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Delete Empty Directories on the Command Line with Find


Quickly recursively delete all empty directories. We'll be able to perform a dry run too.

Quick Jump: Demo Video

find is such a useful tool:

# Really recursively delete empty directories.
find /path/to/directories -type d -empty -delete

# Dry run (print the directories that would have been deleted).
find /path/to/directories -type d -empty -print

This came up recently where I was working with a Rails app using Active Storage and after uploading and deleting dozens of test files, Active Storage left behind a bunch of empty directories. I wanted to clean those up, the above did it in about a second.

I couldn’t rm -rf /path/to/directories because there were a number of directories with files that I wanted to keep. For example the directory structure looked like this:

├── 1a
│   └── 5n
│       └── 1a5n8s46gb8sjnfwv51fwr2gwek6
├── 1u
│   └── a2
│       └── 1ua2l032tv9va6ctdqr1k6gogtjh
├── 26
│   └── nw

There were over a hundred of these directories where most paths such as 26/nw were empty but not all. In this case, 1a5n8s46gb8sjnfwv51fwr2gwek6 is a file.

Demo Video


  • 0:24 – Creating a bunch of empty directories to try it out
  • 0:54 – Deleting all of the empty directories
  • 1:35 – Not deleting directories that have files
  • 2:26 – Performing a dry run with print instead of delete
  • 3:26 – Real world use case

When was the last time you had to delete a bunch of empty directories?

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