I have a Windows XP box with an NTFS disk and deleting large amounts of files is extremely slow. If I select a folder that contains a large number of files in a tree of folders and delete (using shift-del to save the recycle bin) it takes time that seems to be directly proportional to the number of files within the folder before it even pops up the confirmation box. It then takes an even longer time to delete each file in the folder.

Is there a way to delete a folder in Windows and not having the time taken proportional to the number of files within it?


Is there a way to delete a folder in Windows and not having the time taken proportional to the number of files within it?

I don't think so, but some methods are clearly much quicker than others.

The worst way is to send to Recycle Bin: you still need to delete them. Next worst is shift+delete with Windows Explorer: it wastes loads of time checking the contents before starting deleting anything.

Next best is to use rmdir /s/q foldername from the command line. del /f/s/q foldername is good too, but it leaves behind the directory structure.

The best I've found is a two line batch file with a first pass to delete files and outputs to nul to avoid the overhead of writing to screen for every singe file. A second pass then cleans up the remaining directory structure:

del /f/s/q foldername > nul
rmdir /s/q foldername

This is nearly three times faster than a single rmdir, based on time tests with a Windows XP encrypted disk, deleting ~30GB/1,000,000 files/15,000 folders: rmdir takes ~2.5 hours, del+rmdir takes ~53 minutes. More info here.

This is a regular task for me, so I usually move the stuff I need to delete to C:\stufftodelete and have those del+rmdir commands in a deletestuff.bat batch file. This is scheduled to run at night, but sometimes I need to run it during the day so the quicker the better.


Install gnutools for windows and run:

find YOURFOLDER -type d -maxdepth 3 | xargs rm -Rf

Make sure you're not backing up files to the cloud and trying to delete them at the same time!

With many cloud backup solutions files will get locked while they are being backed up and then you have to wait for them to be backed up.

If you're having this issue with say a temp directory (or something that doesn't need backing up) make sure that temp directory isn't selected in your backup set.


did you try using command prompt

rmdir /s /q foldername

all large file operations in GUIs are slow - mostly because visual feedback (progress bar) has to be repainted many times

  • 5
    This is nonsense. Operation may be slow because GUI needs to count all files to estimate required time but not due to repainting. – Bender Nov 30 '09 at 13:22
  • wrong ... I work with large folders constantly (mostly win2k server), and use TotalCommander to move/copy/delete stuff. I've noticed that if I minimize TC or put another application window on top of TC stuff gets done at least 50% faster. TC is still repainting visal stuff, but everything is ignored in compositing... – nEJC Nov 30 '09 at 13:36
  • 6
    Is your computer so slow that GUI operations impact disk I/O performance? Or is TotalCommander just incredibly poorly coded? The disk is hundreds or thousands of times slower than the CPU, RAM and Video card. If graphics are slowing down your disk writes you have major issues. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 30 '09 at 14:04
  • 1
    The question had "not having the time taken proportional to the number of files" for a reason. I'm not looking for 50% faster. – Sindri Traustason Dec 1 '09 at 10:44
  • @Sindri If you do it the command prompt way there should be almost no delay before system starts working its magic. As far as I understand this preprocessing is where your problem is. – nEJC Dec 2 '09 at 15:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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