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I have a folder with 266778 subfolders. How can I delete it?

I have tried

cd ~/.local/share/Trash/
sudo rm -rf *

but it takes much time. After 1 minute 25 seconds real time and 0.072 seconds user time it only deleted 2500 folders. This way, it will take over two hours to delete this folder.

Is there a faster way to delete this folder? Why is there such a big difference between user time and real time?

real    1m25.474s
user    0m0.072s
sys     0m28.142s

I use Linux 2.6.32 (Ubuntu 10.04.4 LTS).

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I have just googled this problem and it seems that some people have discovered that rsync can be used as a "many-files-deletion" tool quite efficiently. Whether it truly is faster remains up to you to evaluate. – Johan Mar 4 '13 at 12:51
up vote 12 down vote accepted

If your version of "find" implements the -delete sub-command, then you can try

find directory -delete

In this case:

find ~/.local/share/Trash/ -delete

Some commands, like rm, perform most of their work in the kernel. In the file-system routines, to be exact. Time spent performing system calls are accounted for in that way, so whilst your "rm" command runs for a long time, it doesn't do much work in user-land - the system calls performs most of the work.

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+1 ; though this also deletes the parent dir and I suspect the OP only wanted to delete the contents of the Trash folder not the folder itself – don_crissti Mar 4 '13 at 14:34
@don_crissti : good remark. if the OP wanted to only delete subdirs under ~/.local/share/Trash (and not files on the 1st level), then : find ~/.local/share/Trash/*/ -delete (of course, this will also delete files (and dirs) in any of those Trash/*/ subdirs as well) – Olivier Dulac Mar 4 '13 at 16:16
+1 for explaining the odd behaviour of time – Martin Thoma Mar 4 '13 at 17:53
Is find directory -delete really faster than rm -rf directory? After all, they perform the same work, and there aren't two ways to do it. – Gilles Mar 4 '13 at 23:00
@Gilles That is a good question and I believe the only reason why find is faster is because of the implementation. Now you got me curious as to the why - I will make time to trace this and find out! – Johan Mar 5 '13 at 7:55

It depends on your definition of fast. The answers already here give a good solution for actually removing the directories from the filesystem, but if what you really need is to free the directory name as fast as possible, a rename on the same filesystem is instantaneous:

{ mv directory directory.gone && rm -rf directory.gone; } &

Technically this is cheating since I haven't sped up the actual deletion, but practically it's very useful: I use this trick all the time so I don't have to wait for slow deletion operations.

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This is only a partial answer, sheding light on the three values the command returns; quoted from the time(1) manpage:

(i) the elapsed real time between invocation and termination, (ii) the user CPU time (the sum of the tms_utime and tms_cutime values in a struct tms as returned by times(2)), and (iii) the system CPU time (the sum of the tms_stime and tms_cstime values in a struct tms as returned by times(2))."

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