I am unable to delete a directory inside my pen drive. The directory is actually empty. When I right click on it and look for its properties, I can just see Contents: nothing. But when I try to delete it from terminal, it says rm: cannot remove 'x': Directory not empty. x is the name of the directory which I wanna delete. I have tried all the following. But nothing has helped me till now.

  • I got a window which read Cannot delete directory when i used shift + del. The window also had an error details option. When I clicked on it, it read Directory not empty

  • As I said earlier, I got a message rm: cannot remove 'x': Directory not empty when I tried deleting it from terminal using the rm -rf x command. And I trying it from my pen drive. So, I hope the path x isn't any issue here

  • I gave it a shot with rm -ir x. Firstly it showed rm: descend into directory 'x'?. I entered y and hit enter. It showed rm: remove directory 'x'?. I confirmed again. It displayed Input/output error

  • I was wanting to get rid of it somehow. So, eventhough I knew that both rm -r x and rn - R x are the same, I made a mad try with rm -R x. It showed the same rm: cannot remove 'x': Directory not empty

  • I tried using rmdir x as I was sure that it had no contents inside it. Yet, it was a failure. It showed rmdir: failed to remove 'x': Directory not empty

Help me delete that strangely behaving directory. Thanks in advance.

  • Sounds as if the pen drive is starting to fail. – Panther Mar 11 '15 at 15:56
  • ls -a x may well show a hidden file, which the rm -rf x command should remove. Try sudo rm -rf x? – Mark Williams Mar 11 '15 at 15:56
  • @MarkWilliams: I have tried ls -a x. Even it displayed nothing. – Ramvignesh Mar 11 '15 at 16:01
  • @bodhi.zazen: Really a bad news for me :( – Ramvignesh Mar 11 '15 at 16:01
  • 1
    It happens with flash drives, back up your data and you can try fsck – Panther Mar 11 '15 at 16:10

If you encounter such a problem, try like this.

  • right click your directory which disturbs you
  • choose Move to trash so that it is trashed
  • open your Trash
  • click Empty.

Your differently behaving directory will be deleted successfully. This has worked for me.


If it's a pen drive, the file system is most probably FAT or NTFS.

Therefore: Go to a Windows machine and insert the pen drive and execute the following command:


where X is the actual drive letter on that machine.

Then right-click the directory under Windows and Shift+Del it. If that doesn't work either, follow these official Microsoft instructions to take ownership and then Shift+Del it.

If you don't have a Windows machine available, leave a comment below and I'll give you the Ubuntu commands (will only work for FAT, not NTFS)

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