When the Vim process is abruptly terminated (e.g. system crash), it leaves a SWP file. Opening the original file in Vim later gives the option of recovery. Most of the time the recovered file is the same as the saved file, because I have a habit of saving often. Then Vim says:

Recovery completed. Buffer contents equals file contents. 
You may want to delete the .swp file now.

Well, of course I want to delete the .swp file now!

How can I get Vim to always delete the SWP file automatically in this case?

There seems to be no built-in setting to do this, so I'm looking for an appropriate autocommand event.

One way I found is to :e # after the message, which causes the swap-exists options to appear again, then I can "Delete It". But I shouldn't really have to do those extra steps each time.

  • Thanks! I found your :e # trick is, albeit not ideal, but still more useful than the current answer below. :-)
    – RayLuo
    Dec 1, 2017 at 8:09

1 Answer 1


Note: you haven’t said which operating system you’re using. The following works with a Unix shell but if running Windows, you could download a bare-bones Cygwin or some other shell.

I used to do the same as you, run :e to re-open the same file to get the option to delete the recovery file. After a crash or unexpected computer restart, I clean up all the remnant Vim recovery files by running vim -r on the swap files and letting the recovery proceed.

When files have not changed

If the files haven’t changed, I want to delete the recovery file immediately. It would be great if Vim could do this automatically but unfortunately, it doesn’t.

When files have changed

If the files have changed, I run the DiffOrig command to compare the differences between the original and the recovered versions. If I’m happy with the changes from the recovery file, I exit by saving the files with the :x command. If not, I discard the recovered changes by quitting with :q!. If the recovery file isn’t associated with a saved file, e.g, .swp, I usually use the :w filename to save the recovered buffer to a file with a filename.

DiffOrig helper

I added the DiffOrig command to my .vimrc so that it’s always available.

command DiffOrig vert new | set bt=nofile | r # | 0d_ | diffthis | wincmd p | diffthis

Shell script

I run the following script in my shell to find every swap-file in the current directory tree. Each swap-file is then used to open Vim in “recovery mode” and is then deleted after Vim is closed.

find . -type f -name '.*.sw?' -exec vim -r "{}" -c DiffOrig \; -exec rm -iv "{}" \;

The rm -i option requires confirmation (y) to delete the file. If you’re more confident and want to speed up the process, this can be omitted.

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