Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Eclipse created a temp folder in one of the directories which is nested quite deep, e.g.

dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\...

I am unable to delete this folder in Windows via Explorer, the del or rmdir commands, nor the Cygwin 'rm' command. How should I remove this very long folder?

It just keeps saying "File name too long..."

share|improve this question
    

13 Answers 13

This is actually quite simple to fix. Say that the directory structure is as such:

C:\Dir1\Dir1\Dir1\Dir1…

To fix it, just rename each folder to a one-character folder-name until it is no longer too long to delete:

  1. Rename C:\Dir1 to C:\D
  2. Navigate to C:\D\
  3. Rename C:\D\Dir1 to C:\D\D
  4. Navigate to C:\D\D\
  5. Goto 1 until total length of path is <260

Here’s a batch file to automate the process (this simple version is best for simple directories like the one described in the question, especially for disposable ones). Pass it the highest folder possible (eg C:\Dir1 for C:\Dir1\Dir1\Dir1… or C:\Users\Bob\Desktop\New Folderfor C:\Users\Bob\Desktop\New Folder\abcdefghi…)

@echo off
if not (%1)==() cd %1
for /D %%i in (*) do if not %%i==_ ren "%%i" _
pushd _ 
%0 
popd

Technical Explanation

The other proposed solutions are backwards; you can’t fix it by working your way from the innermost directory outward, you need to go in the other direction.

When you try to access a directory, you do so using its absolute path whether explicitly or not, which includes everything that came before it. Therefore, for a directory structure like C:\Dir1\Dir1\Dir1\Dir1, the length of the path to the innermost Dir1 is 22. However the length of the path to the outermost Dir1 is only 7, and therefore is still accessible regardless of its contents (in the context of a given directory’s path, the file-system has no knowledge of what it contains or the effect it has on the total path length of its child directories; only its ancestor directories—you cannot rename a directory if the total path-length will be too long).

Therefore, when you encounter a path that is too long, what you need to do is to go to the highest level possible and rename it to a one-character name and repeat for each level therein. Each time you do so, the total length of the path shortens by the difference between the old name and new name.

The opposite is true as well. You cannot create a path that is greater than the maximum supported length (on DOS and Windows, MAX_PATH = 260). However, you can rename directories, working from the innermost outward, to a longer name. The result is that deeper folders whose absolute path is >260 will be inaccessible. (That does not make them “hidden” or secure, since they are simple enough to get at, so don’t use this method to hide files.)


Interesting Side Note

If you create folders in Windows 7 Explorer, it may seem like Explorer allows you to create subdirectories such that the total length is longer than MAX_PATH, and in effect it is, however it is actually cheating by using “DOS 8.3 filenames”. You can see this by creating a tree such as the following:

C:\abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
   \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
    \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
     \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
      \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
       \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
        \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
         \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
          \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
           \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
            \abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789\

It is 696 characters long, which of course is much longer than 260. Further, if you navigate to the innermost subdirectory in Explorer, it shows it as expected in the address bar when it is not in focus, but when you click in the address bar, it changes the path to C:\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\ABCDEF~1\, which is only 102 characters long.

In XP, it does not do this, instead it steadfastly refuses to create a longer path than is supported.

What would really be interesting is to find out how Windows 7 Explorer handles “too-long paths” when the NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation option is set.

share|improve this answer
2  
It is possible to create a path longer than MAX_PATH, as explained here. Unfortunately, \\?` doesn't work with rmdir`. –  grawity Mar 11 '11 at 18:35
    
@grawity, yes, but that is because it works under the same principal: a short path is renamed to a longer one; that just does it dynamically by expanding a variable as opposed to manually renaming it to la onger one. It is not possible to create a directory whose absolute path is too long when the creation command has enough information to determine the total length. –  Synetech Mar 11 '11 at 19:31
2  
@Synetech: No, it works differently. Paths like \\?\C:\dir\dir\dir\dir literally bypass MAX_PATH; there are no "variables" involved. (But like I said, it does not work with rmdir or other cmd.exe builtins for some reason.) –  grawity Mar 11 '11 at 19:35
    
eg, try running md C:\01234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456‌​789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567‌​890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678‌​901234567890123456789 It won’t work because the file-system has sufficient information to determine that the total path length would be 263 characters, so it fails. –  Synetech Mar 11 '11 at 19:35
1  
(Also, don't confuse the path length with component length. You cannot have a single directory with a name over 255 characters; however, you can have a path much longer than that.) –  grawity Mar 11 '11 at 19:37

If you are like me and don't like to install additional software to fix a problem like this, I'd go with XQYZ's suggestion and use robocopy to solve the problem. (In my case the problem was created by robocopy in the first place, by copying a directory which had recursive junction points in it without supplying /XJ to robocopy).

To delete the directory tree starting at c:\subdir\more\offending_dir:

The total step-by-step-process is as simple as this:

  1. cd c:\subdir\more to cd into its parent directory.
  2. mkdir empty to create an empty directory.
  3. robocopy empty offending_dir /mir to mirror the empty directory into the offending one.
  4. After some waiting you're done! Finish it up with:
  5. rmdir offending_dir to get rid of the now empty offending directory and
  6. rmdir empty to get rid of your intermediate empty directory.
share|improve this answer
1  
Excellent suggestion. My problem was also created by robocopy, and as you described the robocopy fix worked for me. –  Nathan Garabedian Dec 3 '11 at 0:18
2  
I also made a mess with robocopy and junction points; thanks for showing me how to use it to clean up the mess! –  Mr.Wizard Jun 10 '12 at 10:55
    
This saved my life. Thank you. –  davecoulter Jun 27 '13 at 20:23
    
my folders were not created by robocopy but it removed them perfectly –  alexander Jan 9 at 0:25
1  
Node package manager (NPM) caused this problem for me. There were so many nested packages for some reason. –  dhsto Apr 3 at 21:18

You can shorten the path by using subst to create a virtual drive:

C:\>subst Z: "C:\TEMP\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1\dir1"

Change into the virtual drive:

cd Z:

Now you can delete the files:

del *.*

Remove the virtual drive:

cd C:\TEMP
subst Z: /d

Remove the directory:

rd /s dir1
share|improve this answer
    
Nope; that first command won’t work if the directory is too long; it will return the error Invalid parameter. –  Synetech Sep 8 '11 at 5:30
1  
@Synetech, sure, but if you subst just C:\TEMP\dir1\dir1\dir1, then it will shorten part of it, thus allowing you to get in. It is just like your suggestion of renaming, but with mapping instead. ;) –  Bobson Nov 21 '11 at 2:59
    
@Bobson, okay you’re right; +1 for both of you. :-) –  Synetech Nov 21 '11 at 21:04

I wrote a small C# app to help me delete a similar very deep structure generated by a careless usage of Robocopy and a backup from Homeserver; by default Robocopy treats joint points as regular folders... :-( You might end up with a big mess without noticing it.

The tool is available at CodePlex with source files, for anyone to use.

http://deepremove.codeplex.com

share|improve this answer

While working with Sikuli I got jacked with a Calculator.sikuli recursion loop in the program that made an uncountable amount of "calculator.sikuli.calculator.sikuli" dirs. I could move the tree, but pathname too long to delete.

After trying several solutions with popd loop, Scandisk and getting (perceptibly) nowhere....

I wrote this script to 'go deep' into the recursed dirs(in a dir called 'a'), move them(to a dir called 'b'), then delete the truncated tree, move them back(to 'a'), and repeat:

1)cd D:\a\calculator.sikuli\calculator.sikuli\calculator.sikuli\calculator.sikuli
.............go deeeeeep in         dir *A*
2) move calculator.sikuli ---> D:\b    
.............move the crazy tree to dir *B*    
3) kill D:\a\calculator.sikuli <---KILL(rd)    
.............wipe dir *A*'s tree    
4) move D:\b\calculator.sikuli ---> D:\a\    
.............move the crazy tree back to dir *A*    
REPEAT
  • REM Used to delete infinitely recursed subfolders
  • REM suggest to stop Windows Search service first(services.msc)

Remdirs.bat

D:
cd D:\a\calculator.sikuli\calculator.sikuli\calculator.sikuli\calculator.sikuli
move /-Y calculator.sikuli D:\b
cd D:\b
rd /s/q D:\a\calculator.sikuli
move /-Y calculator.sikuli D:\a
call D:\remdirs2.bat

This is just a call to run the batch file again.

share|improve this answer
    
I've spent hours looking into this. This .bat file is like a gift from heaven. You, silo, are an angel. xD –  Squish Oct 6 at 5:32

I would try opening a command prompt and running:

rmdir /s <directory>

If that doesn't work, I'd cd partway into the directory tree and try to delete a subset of the directories -- say the 20 innermost directories -- and then work my way out from there.

share|improve this answer
    
I tried your suggestion above and it still says "Directory is not empty" when I run the above command several levels deep –  user39186 Mar 11 '11 at 5:03
1  
That’s because this method is backwards. ;-) –  Synetech Mar 11 '11 at 6:11

If it is a network folder then just share that directory's parent directory and map it to a drive on your local machine and then delete your folder.

share|improve this answer
    
21966 [main] mv 1288 D:\work\software\cygwin\bin\mv.exe: *** fa tal error - internal error reading the windows environment - too many environment variables? –  user39186 Mar 11 '11 at 5:09
    
I tried moving a a sub-folder nested 20 levels deep and got the above error –  user39186 Mar 11 '11 at 5:10

We had a problem like this at work when eclipse decided to create rubbish on the harddrives. We fixed it by using robocopy's /MIR function to mirror an empty directory into the nested one.

share|improve this answer

Another solution: go download Total Commander. It's a very useful program, not just because it's long filename aware.

The unregistered version is nagware but fully functional, it will do the job.

share|improve this answer

Open a command prompt.

Navigate to the folder/directory that contains the highest 'dir1' (we'll assume C:\)

c:\> RD /s dir1

Edit (after comments added):

Other ideas:

MS offers info on how to deal with the problem (lots of ideas to try) here.

There's also this tool (never used it personally) - TooLongPath.

Perhaps write something (since you have Eclipse) that navigates all the way in and then backs out one folder level at a time, deleting as it goes?

share|improve this answer
    
I get the following 3 errors while using the above command.The directory is not empty The system cannot find the path specified The file name is too long –  user39186 Mar 11 '11 at 4:51
    
I tried traversing say 'n' levels deep and tried using the same command, but it doesn't seem to help –  user39186 Mar 11 '11 at 4:52

When I have this problem I simply rename some of the folder names much shorter, then once the total path is short enough, it'll delete OK. No extra tools needed.

share|improve this answer
    
Yes, but like I said, you have to work from the outside in, otherwise it won’t work. –  Synetech Sep 8 '11 at 5:33
    
Of course. I've generally found the longest folder names tend to be the first (in patch folders) or the last. Most of the time, you only need to change one or two folder names to get it to the right length. –  music2myear Sep 8 '11 at 14:31
    
Yes, but if you start with the innermost one, it will not work because the ren command will fail with path too long. –  Synetech Sep 8 '11 at 21:09
1  
Yes, the scripts provided above are a clever and effective method of handling this problem automatically. It has only happened to me a few times and so I've simply used the manual rename process. To do that I simply start renaming the folder structure wherever I happen to be at in the offending tree, and my experience is the longest folder names appear more often at the beginning or the end of the tree structure. My answer is therefore a valid one, though probably not the strongest or cleverest here. It's not worth a downvote. –  music2myear Sep 9 '11 at 14:00
    
> I simply start renaming the folder structure wherever I happen to be at in the offending tree Well, yes, if you are already inside the tree, then you can certainly rename at least that folder (you’ll need to go to its parent); you may be able to rename a subfolder as well, but it may be too long. –  Synetech Sep 10 '11 at 16:57

I had the same problem, except it was created by a recursive Cobian Backup task. I turns out the free Cobian software includes a Deleter application that can easily remove these pesky nested folders super quickly.

It's located under the tools menu.

share|improve this answer

Your filesystem may be corrupt. Run chkdsk to see if it repairs anything, then try deleting the folder.

share|improve this answer
    
Nope, that’s not the problem. The problem is that the total path length is longer than is supported (MAX_PATH=255). This can happen even with a non-corrupt file-system. –  Synetech Mar 11 '11 at 5:51
    
Running chkdsk on the folder gave me the following error. The drive, the path, or the file name is not valid –  user39186 Mar 11 '11 at 5:51

protected by slhck Sep 14 '12 at 20:32

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.