Recently I created a link with the following:

sudo ln -n originalFileLocation

How do I delete a hard link?

  • 7
    FYI: ln -n /path/to/file creates a file named file in the current directory and is shorthand for ln --no-dereference /path/to/file. This means that if /path/to/file is a symbolic link, the newly created hardlink will point to that symlink instead of the target of the symlink.
    – Lekensteyn
    Nov 5, 2011 at 10:28
  • 3
    Clarification required. If <originalFileLocation> is not a symbolic link, then rm <resulting hardlink> will delete the inode referenced by <originalFileLocation>, which also results in delisting all the directory entries referencing that inode, including <originalFileLocation>. Use unlink to only remove the directory entry <resulting hardlink>. May 9, 2020 at 18:29

4 Answers 4


You can delete it with rm as usual: rm NameOfFile. Note that with hard links there is no distinction between "the original file" and "the link to the file": you just have two names for the same file, and deleting just one of the names will not delete the other.

  • 2
    Also ote you will need to rm it as root (use sudo), if you created it with the command you provided (as super-user). Nov 5, 2011 at 11:38
  • 4
    @RafałCieślak: Wrong. All hard-links to an inode share the same access permissions, that of the inode. To delete, i. e. “unlink”, a directory entry of a file you need write permissions on the inode of that file and on the directory that contains the entry that you want to delete. Therefore it's irrelevant which privileges were used to create the hard-link. They may just happen to (still) be the same as at the time of creation. Nov 29, 2016 at 11:45
  • Yes, misleading. I see that the idea is that rm removes the name only and the file is only removed once there is no name pointing to it, but still it is misleading. At first, it suggests that there is no way to unlink without deleting the file as well, but I just did it with "unlink <name of link to the file>". Simpler conceptually to do unlink.
    – Dominic108
    Oct 23, 2021 at 21:37
  • @CraigHicks What do you mean by "The answer is only correct if..."? What will rming a hard link do that's incorrect? Feb 5, 2022 at 9:12
  • 1
    @DanielKaplan - My comment was wrong and I have deleted it. Thanks. Feb 5, 2022 at 19:34

Actually rm doesn't work:

[user@localhost Products]$ rm AZP/
rm: cannot remove `AZP/': Is a directory
[user@localhost Products]$ rm -r AZP/
rm: cannot remove `AZP': Not a directory

What works is unlink AZP.

  • 3
    Are you sure yours was a hard link? Hard links are just like files iirc.
    – Seth
    Mar 12, 2014 at 16:59
  • @Seth, actually I don't remember what was that, but it doesn't want to remove as you could see. Somebody told me to use unlink and it worked. :)
    – Bunyk
    Mar 26, 2014 at 21:21
  • That's probably because AZP was a file, not a directory, but I couldn't be sure without more information. Unlink should always work though, so no problems there.
    – Seth
    Mar 26, 2014 at 22:19
  • 2
    AZP/ looks like a directory, rm doesn't operate on directories without the recursive flag. Also according to the coreutills docs. >>> Most systems prohibit making a hard link to a directory; on those where it is allowed, only the super-user can do so (and with caution, since creating a cycle will cause problems to many other utilities). Mar 24, 2016 at 17:04
  • 5
    Hard-links to directories are prohibited. If AZP is a symbolic link to a directory (or anything else) rm AZP/ will not work because rm thinks its a directory (because of the / at the end). However rm AZP will work just fine. -1 Nov 29, 2016 at 11:40

I have this script to remove redundant hard links. But take care - it is quite dangerous.

echo Reduce redundant hardlinks in the current folder
echo ------------------------------------------------
echo "  $(basename $0) [-R]"
echo "      -R means recursive"
read -p "You can break by pressing Ctrl+C"
if [ a$1 == "a-R" ]; then  recursive=" -R "; fi

for i in $(ls -i $recursive | awk '{print $1}' | uniq --repeated | sort); 
    echo "Inode with multiple hardlinked files: $i"
    for foundfile in $(find . -xdev -inum $i);
        if [ $first == 1 ]; then
            echo "  preserving the first file:  $foundfile"
            echo "  deleting the redundant file:    $foundfile"  
            #rm $foundfile  
    if [ $ask == 1 ]; then 
        read -p "Delete all the rest of redundant hardlinks without asking? y/N "
        if [ a${REPLY,,} == "ay" ]; then  ask=0; fi
#   read -p "pause for sure"
echo "All redundant hardlins are removed."

If you want to remove only the link and thus keep the original file, you have to use unlink.

  • Have you read what unlink(1) does? It's a shallow wrapper around the unlink(2) system call, the same system call that rm(1) uses for all files that aren't directories. Nov 29, 2016 at 11:42
  • 3
    This answer is misleading. With hardlinked files there's no distinction between "link" and "original file"; all hardlinks refer to the same file/content/inode, represented by different directory entries. unlink, despite it's name, will not separate a hardlinked into two separate files, but remove the "unlinked" directory entry (but not the file/content/inode, as long as the link count is > 1).
    – Murphy
    May 4, 2017 at 22:29

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