Sudo rm -rf: What Stuff Can You Do with This Command?

Sudo rm -rf: What Stuff Can You Do with This Command?

Sudo rm -rf is a command that can help you delete entire directory structures in Linux and Unix-like operating systems such as Mac OS X, CentOS, etc. You don’t need to delete each file from the directory structure manually. Sudo rm -rf enables you to get the job done easily and efficiently in just one step using this command on your Linux operating system.

An Introduction to Sudo

Generally, Sudo can be run in the command line as the superuser. Sudo allows a user to perform any command a system administrator would have permission to do. A variation of Sudo is SU (Substitute User).

SU is typically used to switch users on a Linux machine without inputting another password. A well-known shorthand for this is the SU username, and you will be prompted for the password of the account you have switched from.

Once you confirm this with “Enter,” you will have successfully switched accounts. Type “Exit” into the prompt to revert to your original account. It’s important to note that when using SU or Sudo, you must type in these commands as root by prefixing them with # (hash) if not logged in as root or via ssh.

An Introduction to Sudo

It’s also important to remember that when using the SU command, there are different variations depending on its OS. In contrast, Ubuntu only uses Sudo, while other distros like Red Hat Enterprise Linux use Sudo and SU.

Understanding Sudo rm -rf Command and the Stuff it Does

Sudo rm -rf command is one of the most widely used commands in Linux/Unix environments to delete all files and directories that belong to you and only you. While it may look like a simple command, this single command can do so much more than what meets the eye.

Let us look at some of the different usages of the Sudo rm -rf command in Linux/Unix environment so that you can leverage it more effectively.

The Stuff That Sudo rm -rf Does

1. Deleting All Files and Directories Related to the Current User and Root

When you are logged in as root or any other user, running Sudo rm -rf will first delete all the files and directories related to your current user. After which, it will go ahead and remove those that are owned by root as well.

Deleting All Files and Directories Related to the Current User and Root

2. Removing a Single File or Directory

If you just want to delete a file or directory that belongs to you and not anything else, then use the following syntax; “Sudo rm -rf filename, OR Sudo rm -rf directory-name.”

3. Removing a Group of Files from the Home Directory

Say if files are lying in your home directory (or any other directory for that matter), but they don’t seem important enough for deletion, no worries! Just use the following syntax, “Sudo rm -rf */*,” and remove them without harming anything else.

4. Change Ownership of All Files

Using this command, you can change ownership of all the files and directories on your machine without manually going through each one individually. You have two ways to do this with Sudo rm -rf depending on whether you want to keep ownership or change it completely.

Change Ownership of All Files
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5. Restore Original Ownership for All Files

So, let’s say you need to undo everything that was done using the Sudo rm -rf command before. Use the following syntax; “Sudo chown -R username *” to restore original ownership for all files and directories on your machine.

Restore Sudo rm -rf: What Stuff Can You Do with This Command?

6. Preserve Your Original Owner Name for All Files

Alternatively, instead of restoring the original owner name for all files and directories on your machine after deleting them using Sudo rm -rf, use the following syntax, which preserves the original owner name for all files and directories: “Sudo rm -rf: Sudo Chown -preserve=username *.”

7. Delete Files That Are Over N Days Old

Sometimes, you might look for a specific file deleted n days ago. To find out such files quickly, use the following syntax; “grep ‘.*\d+’ $HOME xargs -i{} echo {} grep -v ‘.Z’ sort >~/.oldbin,” where { } indicates placeholder characters.

Delete Files That Are Over N Days Old

The Features of Sudo rm -rf Command

This Unix command is only used in the Linux operating system, which means it’s not for Mac or Windows users. Luckily, there are many similar commands available in other operating systems. The Sudo command is the equivalent of executing a command with super user privileges, which can help delete files that are otherwise inaccessible by regular users.

Another nice feature of this Unix command is that you don’t need permission to run it if you prefix it with Sudo and enter your password when prompted. Running rm-rf with no arguments will remove everything on your current directory and all subdirectories below it recursively.

Getting Started with Sudo rm -rf Command

Do you want to obliterate your entire Linux file system but are unsure how to do it? The Sudo rm-rf command has your back. Sudo is a superuser (root) command that does what you tell it to with root privileges, and the rm-rf (remove read-only files) removes files from directories recursively until all of them are gone.

To use this command, simply type Sudo rm-rf followed by the directory path where you want to remove files. Enter your password as usual before proceeding when prompted.

Once you enter the correct password, enter y when prompted again to confirm the deletion of these files before they’re deleted.

Note: This process takes a while, depending on how many files will be deleted.

How to Use Sudo rm -rf Command

The Sudo rm-rf command is a powerful one that many people do not know about. It will delete files or directories with all content inside of them from the system without asking for confirmation from the user.

To use this command, you first type in Sudo, then add rm-rf and whatever directory you want to remove, and if there are any files inside, it will ask if you would like to delete those too. Finally, hit “Enter,” and everything inside the specified directory should be deleted.

Some people like to create scripts using Sudo rm-rf to run them on themselves without input or remote access machines, so other commands aren’t available when running these scripts.

The Benefits of Sudo rm -rf Command

Using Sudo rm -rf is an excellent way to clean up your directories for the file and the space used on your hard drive. It’s so great because you can use it to delete ALL empty directories or even do a search and find by name!

For example, if you wanted to clean up your empty directories, you could simply type this in the terminal: “Sudo rm -rf.” And BOOM- all of your empty directories would be gone. But what if you wanted only to delete the one called junk? In that case, you could type: “Sudo rm -rf junk/*.”

The downside is that you must confirm everything you want to be deleted before it gets wiped out when using Sudo rm- rf. It might appear like a hassle at first glance but think about how much time you’ll save from typing everything over again when deleting files with other methods.

The Cons

The command is commonly used for deleting files and folders but could be dangerous if you don’t know the correct syntax. For example, Sudo rm-rf won’t work in a folder that contains spaces. Even worse, the command will delete everything in the current directory!

Unless you have extensively researched this command, it would be better to avoid using it altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Anyone Use the Sudo rm -rf Command?

This is a great question! If you do not have administrator clearance and try executing the Sudo rm-rf command, you will get an error. However, you can use this command with or without the SU prefix if you have root privileges.

Root privileges are different from administrative rights and are given to users who have access to all commands that reside on the system and should not be granted lightly.

When Can I Avoid Using Sudo rm -rf Command?

When should I avoid using the Sudo rm -rf command on Linux?

  • Avoid using Sudo rm -rf when you have open windows with an activity that could be lost when you delete the files and directories.
  • It’s also recommended to avoid using this command if the computer is not running a Unix-like operating system.


The Sudo rm-rf Linux command is potent. It will delete all the specified files within the directory and then remove all the directories. If files match one of the entries in your list of directories or files to be deleted, they will be deleted too.

It’s important to remember that this command is not recursive like its bash-command counterpart but can be used with both Sudo and root privileges. It’s also worth noting that any directory would need write access to be successfully deleted by this command. If you didn’t know, this is usually done with chmod or chown, both standard Unix/Linux commands, to change user/group ownership of a file or directory.