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Home » Files

Deleting Lots of Files Quickly

Submitted by on November 17, 2015 – 9:03 am

I am not talking about hundreds or thousands of files. I am talking about hundreds of thousands. The usual “/bin/rm -rf *” may work, but will take a while. Or it may fail with the “argument list too long” error. So here are a few examples showing you how to delete many files in a hurry.

First, we need something to work with, like maybe a million empty files dumped into a single folder:

dir=/home/tmp ; mkdir -p ${dir} ; cd ${dir}
for i in `seq 1 1000000` ; do printf "file_${i}\n" ; done | xargs touch

Method 1: find + xargs (40 seconds)
time find ${dir} -type f | xargs -L 100 -P 100 /bin/rm -f

Method 2: find + delete (51 seconds)
time find ${dir} -type f -delete

Method 3: rsync (22 seconds)
mkdir /tmp/empty ; time rsync -a --delete-before /tmp/empty/ ${dir}/

Method 4: perl (23 seconds)
cd ${dir} ; time perl -e 'for(<*>){((stat)[9]<(unlink))}'

Method 5: rm (19 seconds)
time /bin/rm -f ${dir}

Moral of the story: if the number of files doesn’t exceed the argument size limit – don’t try to be clever and just use it.

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