123

I have a directory on my Windows 7 machine that has hundreds if not thousands of sub-directories. Some of them have files, some do not. I want to delete all the empty directories.

Looking at the del and rmdir DOS command, it does not look like you can recursively do this without deleting all the files. Is there a way to do this from the command line?

4
  • 1
    I am amazed there's no simple answer to this question.
    – billpg
    Apr 5, 2012 at 12:45
  • 1
    @billpg: simple as it could get: xcopy FROMDIR TODIR /s. See this SO answer: stackoverflow.com/a/14742810
    – eckes
    Mar 20, 2013 at 7:42
  • 1
    XCOPY deletes directories?
    – billpg
    Mar 20, 2013 at 11:24
  • 2
    It can be done easily using ROBOCOPY. See my answer below for details. Oct 16, 2015 at 18:48

12 Answers 12

141

You can use Remove Empty Directories utility.

Alternatively you can use this one-liner batch file (from DownloadSquad):

for /f "delims=" %d in ('dir /s /b /ad ^| sort /r') do rd "%d"

(if used inside a batch file, replace %d with %%d)

This works because rd will not remove a directory that contains files.

17
  • 9
    P.S I suggest you try the GUI-based tool first, before trying any command-line commands that can potentially delete all files.
    – caliban
    Sep 11, 2009 at 13:50
  • 1
    Make sure it is truly empty. A hidden desktop.ini is still considered a file. same as a thumbs.db. If you want to verify whether this works, create a test directory with directories inside that are empty and populated. It works, I've verified.
    – caliban
    Sep 11, 2009 at 18:19
  • 1
    Yep. It works. My mistake.
    – EBGreen
    Sep 11, 2009 at 18:27
  • 9
    for /f %d in ('dir /s/b') do rmdir "%d" should work as rmdir cannot remove a non-empty folder
    – seanyboy
    Sep 16, 2009 at 13:14
  • 3
    Just a warning, this script destroys directory junctions too. I learned this the hard way.
    – Pyroglyph
    May 22, 2016 at 15:56
88

You can also use ROBOCOPY. It is very simple and can also be used to delete empty folders inside large hierarchy.

ROBOCOPY folder1 folder1 /S /MOVE

Here both source and destination are folder1, as you only need to delete empty folders, instead of moving other files to different folder. /S option is to skip copying(moving, in the above case) empty folders. It is also faster as the files are moved inside the same drive.

12
  • 3
    Magic. So this moves all non-empty folders to the very same location they were already in (so does nothing?), and skips empty folders? But then: why would skipping them result in deletion? And wouldn't this move nested folders into folder1? Scary, unless tested well.
    – Arjan
    Sep 13, 2015 at 11:15
  • 4
    @Arjan I have tested it, and it works perfectly!. To understand its working, its like moving all files to different location, except empty folders, and then deleting the left-behind empty-folders. /MOVE copies the files first, and then deletes the source file after copying. So, as /S is used, it copies the non-empty folders to destination(same folder in the above case). Then, it deletes the empty folders(like, its thinking that empty-folders has already been copied). No, it does not move nested folders into folder1, as ROBOCOPY moves folders recursively. Sep 13, 2015 at 19:56
  • 4
    it even works with UNC paths (at least on win7) ! Brilliant ! Oct 15, 2015 at 14:11
  • 3
    This is a very elegant solution without any third-party software needed. Thank you! Dec 28, 2017 at 20:20
  • 2
    This just did its magic and worked perfectly. Thanks!
    – CharleyDC5
    Apr 23, 2019 at 14:36
18

Since Cygwin comes with GNU find, you can do this:

find . -type d -empty -delete

Or to avoid the noise when a folder no longer exists:

find . -type d -empty -execdir rmdir {} +
3
  • This can also now be done using Windows 10 Bash.
    – March Ho
    Oct 7, 2017 at 19:06
  • 1
    For my install of Windows 10 this (find . -type d -empty -delete) fails from the command prompt with the following error: FIND: Parameter format not correct Jan 4, 2018 at 22:39
  • It works in Git Bash also
    – caot
    Sep 4, 2020 at 15:54
7

The free utility EmptyFolderNuker does this fine, from a base folder of your choice. It also removes those directories only containing empty sub-directories.

5
  • 1
    The one-liner batch file didn't work for me (I get the error "%%d was unexpected at this time."), and the Remove Empty Directories program will not install (it says on the linked page that it is not compatible with Windows 7 anyway). This program worked like a charm.
    – Phoenix
    Mar 7, 2010 at 11:52
  • 1
    As user36580 wrote below, "it is likely you are running directly from the command line. In that case, change the double %% to a single %" Jul 15, 2012 at 3:27
  • 1
    I like this over the pure command-line version as it allows you to preview the things that get deleted. You can always call it from the command-line using "%~dp0\EmptyFolderNuker.exe" %cd%. Dec 27, 2014 at 14:30
  • 1
    @rob-kam The URL for "EmptyFolderNuker" isn't available anymore.
    – PeterCo
    Aug 9, 2019 at 8:13
  • @PeterCo Thanks, fixed now.
    – Rob Kam
    Aug 12, 2019 at 19:49
5

Hmmm... maybe even simpler solution:

for /d /r %d in (*.*) do rd "%d"

Start this from the folder you want empty folders to be deleted.

/d - will work on folders, not files /r - will recurse subdirs

1
  • Thanks. Found that this only applies to commandline not batchfiles. According to superuser.com/questions/444474/… by Dennis, if we want to use this in a batchfile it should be for /f "delims=" %%i in ('dir /s /b /ad ^| sort /r') do rd "%%i". The for behaviour is slightly different between commandline and batchfiles.
    – Brian
    Mar 10, 2021 at 22:21
0

If you have Cygwin installed, you could do this:

find -type d -exec rmdir {} \;
3
  • 4
    Not necessarily. That might not delete directories with only empty subdirectories. You might have to reverse it. find -type d -print0 | tac | xargs -0 rmdir Sep 11, 2009 at 22:56
  • I never knew about "tac" before. That's really nifty! Sep 12, 2009 at 1:52
  • 1
    Or use find (starting-directory) -depth -type d ....  The -depth option tells find to do something like reverse the order of the output — it goes to the deepest directory levels first, then works its way back up. Jun 21, 2015 at 3:35
0

If you're working in emacs (making this platform-agnostic), the following works:

(defun *-delete-empty-directories (root-directory)
  "Recursively delete empty directories in ROOT-DIRECTORY.

When called from dired, `dired-current-directory' is used for
ROOT-DIRECTORY."

  ;; Interface
  (interactive (list (if (eq major-mode 'dired-mode)
                         (expand-file-name (dired-current-directory))
                       (read-from-minibuffer "Root directory: "))))
  (when (or (null root-directory) (string= "" root-directory))
    (user-error "No root directory provided"))
  (when (called-interactively-p 'interactive)
    (unless (yes-or-no-p (format "Delete all non-empty directories in `%s'? "
                                 root-directory))
      (user-error "Directory `%s' has been left untouched" root-directory)))

  ;; Implementation
  (require 'f)
  (let ((entries (f-directories root-directory)))
    (while entries
      (let ((curdir (car entries)))
        (when (f-directories curdir)
          (*-delete-empty-directories curdir))
        (unless (f-entries curdir)
          (delete-directory curdir)
          (message "Directory deleted: `%s'" curdir))
        (setq entries (cdr entries)))))
6
  • ...Please tell me you wouldn't have to type all of this in order to accomplish this in emacs. Dec 31, 2016 at 0:56
  • 1
    @Hashim The idea is that you have it defined in your init and then bound to a key. Technically I could have it bound to D if I wanted to, but since I don't have a common need for this, all I have to type is M-x *ded RET and bam–done. (If I did indeed have to type this every time, you're absolutely right that it'd be absurd – luckily that's not the case.) Jan 1, 2017 at 7:33
  • Fair enough, that sounds more plausible. Jan 1, 2017 at 22:30
  • Does M-x *ded RET have any significance or is it random? If the latter, how do you keep track of all the shortcuts you've assigned in emacs? Does memorisation suffice or do you find yourself having to look them up? Jan 1, 2017 at 22:32
  • 1
    @Hashim *ded is an abbreviation for the full function name *-delete-empty-directories. Many completion engines (such as ivy, the one I use) understand this kind of fuzzy matching. As for keeping them memorized… I simply don't have to. The functions I've defined all start with * so I can easily find them if they're not bound to a key. Otherwise, emacs itself will tell me if there was a faster way of calling the function. If all else fails, there's always apropos. Jan 2, 2017 at 2:10
0

Combining Gareth's and G-Man's posts:

find . -depth -type d -empty -execdir rmdir {} +

Edit: But that gave a security error because of 'C' in my PATH var...so instead:

$find . -depth -type d -empty | while read dir; do (rmdir -v $dir); done

I don't use xargs because it appears to have an input line limit (of about 1024 lines, I think?), whereas

 while read x; do (command $x); done

just keeps on going for as long as it has input. Leave out the '-v' verbose flag if you don't want to see the results and/or want it to run faster.

0

None of the previous answers worked for me, so I made the following file:

EmptyDirectoriesRemove.cmd

Contents:

@setlocal enableextensions enabledelayedexpansion

:walk_tree
for /D %%d in (*) do (
cd %%d
@CALL :walk_tree %%d
cd ..
rd %%d
)

endlocal

Usage: Cd to the top level directory you want to clean up. From the command line prompt, run:

EmptyDirectoriesRemove.cmd

Warnings will show up for non-empty directories.

Usual disclaimers: Use at your risk. Backup before testing. etc.

0

The 4NT shell (nowadays Take Command) has a /sx option to "DEL". /S is recursive, the appended X is remove empty dirs.

0

You can use Powershell:

Get-ChildItem "Path" -recurse | 
  Where-Object {($_.PSIsContainer -eq $true) -and ((gci $_.fullName).count -eq 0)} | 
    Remove-Item -Force
0

You can use vbscript to do this:

' Save in deleteEmptyFolders.vbs
' call with:
' cscript deleteEmptyFolders.vbs C:\RootFolder
If WScript.Arguments.Count > 0 Then
  directory = WScript.Arguments.Item(0)
  WSH.Echo("Deleting empty folders starting from " & directory)
Else
  WSH.Echo "Please supply a directory as an argument"
  WSH.Quit
End If

Set ofso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject") 
Set rootFolder = ofso.GetFolder(directory)

Sub DeleteEmptySubfoldersIn(folder)
  For Each subfolder in folder.SubFolders
    On Error Resume Next '' VBScript TRY
    ' The script can error out if you don't have permissions to delete
    ' the subfolder
    DeleteEmptySubfoldersIn subfolder
  Next
  
  ''WScript.Echo folder.Path
  If folder.Files.Count = 0 And folder.SubFolders.Count = 0 Then
    'TEST: print what you'll delete
    WScript.Echo "Was going to delete " & folder.Path & " b/c it's EMPTY"

    'DISARMED uncomment line below to make it work
    '''''ofso.DeleteFolder folder
  End If
End Sub

DeleteEmptySubfoldersIn rootFolder

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