rm all files except some

0 votes
asked Dec 1, 2010 by masjoko

When using sudo rm -r, how can I delete all files, with the exception of the following:


14 Answers

0 votes
answered Jan 1, 2010 by mishunika

You can write a for loop for this... %)

for x in *
        if [ "$x" != "exclude_criteria" ]
                rm -f $x;
0 votes
answered Dec 1, 2010 by darioo

find . | grep -v "excluded files criteria" | xargs rm

This will list all files in current directory, then list all those that don't match your criteria (beware of it matching directory names) and then remove them.

Update: based on your edit, if you really want to delete everything from current directory except files you listed, this can be used:

mkdir /tmp_backup && mv textfile.txt backup.tar.gz script.php database.sql info.txt /tmp_backup/ && rm -r && mv /tmp_backup/* . && rmdir /tmp_backup

It will create a backup directory /tmp_backup (you've got root privileges, right?), move files you listed to that directory, delete recursively everything in current directory (you know that you're in the right directory, do you?), move back to current directory everything from /tmp_backup and finally, delete /tmp_backup.

I choose the backup directory to be in root, because if you're trying to delete everything recursively from root, your system will have big problems.

Surely there are more elegant ways to do this, but this one is pretty straightforward.

0 votes
answered Dec 1, 2010 by awi
find [path] -type f -not -name 'textfile.txt' -not -name 'backup.tar.gz' -delete

If you don't specify -type f find will also list directories, which you may not want.

Or a more general solution using the very useful combination find | xargs:

find [path] -type f -not -name 'EXPR' -print0 | xargs -0 rm --

for example, delete all non txt-files in the current directory:

find . -type f -not -name '*txt' -print0 | xargs -0 rm --

The print0 and -0 combination is needed if there are spaces in any of the filenames that should be deleted.

0 votes
answered Dec 1, 2010 by dennis-williamson

Assuming that files with those names exist in multiple places in the directory tree and you want to preserve all of them:

find . -type f ! -regex ".*/\(textfile.txt\|backup.tar.gz\|script.php\|database.sql\|info.txt\)" -delete
0 votes
answered Jan 4, 2012 by theharshest

You can use GLOBIGNORE environment variable in Bash.

Suppose you want to delete all files except php and sql, then you can do the following -

export GLOBIGNORE=*.php:*.sql
rm *

Setting GLOBIGNORE like this ignores php and sql from wildcards used like "ls *" or "rm *". So, using "rm *" after setting the variable will delete only txt and tar.gz file.

0 votes
answered Jan 21, 2012 by gniourf-gniourf

Since nobody mentioned it:

  • copy the files you don't want to delete in a safe place
  • delete all the files
  • move the copied files back in place
0 votes
answered Jan 1, 2013 by ajeesh

Rather than going for a direct command, please move required files to temp dir outside current dir. Then delete all files using rm * or rm -r *.

Then move required files to current dir.

0 votes
answered Dec 5, 2013 by pl1nk
rm !(textfile.txt|backup.tar.gz|script.php|database.sql|info.txt)

The extglob (Extended Pattern Matching) needs to be enabled in BASH (if it's not enabled):

shopt -s extglob
0 votes
answered Jan 10, 2014 by captainkinematics

A little late for the OP, but hopefully useful for anyone who gets here much later by google...

I found the answer by @awi and comment on -delete by @Jamie Bullock really useful. A simple utility so you can do this in different directories ignoring different file names/types each time with minimal typing:

rm_except (or whatever you want to name it)



for fignore in "$@"; do
  ignore=${ignore}"-not -name ${fignore} "

find . -type f $ignore -delete

e.g. to delete everything except for text files and foo.bar:

rm_except *.txt foo.bar 

Similar to @mishunika, but without the if clause.

0 votes
answered Jan 8, 2015 by juanfal

Trying it worked with:

rm -r !(Applications|"Virtualbox VMs"|Downloads|Documents|Desktop|Public)

but names with spaces are (as always) tough. Tried also with Virtualbox\ VMs instead the quotes. It deletes always that directory (Virtualbox VMs).

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