UNLINK(2) BSD System Calls Manual UNLINK(2)NAME
unlink, unlinkat — remove directory entry
Standard C Library (libc, -lc)
unlink(const char *path);
unlinkat(int fd, const char *path, int flag);
The unlink() system call removes the link named by path from its direc‐
tory and decrements the link count of the file which was referenced by
the link. If that decrement reduces the link count of the file to zero,
and no process has the file open, then all resources associated with the
file are reclaimed. If one or more process have the file open when the
last link is removed, the link is removed, but the removal of the file is
delayed until all references to it have been closed. The path argument
may not be a directory.
The unlinkat() system call is equivalent to unlink() or rmdir() except in
the case where path specifies a relative path. In this case the direc‐
tory entry to be removed is determined relative to the directory associ‐
ated with the file descriptor fd instead of the current working direc‐
The values for flag are constructed by a bitwise-inclusive OR of flags
from the following list, defined in <fcntl.h>:
Remove the directory entry specified by fd and path as a direc‐
tory, not a normal file.
If unlinkat() is passed the special value AT_FDCWD in the fd parameter,
the current working directory is used and the behavior is identical to a
call to unlink or rmdir respectively, depending on whether or not the
AT_REMOVEDIR bit is set in flag.
The unlink() function returns the value 0 if successful; otherwise the
value -1 is returned and the global variable errno is set to indicate the
The unlink() succeeds unless:
[ENOTDIR] A component of the path prefix is not a directory.
[ENAMETOOLONG] A component of a pathname exceeded 255 characters, or
an entire path name exceeded 1023 characters.
[ENOENT] The named file does not exist.
[EACCES] Search permission is denied for a component of the
[EACCES] Write permission is denied on the directory containing
the link to be removed.
[ELOOP] Too many symbolic links were encountered in translat‐
ing the pathname.
[EPERM] The named file is a directory.
[EPERM] The named file has its immutable, undeletable or
append-only flag set, see the chflags(2) manual page
for more information.
[EPERM] The parent directory of the named file has its
immutable or append-only flag set.
[EPERM] The directory containing the file is marked sticky,
and neither the containing directory nor the file to
be removed are owned by the effective user ID.
[EIO] An I/O error occurred while deleting the directory
entry or deallocating the inode.
[EROFS] The named file resides on a read-only file system.
[EFAULT] The path argument points outside the process's allo‐
cated address space.
In addition to the errors returned by the unlink(), the unlinkat() may
[EBADF] The path argument does not specify an absolute path
and the fd argument is neither AT_FDCWD nor a valid
file descriptor open for searching.
[ENOTEMPTY] The flag parameter has the AT_REMOVEDIR bit set and
the path argument names a directory that is not an
empty directory, or there are hard links to the direc‐
tory other than dot or a single entry in dot-dot.
[ENOTDIR] The flag parameter has the AT_REMOVEDIR bit set and
path does not name a directory.
[EINVAL] The value of the flag argument is not valid.
[ENOTDIR] The path argument is not an absolute path and fd is
neither AT_FDCWD nor a file descriptor associated with
SEE ALSOchflags(2), close(2), link(2), rmdir(2), symlink(7)STANDARDS
The unlinkat() system call follows The Open Group Extended API Set 2
The unlink() function appeared in Version 6 AT&T UNIX. The unlinkat()
system call appeared in FreeBSD 8.0.
The unlink() system call traditionally allows the super-user to unlink
directories which can damage the file system integrity. This implementa‐
tion no longer permits it.
BSD April 25, 2010 BSD