In terminal I try to delete a directory but that doesn't work:

myuser$ rm -rf foo/
rm: foo/: Directory not empty

In my main directory I have only foo :

myuser$ ls

I haven't any problem with my 'ls -la' command:

myuser$ ls -la
drwxrwxrwx@ 1 myuser  staff  65536  1 mai 10:53 .
drwxrwxrwx@ 1 myuser  staff  32768 28 aoû  2013 ..
drwxrwxrwx  1 myuser  staff  32768  1 mai 10:36 foo

Directory foo seems to be empty :

myuser$ ls foo/

myuser$ ls -la foo/
ls:  : No such file or directory
total 192
drwxrwxrwx  1 myuser  staff  32768  1 mai 10:36 .
drwxrwxrwx@ 1 myuser  staff  65536  1 mai 10:53 ..

But the line "ls: : No such file or directory" is weird. And I think it's the reason I can't delete this directory. We could see too, that "ls foo" return an empty line, like there is something, but what? And how delete it?


  • Can you see the folder in the GUI? Can you cd into it? – Jozef Legény May 1 '14 at 9:36
  • Is that directory a mount point for something? Check with df -h. What's the output of lsof foo? Have you rebooted yet? Are there any encrypted files? – slhck May 1 '14 at 10:09
  • You could also run a filesystem check from Disk Utility. – Daniel B May 1 '14 at 10:21
  • This question appears to be off-topic because the user no longer has the issue – Der Hochstapler May 2 '14 at 13:59
  • @Oliver, how do you know the user no longer has the issue ? They haven't responded yet, and the original question/problem seems real enough; worthy of a question and answer surely ? – Lqueryvg May 2 '14 at 15:40

I reckon you might have a file in the foo directory with unprintable characters in it's name. Compare the characters you see in the ls output with the actual characters ls outputs.

cd foo
ls             # you see what your terminal lets you see
ls | od -a     # you see the character codes *really* coming from ls

There are various methods to help delete a file whose name you can't easily see or type. Here you could use the interactive -i option of rm.

cd foo
rm -i *

Obviously, be careful with this. And only say y to the one you want to delete.

As to why your first rm -rf didn't delete it... I wonder if you have rm aliased? Use alias rm to see. You can temporarily run the real version of rm (bypassing the alias) using \rm -rf foo.


The "Directory not empty" message is quite misleading. Normally, an rm -rf will remove everything in a directory, recursively, so it wouldn't matter if it's empty or not.

In this case, there are some things you might want to check:

  • Try seeing if there's anything mounted in this directory with df -h, and unmount if necessary
  • Try checking if there's a file open by an application, running sudo lsof foo, and quit the application(s) if necessary
  • Try sudo rm -rf foo – perhaps you just don't have permissions (although I don't think that's the case here)
  • Try logging out and back in
  • Try rebooting the machine

The command

 rm -rf dir

does not remove hidden files, i.e. those starting with a dot, like for instance .bashrc. The directory not empty diagnostic means you have some some hidden files, you may list them with either

 ls -a

or ith

 ls .*

You can erase them recursively with

 rm -rf .[a-Z]*

then you will be able to rmdir the offending directory.


The following Edit proves my point:

  root@rasal:/tmp# mkdir ttp
  root@rasal:/tmp# cd ttp
  root@rasal:/tmp/ttp# touch .test
  root@rasal:/tmp/ttp# ls -a
  .  ..  .test
  root@rasal:/tmp/ttp# rm -rf *
  root@rasal:/tmp/ttp# ls -a
  .  ..  .test
  • 1
    That's wrong. rm -rf dir does remove hidden files in that directory. Try running mkdir test && touch test/.foo && rm -rf test as proof. The "directory not empty" error is a little misleading. – slhck May 1 '14 at 10:07
  • Sorry, @slhck, but this time you are wrong. Try: mkdir ttp; cd ttp; touch .test; ls -a; rm -rf *; ls -a and you will discover that .test is still there. You owe me 2 points, thank you. – MariusMatutiae May 1 '14 at 10:16
  • 4
    Your example shows something different – namely that the * glob does not include hidden files. Which is of course correct, but irrelevant to the question being asked, since there's no globbing involved. You said that "rm -rf dir will not remove hidden files", which is wrong, and which is what my example shows. rm -rf dir will delete all directory contents, regardless of whether they're dotfiles or not. – slhck May 1 '14 at 10:17

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