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My wife has several files and folders that somehow ended up having filenames that have caused them to be undeleteable (can't be deleted) by normal means or via the command line. I believe the filenames are too long due to the depth of the folder structures. Does anyone know of a good utility for cleaning up files like this?

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  • How were these files created?
    – Nick
    Mar 25, 2011 at 15:44
  • Sorry for my ignorance on this topic, but shouldn't Windows handle these files? Shouldn't what Will Eddins posted be done automatically by Windows (even from explorer) ? Sep 14, 2013 at 17:47
  • 2
    @Mokubai- The duplicate question should be marked a duplicate of this one, as this question is older.
    – AStopher
    Oct 12, 2015 at 8:25
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    @cybermonkey: And it has a better answer.
    – Ellesedil
    Mar 23, 2016 at 0:50
  • For further readers, the 7zip Method with CTRL + DELETE is the easiest method in my opinion... Aug 14, 2016 at 15:46

8 Answers 8

439

When you want to completely delete a directory and it contains long paths, robocopy does a VERY good job:

mkdir empty_dir
robocopy empty_dir the_dir_to_delete /mir
rmdir empty_dir
rmdir the_dir_to_delete

This works because robocopy internally uses the Unicode-aware versions of Win32 functions, with the \\?\ prefix for file paths; those functions have a limit of 2¹⁶-1 (32,767) characters instead of 259.

You may need to go through this process more than once to get rid of all of the files.

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  • 1
    Efficient when there is no shortname (8.3) stored in the filesystem. May 11, 2013 at 10:43
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    This worked nicely with my stubborn Windows Store cache files that refused to be deleted. Thanks!
    – Samir
    Mar 6, 2014 at 10:07
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    I had to add /purge to the robocopy line for this to work, but it did the trick after that Jul 21, 2014 at 10:12
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    Robocopy is what got me into this mess, but it never occurred to me to use Robocopy to get me out of it. Great answer! Thanks! Jul 25, 2014 at 21:07
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    @SarahofGaia, my bad, it's 2¹⁶ - 1 actually
    – Benoit
    Oct 12, 2015 at 8:14
91

From a command prompt:

dir /X

This will list your files/folders in short name format. Then use the short name exactly as written to delete the file:

del LONGF~1.txt
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  • 1
    I like that one, it's a nice bit of lateral thinking.
    – Col
    Sep 23, 2009 at 16:03
  • While I can't guarantee it will work in this case, I've used it several times to delete folders that have invalid characters at the end that make them impossible to delete by normal means. Sep 23, 2009 at 16:03
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    This works for files and folders in the current directory, but if you somehow manage to find yourself inside a folder whose path is too long, it will not help. For example, I am currently in a console in a too-long path and cannot even dir or cd ...
    – Bobson
    Nov 21, 2011 at 2:48
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    @Bobson If you cannot dir use pushd instead. That worked for me.
    – BadHorsie
    Nov 19, 2013 at 10:59
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    This does not work with Windows 10, the displayed file name is the long one
    – Loenix
    Jun 9, 2017 at 15:49
53

I progressivley work my way into the path, renaming each successive parent folder to "1" and attempting to delete. You're effectively shortening the path each time and I've never had to work in by more than 4 or 5 directories until I'm finally able to delete the entire directory structure (which may or may not be what you want). You could do this from the last child folder as well and work your way up or down.

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    This was the only thing that worked for me. All the other tricks given here and in other forums such as this didn't work. Dec 26, 2010 at 1:23
  • Was the only suggestion that worked oddly enough. Sep 24, 2014 at 19:54
  • This worked for me, a shortcut that helped me was mv * 1 && cd 1. This didn't work when multiple files were in the directory but at that point an rm -rf * usually did the trick. May 20, 2015 at 21:37
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    Can't do this in windows 10... rename throws "filename to long' error
    – Dawesi
    May 29, 2016 at 20:09
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    Not only did this fix the problem for me, it also explains how I ended up with the issue in the first place. I must have had a path that was near the limit, then I renamed a parent folder (added something like "backup Nov 2016 save" to the name) which pushed the files in subfolders over the limit. Good to know the cause as well as the solution, even though I know it can happen other ways too, I think this is a common way it happens to folks.
    – eselk
    Nov 8, 2016 at 20:46
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A trick I have used to get round the "full path and filename" length limitation in order to move, copy or delete something is to shorten it by 'breaking in' halfway down (or more) using a mapped drive letter pointing to a folder way down the path.

so you have c:\some\long\path...\and\foo\bar\folders\oldfiles\myoldfile.txt.

Then map an arbitrary drive letter to somewhere along the path so that the first chunk of the path becomes only a few characters long. Pre-requisite - the folder must be in a shared folder (which it may already be if it is on a server, which is where I have needed to do this), and if it is not already then pick a folder somewhere in the path and share it. Depending on your environment and paranoia level, allow everyone modify access to the share as long as the NTFS permissions are reasonably restrictive. If you want, just allow modify rights only to your own account.

Now go to the shared folder or one inside it and share it, or use the command line as follows. Assume you shared folder "foo" as "fooshare", then you could do

net use x: \\mycomputername\fooshare\bar\folders /persistent:no

and the X: drive now points directly to the folder "folders" inside that share, so "x:\oldfiles\myoldfile.txt" is now pretty short.

(The "/persistent:no" means this won't survive the next reboot and confuse you later on. Don't forget to un-share your folder when done.)

Remember, you don't have to share the folder containing the file necessarily, if it is already inside a shared folder you can just map through the share and the nested folders to a target folder near to the file and that works fine.

I've had to use this technique doing a massive robocopy between two servers when we realised that users had mapped drives quite deep in the folder structure, so they had been able to use 255 characters from there, but that exceeded the total file path length when accessed from the local drive root.

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    you can avoid the sharing by using subst x: C:\Some\first\part\of\the\long\path and afterwards delete the drive with subst x: /d
    – mihi
    Oct 27, 2014 at 19:33
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    Nice try but when you have 10's of k's of folders nested it isn't possible. Sep 11, 2015 at 16:42
  • The subst trick seems to work well, as long as the filename is not so long as to making it go over 260 characters even at the root of a drive. Jun 4, 2016 at 8:36
  • You also don't need to explicitly share any folder with net use, you can use the default admin shares: net use x: \\localhost\c$\bar\folders /persistent:no
    – kapex
    Feb 17, 2017 at 22:25
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In some programs, including Command Prompt (cmd.exe), you can get around the file length limit by prefixing the full path with \\.\ like this:

\\.\C:\some directory\other directory\a file with long name
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  • 3
    doesn't work in windows 10
    – Dawesi
    May 29, 2016 at 20:09
  • thanks, cmd worked a charm with this in Win7 rm -rf \\directoryname Dec 5, 2016 at 22:32
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The simplest way I've found is to boot from an ubuntu live CD.

As an alternative you can create a shared folder halfway down the path and then map a network drive to that and do the delete from the mapped folder (even on the same machine)

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    It's funny how often an Ubuntu Live CD will help troubleshooting Windows problems ^^
    – Ivo Flipse
    Sep 23, 2009 at 16:07
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    I've noticed that myself, dodgy network try a live CD, filesystem issue try a live CD, corrupt partition table etc. etc. :-)
    – Col
    Sep 23, 2009 at 16:12
  • This is the only solution that worked for me. I love you, Linux! <3
    – David Frye
    Sep 11, 2014 at 18:10
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    Run bash from windows No Linux required. ;-) Also if you're running windows 10 just install “Windows Subsystem for Linux" basically windows uses ubuntu api hooks to get the job done... utils including "apt, ssh, rsync, find, grep, awk, sed, sort, xargs, md5sum, gpg, curl, wget, apache, mysql, python, perl, ruby, php, gcc, tar, vim, emacs, diff, patch, and most of the tens of thousands binary packages in the Ubuntu archives!" This is a very full Linux development environment that just happens to be running on Windows. zdnet.com/article/ubuntu-and-bash-arrive-on-windows-10
    – Dawesi
    May 29, 2016 at 20:25
  • cygwin is another alternative for running LINUX commands in windows
    – atom88
    Jan 3, 2017 at 21:19
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Rename the directory of cut/paste the file somewhere else, then delete it. Works here.

Or just from the command prompt, if you don't feel like going through the trouble.

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  • This works like a charm. Dig down there (for me, it was super-nested node_modules folders), drag it out to your desktop and delete away. Rinse and repeat as you go up a few folders at a time. What an obnoxious problem.
    – nickb
    Apr 9, 2015 at 6:19
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    This didn't work for me - the paste operation failed because of the long filename - doesn't matter where cut it.
    – UpTheCreek
    Jan 21, 2016 at 13:02
1

Probably not the best way and I am interested to see what others come up with -

I had this once and I tried a few things without any luck. Rather than looking for a good tool, I restarted with the Windows Disk in, went to the recovery console and just deleted it from there. Worked first time and really well!

Also, just did a Google for you and found this - DelinvFile Looks Good but cannot vouch for it.

Edit - Warning, just seen the above is only a trial - Maybe not as good as I first thought!

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  • The free rimraf works just fine and worked when all the other ideas failed. It requires node.js Sep 11, 2015 at 16:43

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