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38.3 Deleting Files with Dired

One of the most frequent uses of Dired is to first flag files for deletion, then delete the files that were flagged.


Flag this file for deletion.


Remove deletion flag on this line.


Move point to previous line and remove the deletion flag on that line.


Delete the files that are flagged for deletion.

You can flag a file for deletion by moving to the line describing the file and typing d (dired-flag-file-deletion). The deletion flag is visible as a ‘D’ at the beginning of the line. This command moves point to the next line, so that repeated d commands flag successive files. A numeric argument serves as a repeat count.

The reason for flagging files for deletion, rather than deleting files immediately, is to reduce the danger of deleting a file accidentally. Until you direct Dired to delete the flagged files, you can remove deletion flags using the commands u and <DEL>. u (dired-unmark) works just like d, but removes flags rather than making flags. <DEL> (dired-unmark-backward) moves upward, removing flags; it is like u with argument -1.

To delete the flagged files, type x (dired-do-flagged-delete). (This is also known as expunging.) This command first displays a list of all the file names flagged for deletion, and requests confirmation with yes. If you confirm, Dired deletes the flagged files, then deletes their lines from the text of the Dired buffer. The Dired buffer, with somewhat fewer lines, remains selected.

If you answer no or quit with C-g when asked to confirm, you return immediately to Dired, with the deletion flags still present in the buffer, and no files actually deleted.

You can delete empty directories just like other files, but normally Dired cannot delete directories that are nonempty. If the variable dired-recursive-deletes is non-nil, then Dired can delete nonempty directories including all their contents. That can be somewhat risky.

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