Let's say I have a directory tree like this:


If I used rm -r FOLDER/*, everything in FOLDER would be deleted including sub-directories. How can I delete all files in FOLDER and in its sub-directories without deleting actual directories?


What you're trying to do is recursive deletion. For that you need a recursive tool, such as find.

find FOLDER -type f -delete
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With bash:

shopt -s globstar  ## Enables recursive globbing
for f in FOLDER/**/*; do [[ -f $f ]] && echo rm -- "$f"; done

Here iterating over the glob expanded filenames, and removing only files.

The above is dry-run, if satisfied with the changes to be made, remove echo for actual removal:

for f in FOLDER/**/*; do [[ -f $f ]] && rm -- "$f"; done

Finally, unset globstar:

shopt -u globstar

With zsh, leveraging glob qualifier:

echo -- FOLDER/**/*(.)

(.) is glob qualifier, that limits the glob expansions to just regular files.

The above will just print the file names, for actual removal:

rm -- FOLDER/**/*(.)
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  • 2
    +1 for zsh globbing. More people should be aware of the awesome things zsh can do. – marcelm Nov 20 '16 at 13:06

If your version of find doesn't support -delete you can use the following to delete every file in the current directory and below.

find . ! -type d -exec rm '{}' \;
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  • -exec rm {} + would be faster, especially if there are lots of files. – muru Nov 20 '16 at 4:14
  • And find . ! -type d -exec rm {} + removes sym links as well. – DK Bose Nov 20 '16 at 4:37
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    @muru: If a particular implementation of find doesn't support -delete it probably doesn't support -exec ... {} + either. The recommended way to deal with that is find ... -print0 | xargs -r0 rm (if one expects many potential matches). – David Foerster Nov 20 '16 at 13:02
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    @DavidFoerster not really. -exec ... {} + is POSIX, but -delete isn't. (Neither is -print0, by the way.) – muru Nov 20 '16 at 13:13
  • @muru: Fair enough. I've encountered at least two non-POSIX find implementations that supported -print0 but not -exec ... {} + (I don't remember about -delete though). One was on OS X, the other on Solaris (a few years ago on a very conservatively updated system). You can also substitute -print0 with -printf '%p\0'. Anyway, this is AskUbuntu and not Unix & Linux and Ubuntu uses GNU find since forever. – David Foerster Nov 20 '16 at 13:26

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