How To Delete Files & Folders – From The Windows Command Line (CMD, DOS)

What We'll Learn:

Welcome!
This guide is all about deleting files and folders from the windows command line.

  • We’ll start by learning, how to navigate the file or folder we want to delete form the command prompt.
  • How to use the Del and Rmdir commands to remove files and folders respectively.
  • How to take advantage of wildcards to perform an operation on multiple files or directories.
  • And finally, we’ll learn how to delete files and folders without navigating to the directory in which they are located.

Lets get started!

Navigating To The File Using CMD:

To delete a file or folder using the command prompt we must first navigate to the location of our file.

By default the command line is located at a folder named after your computers username (C:\Users\MyPC). This folder contains your documents, downloads and desktop directories, among others.

To view all the files in this directory use the “Dir” command, which stands for directory.

Dir
How To Delete Files & Folders - Using The Windows Command Line (CMD)

Every file in this directory will be displayed at once.

If the file or directory you want to delete is located at your desktop for example use the “Cd” command to change the command prompts directory.

Simply type “Cd” followed by the folder you want to navigate into within quotes.

Cd "Desktop"

You will at once navigate into the desktop directory and from here you can use the “Dir” command once again to locate the file or folder you want to delete.

If you navigated to the wrong directory by mistake, type:

CD ..

You will immediately be navigated into the previous directory.

In a similar way you can use a combination of the “Dir” and “Cd” commands to navigate to any directory and locate any file or folder.

Deleting Folders / Directories Using CMD​

To delete a folder use the “Rmdir” command, which stands for “Remove Directory”.

Keep in mind that as the name suggests, “Rmdir” only deletes directories. Trying to delete a file using “Rmdir” will constitute in an error.

Rmdir "My Folder"

You might be wondering why we surrounded the name of our folder in quotesThe quotes tell the command line that the spaces separating the words do not constitute an additional parameter and that they are simply a part of the name of our folder.

Rmdir” without any parameters only removes folders that are empty, to delete a folder along with the files or folders within it you need to use the /S parameter.
The command would look like this:

Rmdir /S "My Folder"
How To Delete Files & Folders - Using The Windows Command Line (CMD)

After entering the command the command line will ask if you are sure you want to delete this file. Simply press “y” to confirm.

If you want to delete a folder in a directory other than your users folder you would need to start the command prompt as an administratorBe careful when deleting folders with administration privileges, the wrong command can very easily break your computer.

Deleting Files Using CMD​

The command for deleting files using the cmd is “Del“. Unlike “Rmdir“, “Del“can only delete files. Using “Del” to delete a folder will constitute in an error.

To delete a file simply type “Del” followed by the name of your file along with its extension in quotes.

Del "My File.txt"

Your file should be immediately deleted.

Once again if you file is not located in the users folder or within any of its sub-directories you would need to start the command prompt as an administrator

Be very careful however , the wrong command in an administrator command prompt can very easily break your computer.
To delete more than one file at once simply enter all the names of your files one after the other.

Del "File1.txt" "File2.txt" "File3.txt"
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Delete Many Files Or Folders At Once​ - From CMD

Entering the name of every file or folder you want to delete is not always practical.
Work smarter not harder.

You can delete every file that begins with a set of characters by using a wildcard.
Wildcards are special symbols that take the place of characters or words.
The most commonly used wildcard is the asterix

Typing “Del” followed by a set of characters that is shared among the names of the files we want to delete and an asterix, will delete all of them.

Del "File*"

Every file that begins with the word “File” will be deleted. 
To delete a set of folders instead, simply replace the Del command with Rmdir.

Similarly you can delete only files of a specific type by specifying its extension before a wildcard. With the following command for example, we can delete every text file in our current directory.

Del "*.txt"

We can even delete every file or folder by using a wildcard, all by itself.
Here is an example using the Rmdir command:

Rmdir /S "*"

Every folder in your current directory will be deleted along with any contents within it.

Be careful when deleting files and folders, the wrong command can easily delete important files and folders.

Delete Files Or Folders From Any Directory​ (CMD)

While you can use the “Rmdir” and “Del” commands to delete files and folders in your current directory, what if you want to delete a folder or file that’s located in a different directory without having to navigate there yourself?

You would have to enter your command as usual but instead of typing the name of the file or folder you want to delete directly you would have to enter the location of the target directory followed by a backward slash and then name of your folder or file.
It should look something like this:

Rmdir "C:\Users\Julian\Documents\My Folder".

In the same way you can replace “Rmdir” with any command to complete any task from any directory.

Summary:

  • Navigate to the directory the file you want to delete is located with the “CD” and “Dir” commands.
  • Use “Rmdir” to delete folders and “Del” to delete files. Don’t forget to surround the name of your folder in quotes if it contains a space.
  • Use wildcards to delete many files or folders at once.

That's It!

You now know how to delete files and folders directly from the command prompt.

If you liked this short guide take a look at a few of our other posts related to the windows command line, or if you really liked it consider enrolling in our video course where you will learn the ins and outs of the Windows command Line.

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