Is there any way to remove all of the files in a directory except for one with a certain filename? For instance, if I had a directory containing the files file1, file2, and dontdelete. Would there be any way to quickly delete file1, and file2 and not dontdelete? I know that I could just do rm file1 file2 but that wouldn't work for a bunch of files. Also, I'm on Mac OS X if that makes a difference.

  • Simple wildcarding may be your solution: rm file* will remove file1 and file2 but not dontdelete. If your needs are more complex then, depending shell scripting language, you could generate a list of files you want to delete using a regular expression and pipe this to the rm command. Commented Jan 1, 2011 at 4:57
  • @Rob: Yeah, my situation is more complex than that. And Ignacio's answer worked. Thanks, though!
    – Wuffers
    Commented Jan 1, 2011 at 4:59

1 Answer 1


In bash:

shopt -s extglob
rm !(dontdelete)
  • 1
    +1 Wow very succinct solution. Will bear that in mind if I need it. Commented Jan 2, 2011 at 13:17
  • can this be extended to include multiple directories that you don't wan to delete
    – mcgrailm
    Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 12:37

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