Linux Commands

How to Find and Delete Files in Linux

This tutorial explains how to combine the Linux find command with others to search and delete the files with a single command execution.

After reading this tutorial, you will know how to simplify the task of removing the files in Linux using different techniques. This tutorial is optimized for both new and experienced users, going straight to the practical point and explaining every aspect. I encourage you to practice all examples given in order to incorporate this knowledge. Just be careful with the content you delete.

This article includes the screenshots of every step, making it easy for all the Linux users to apply them.

Finding and Deleting Files in Linux

This section explains the different techniques to find the files and delete them on the fly with a single command or with commands combination.

To begin, let’s see what is in the home directory by using the ls (List) command.


As you can see in the previous figure, there are several files and directories. Among them, we can see the 1.txt, 2.txt and 3.txt.

We can use the find command followed by the file type, the file name, and the –delete option.

But in the following example, we will not remove a specific file but all the files with the “.txt” extension.

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


  • find: The find command is evidently used to search the files.
  • . (Dot): The dot after the find command specifies that the operation must be done within the current directory. Our case is in the home directory, therefore this dot is equal to /home/user.
  • -type f: This option specifies what files we want to find. In case you want to search the directories, replace the f with a d.
  • -name: This is the option to specify the file/directory target. This option must be typed before the file/directory name to define it.
  • “*.txt”: In this particular case, we search all the “.txt” files that we specify by typing “*.txt”.
  • -delete: This option instructs the find command to delete the found files.

As you can see in the previous screenshot, after executing the ls command again, the txt files don’t show up. They were removed by the previously executed command.

Of course, you can find and delete the specific files as shown in the following figure where file3 is found and removed.

find . -type f -name file3 -delete

As explained in the previous command and options list, if you want to remove a directory rather than a file, you need to replace the f with a d after the -type option as shown in the following image:

find . -type d -name dir1 -delete

Let’s assume that you want to delete many files whose first part of their names are the same. In the following screenshot, you can see the file1, file2 and file3.

If you want to remove all the “fileX” files, you only need to replace the part of the file names without coincidence with the wildcard (*) as shown in the following example:

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

All previous examples explained how to delete the files using the -delete option. This section explains how to get the same result using the –exec command.

The first part of the following command was already explained previously. The incorporated -exec command is used to apply an action based on the result of the previous command.

find . -name "something.log" -exec rm -rf {} \;


  • -exec: Instructs to execute a posterior command after the first command (find) execution.
  • rm -rf: This command is used to force the removal of files and directories matching the given names.
  • “{}”: This is the find command placeholder, which means that it takes the file or directory names given to the find command to run the given command (After –exec) on them. In the previous example, rm -rf is applied to the {} placeholder which represents the “log
  • “\;”: The back slash and the semicolon closes or finishes the –exec

Now, let’s see a new scenario using the ls command again. As you can see, there are different “.txt” files.

In this case, we will replace the –delete option with the -exec rm again to delete all the “.txt” files as we did in the second example of this document but using a different technique.

You can see the command in the third line of the following figure. The previous ls command shows the existing files before executing find, and the second ls shows the result with all the “.txt” files deleted.

find . -type f -name "*.txt" -exec rm -f {} \;

Now, let’s create a new scenario which you can see in the following example. This scenario includes several “.txt” and “.c files”.

Let’s assume that you want to remove both .txt and .c files at once using the -delete option instead of the –exec option. As you can see in the following image, name files are between the \( and \). Before the second file name, we have the -o option followed by the -name and the second file name (or condition in this case, since we are deleting all the “.txt” files). You can add the -o -name <name> many times as you need, but remember that the first –name is not preceded by the –o option.

find . \( -name "*.c" -o -name "*.txt" \) -delete

As you can see, both .txt and .c files were successfully removed.

Now, let’s combine the find command with the xargs command (explained at the end of this tutorial).

In the following example, we delete all the “.txt” files using xargs, where –I is the placeholder and between % we execute the command.

As you can see, after the second ls execution, all .c and .txt files were removed.

find *.txt -type f | xargs -I % rm "%"

The syntax to delete many files is easier with xargs. In the following command, both .c and .txt files are removed.

find *.txt *.c -type f | xargs -I % rm "%"

Finally, let’s assume that you want to remove the files by date and not by name or extension. In this case, the find command can identify the mtime (creation or modification file dates) of the files and directories.

In the following image, you can see the dir2 directory that contains 4 files: file1, file2, file3 and file4. All files within the dir2 were created in the last 24 hours.

Identifying the files is possible using the –mtime option followed by the files time interval. In this case, the –1 option indicates 1 day, 24 hours. The –1 means the files created or modified on the last day, while +1 means the files created or modified more than a day ago.

In the following example, we use the find command with the -mtime option to remove the files created or modified the last day.

find dir2 -type f -mtime -1 -delete

xargs vs -exec

The xargs command is almost always implemented with pipes (but not necessarily have to) to use the first command as an argument. Contrary to pipe, it allows the use of the first command as an argument and not only as a previous output or predecessor command.

The following example in this section lists the files and directories using the ls (List) command and moves the listed files to a different directory with mv and xargs commands. This is not the proper method to move the files, but it is useful as an example to show how the xargs command works.

First, give a look to my linuxhintdir directory. As you can see, we have 3 files: file1, file2 and file3.

ls dir1 dir2

Now, let’s move all the files within dir1 to dir2 using the mv command.

ls ~/dir1/* | xargs mv -t ~/dir2

As you can see, the ls ~/dir1/* result was passed by xargs after the mv command.

The –exec command is similar to xargs. It can execute commands based on the output of the first command. Contrary to xargs, –exec executes the command every time a file matches the condition. If we use the –exec command to remove the files, it will remove them file by file. While xargs executes the command at once for all the matched files. This makes xargs a little faster than –exec. Therefore, if you are dealing with many files, xargs would be convenient over –exec.


Linux has many methods to achieve the same task. Finding and removing the files with a single command is a knowledge that any Linux user should have independently on his experience. This tutorial focuses on finding and deleting the files, but xargs and -exec can be used with many Linux commands. It is important to mention that some functions are available only in the find version. Most of the tips explained are useful for almost every Linux distribution.

Thank you for reading this tutorial explaining how to find and delete the files in Linux. Keep following us for more professional tips.

About the author

David Adams

David Adams is a System Admin and writer that is focused on open source technologies, security software, and computer systems.