I have a backup folder than uses a calendar like folder structure to organise files. I want to delete these every 5 days but I end up deleting the full backup because the main folder is older than 5 days.

Folder structure:

    -> 2017
          -> October
                 -> 28
                 -> 29
                 -> 30
                 -> 31
          -> November
                 -> 1
                 -> 2
                 -> 3

I've tried running this command:

find /mnt/backup/* -type d -mtime +5 -execdir rm -rf {} \;

But it will remove the directory 2017 because it is older than 5 days, which in turn means it will remove all the subfolders. I only want to delete directories inside here that are 5 days old. For example if today was November 3rd I only want to have the directories 28 and 29 to delete. Then when it becomes 5th November I want the full October directory to be deleted as everything in there will now be older than 5 days. Any suggestions?


  • 1
    Use -mindepth 1 so that find always only checks subdirectories of 2017? Also, find has a -delete action you can use instead of -execdir rm -rf ...
    – muru
    Oct 10, 2017 at 8:40
  • Maybe I've missed something, but is there a reason why you can't specify the 2017 directory in the original find request? I.e. find /mnt/backup/2017/* instead of find /mnt/backup/* Oct 10, 2017 at 8:43
  • What happens then when 2017 turns to 2018? Will I have to manually come along then and delete 2017? - That's the reason @ThePizzaOverlord
    – Stuart
    Oct 10, 2017 at 8:50
  • 1
    @Stuart - thought that may have been the case. In the example I gave, yeah, but like most people seem to be agreeing on, you can just use -mindepth 1 to skip over ANY subdirectory on the same 'level' (aka depth) Oct 10, 2017 at 8:58

1 Answer 1


Use -mindepth 1 if you don't want 2017 to be touched:

$ mkdir -p foo/2017/{October/{28..31},November/{1..3}}
$ touch -d 'now - 6 days' foo/2017/October/{28,29} foo/2017
$ find foo/* -mindepth 1 -mtime +5
$ find foo/* -mtime +5

If you start from foo instead of foo/2017, then use -mindepth 2:

$ find foo/ -mindepth 2 -mtime +5

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