RM(1) BSD General Commands Manual RM(1)NAME
rm, unlink — remove directory entries
SYNOPSISrm [-f | -i] [-dIPRrvW] file ...
The rm utility attempts to remove the non-directory type files specified
on the command line. If the permissions of the file do not permit writ‐
ing, and the standard input device is a terminal, the user is prompted
(on the standard error output) for confirmation.
The options are as follows:
-d Attempt to remove directories as well as other types of files.
-f Attempt to remove the files without prompting for confirmation,
regardless of the file's permissions. If the file does not
exist, do not display a diagnostic message or modify the exit
status to reflect an error. The -f option overrides any previous
-i Request confirmation before attempting to remove each file,
regardless of the file's permissions, or whether or not the stan‐
dard input device is a terminal. The -i option overrides any
previous -f options.
-I Request confirmation once if more than three files are being
removed or if a directory is being recursively removed. This is
a far less intrusive option than -i yet provides almost the same
level of protection against mistakes.
-P Overwrite regular files before deleting them. Files are over‐
written three times, first with the byte pattern 0xff, then 0x00,
and then 0xff again, before they are deleted. Files with multi‐
ple links will not be overwritten nor deleted unless -f is speci‐
fied, a warning is generated instead.
Specifying this flag for a read only file will cause rm to gener‐
ate an error message and exit. The file will not be removed or
-R Attempt to remove the file hierarchy rooted in each file argu‐
ment. The -R option implies the -d option. If the -i option is
specified, the user is prompted for confirmation before each
directory's contents are processed (as well as before the attempt
is made to remove the directory). If the user does not respond
affirmatively, the file hierarchy rooted in that directory is
-r Equivalent to -R.
-v Be verbose when deleting files, showing them as they are removed.
-W Attempt to undelete the named files. Currently, this option can
only be used to recover files covered by whiteouts in a union
file system (see undelete(2)).
The rm utility removes symbolic links, not the files referenced by the
It is an error to attempt to remove the files /, . or ...
When the utility is called as unlink, only one argument, which must not
be a directory, may be supplied. No options may be supplied in this sim‐
ple mode of operation, which performs an unlink(2) operation on the
The rm utility exits 0 if all of the named files or file hierarchies were
removed, or if the -f option was specified and all of the existing files
or file hierarchies were removed. If an error occurs, rm exits with a
The rm command uses getopt(3) to parse its arguments, which allows it to
accept the ‘--’ option which will cause it to stop processing flag
options at that point. This will allow the removal of file names that
begin with a dash (‘-’). For example:
The same behavior can be obtained by using an absolute or relative path
reference. For example:
When -P is specified with -f the file will be overwritten and removed
even if it has hard links.
The rm utility differs from historical implementations in that the -f
option only masks attempts to remove non-existent files instead of mask‐
ing a large variety of errors. The -v option is non-standard and its use
in scripts is not recommended.
Also, historical BSD implementations prompted on the standard output, not
the standard error output.
SEE ALSOchflags(1), rmdir(1), undelete(2), unlink(2), fts(3), getopt(3),
The rm command conforms to IEEE Std 1003.2 (“POSIX.2”).
The simplified unlink command conforms to Version 2 of the Single UNIX
A rm command appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.
The -P option assumes that the underlying file system is a fixed-block
file system. UFS is a fixed-block file system, LFS is not. In addition,
only regular files are overwritten, other types of files are not.
BSD December 26, 2006 BSD