *.bak argument, it will delete everything.

See man find and man rm for more info and see also this related question on SE:

  • 1
    How's this different from rm *.bak? Nov 15, 2013 at 13:11
  • 24
    @Bolt64 Your rm *.bak will not work for subdirectories. Nov 15, 2013 at 13:14
  • With default settings rm *.bak will only delete all files ending with .bak in the current directory. TO also do things in subdirectories you either needed to fiddle with globs, use the -r option or use the find example.
    – Hennes
    Nov 15, 2013 at 13:14
  • 16
    @Hennes Be careful with rm -r *.bak! It also removes directories ending in .bak with all their content. Nov 15, 2013 at 13:34
  • 65
    Make sure that -delete is the last argument in your command. If you put it before the -name *.bak argument, it will delete everything. Oct 29, 2014 at 14:36

First run the command shopt -s globstar. You can run that on the command line, and it'll have effect only in that shell window. You can put it in your .bashrc, and then all newly started shells will pick it up. The effect of that command is to make **/ match files in the current directory and its subdirectories recursively (by default, **/ means the same thing as */: only in the immediate subdirectories). Then:

rm **/*.bak

(or gvfs-trash **/*.bak or what have you).

  • Thanks works 👍️🙏️❤️ Dec 5, 2019 at 15:54
  • Not working in WSL with git bash. Says "rm: cannot remove '*/.md': No such file or directory " Apr 8, 2023 at 9:43
  • @MarianKlühspies That just means there are no matching files. Apr 8, 2023 at 10:18
  • @Gilles'SO-stopbeingevil' but there were matching files in sub directories. I've used find . -name '*.md' -type f -delete afterwards and deleted them successfully Apr 8, 2023 at 10:50
find . -name "*.bak" -type f -print0 | xargs -0 /bin/rm -f
  • 1
    Welcome to askubuntu! While this is a perfectly valid answer I don't think there's any advantage in using this instead of the -delete flag of find. More information can be found in the GNU manuals entry for deleting files with find. Apr 4, 2014 at 20:11
  • 2
    you are probably right, it's just an alternative solution, perhaps more raw ;)
    – lokers
    Apr 4, 2014 at 22:13
  • 18
    This is not just an alternative but an example how other commands can be combined together with the pipe '|'. +1 Jun 5, 2014 at 7:18
  • 21
    This alternative solutions work on other environments that lack -delete (like cygwin)
    – ciriarte
    Aug 15, 2014 at 4:07
  • 3
    I think this is the best answer here. Jun 29, 2015 at 11:27

Deleting files is for me not something you should use rm for. Here is an alternative:

sudo apt-get install gvfs     # install a tool that allows you to put stuff in the trash
alias "trash"="gvfs-trash"    # you can also put this in .bash_aliases or simply use the command without alias
trash *.bak                   # trash the files (thus moving them to the trash bin)

As Flimm states in the comments:

The package trash-cli does the same thing as gvfs-trash without the dependency on gvfs.


sudo apt-get install trash-cli

You don't need to make an alias for this, because the trash-cli package provides a command trash, which does what we want.

As Eliah Kagan makes clear in extensive comments, you can also make this recursive using find. In that case you can't use an alias, so the commands below assume you have installed trash-cli. I summarise Eliah's comments:

This command finds and displays all .bak files and symlinks anywhere in the current directory or its subdirectories or below.

find . -name '*.bak' -xtype f

To delete them, append an -exec with the trash command:

find . -name '*.bak' -xtype f -exec trash {} +

-xtype f selects files and symlinks to files, but not folders. To delete .bak folders too, remove that part, and use -execdir, which avoids cannot trash non-existent errors for .bak files inside .bak directories:

find . -name '*.bak' -execdir trash {} +
  • 7
    "Don't use rm to delete things" is a controversial statement but I have to agree that it's often wiser to use something that will let you undo things.
    – Oli
    Nov 15, 2013 at 15:12
  • 2
    The package trash-cli does the same thing as gvfs-trash without the dependency on gvfs.
    – Flimm
    Nov 20, 2013 at 9:08
  • I have edited it in the answer, next time feel free to do the edit yourself.
    – don.joey
    Nov 20, 2013 at 10:06
  • @don.joey This answer seems to say find . -name "*.bak" -type f displays what trash *.bak deletes. Is that really what you mean? You can move directories to the trash with trash or gvfs-trash, but trash *.bak will only moves files and directories whose names end with .bak and that reside immediately in the current directory. The shell expands *.bak, so trash *.bak won't affect .bak files in subdirectories not themselves named .bak. Oct 14, 2017 at 2:30
  • 1
    @don.joey Yes ls *.bak (which I think you mean) lists what trash *.bak trashes. find . -name '*.bak' -xtype f -exec trash {} + trashes all .bak files anywhere under .. It can't use an alias, so install trash-cli or write gvfs-trash instead. Here's an example. -xtype f selects files and symlinks to files, but not folders. To delete .bak folders too, use find . -name '*.bak' -execdir trash {} +, which avoids cannot trash non existent errors for .bak files inside .bak directories. Please feel free to use any of this in your answer. Oct 14, 2017 at 19:15

If you want to delete all files of a certain type, but only 1 folder "deep" from the current folder:

find . -maxdepth 2 -name "*.log" -type f -delete

-maxdepth 2 because the current directory "." counts as the first folder.


Quick Answer:

  • Delete all files with the considered name or postfix recursively:

    find . -name '*.pyc' -type f -delete

  • Delete all directories with the considered name recursively:

    find ~ -path '*/__pycache__/*' -delete‍‍‍
    find ~ -type d -name '__pycache__' -empty -delete‍‍‍

    Somewhat less tightly controlled, but in a single line:

    find ~ -path '*/__pycache__*' -delete


d is directory option and f is file option.


If in case you want to check the list before you delete the files, you can echo it.

find . -name "*.bak" -type f | xargs echo rm -rf

This will list out the search results that are piped to rm command via xargs. Once you are sure about the list you can drop the echo in above command.

find . -name "*.bak" -type f | xargs rm -rf
  • its a good practice to add -print0 | xargs -0 to handle cornercase filenames, example test's gives you xargs: unmatched single quote; by default quotes are special to xargs unless you use the -0 option or filenames with newlines will break.
    – user986805
    Nov 25, 2019 at 7:02

You can list all the files with that extension first before you use rm For example,

ls *.bak

If you get only the files that you want to delete then you can use the rm

rm *.bak

Once you are confident that all your files of a particular extension (eg. .bak) has to be deleted, just use:

rm -ir *.bak

It will give you a prompt:

rm: remove regular file 'example.bak'? 

Answer the prompt with a y for Yes and n for No

  • 1
    This isn't a correct answer to the question unfortunately. What you are suggesting will only delete .bak files in the current folder and any directories named *.bak which is almost certainly not what you want. It won't touch files named *.bak in subdirectories
    – moo
    Jan 3 at 9:25
  • My aim is not to delete a file name *.bak but to delete all the files with extension .bak. And for that the above command is. And for other file extensions we can just change the .bak Mar 24 at 17:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .