I am trying to remove all vim swap file *.swp and remove them with a confirmation. The find command found the files, but rm says No such file or directory with the -i option. When I hardcode the path of the file and just use rm -i then it seems to work.

See below

(doors)hobbes3@hobbes3 ~/Sites $ find mysite mysite_BAK -name *.swp -exec 'rm -i {}' \;
find: rm -i mysite/templates/.base.html.swp: No such file or directory
find: rm -i mysite/templates/doors/orders/.create.html.swp: No such file or directory
find: rm -i mysite/templates/doors/orders/.detail.html.swp: No such file or directory
find: rm -i mysite/templates/doors/orders/.list.html.swp: No such file or directory
(doors)hobbes3@hobbes3 ~/Sites $ rm -i mysite/templates/.base.html.swp 
remove mysite/templates/.base.html.swp? n

I guess I'm doing something wrong with the -exec option. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

  • Actually I just tried without the -i option and it still gave the same errors. Hmmm...
    – hobbes3
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 7:41

3 Answers 3


The error is generated by find, not rm.

The reason is that you have written it so 'rm -i <file>' is the single argument. This shall be rewritten:

find mysite mysite_BAK -name '*.swp' -exec rm -i '{}' \;

so find gets multiple arguments after "-exec" and treats the first one as command and others as the command arguments.

  • 5
    You can also leave out the quotes around {}
    – Bernhard
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 9:17
  • 2
    Good practice to use "*.swp" instead of just *.swp; The latter doesn't work in zsh, because of how the shells treat wildcards differently. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:04
  • @metasoarous thanks, it's also useful. I corrected initially only spec for '{}' but not rest of line. Zsh isn't the only for this; my bash will also fail due to "failglob" option in my default config.
    – Netch
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 14:53


if you are using bash version >4.0 you could use the globstar feature, it is very easy:

shopt -s globstar
rm -i **/*.swp

This also works with filenames that contain spaces!

The shopt -s globstar part will activate the recursive ** matching in bash. You can put this in your .bashrc and be happy forever and ever.


I usually find it easier to use simple tools combined

cd to dir and then:

rm -i `find . | grep .swp$`

its easier to remember (if performance is not an issue)!

Warning: Only use this if your filenames don't contain spaces.

  • Wow, this is really easy and helpful at the same time! Thanks! I will use this from now on instead of complex find Commented May 26, 2015 at 9:35
  • 1
    This will fail if any subdir name or filename found contains spaces.
    – Dubu
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 15:42
  • @Dubu True, i will edit to reflect that
    – polvoazul
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 4:21

In your case, I would run,

find mysite mysite_BAK -type f -name .\*.sw? -exec rm -i {} ";"

VIM's swap file does not only end in .swp. If .swp exists, VIM would create .swo, then .swn, and so on. Also, swap files are prefixed with a dot (.), e.g., .file1.rb.swp

Other ways to find and delete VIM's swap files, without the confirmation (-i):

find some_dir -type f -name .\*.sw? | xargs rm 
find some_dir -type f -name .\*.sw? -exec rm {} ";"
find some_dir -type f -name .\*.sw? -delete  # -delete option does not work in Git Bash

Without "-type f", you would get an error when deleting a directory. Also, the \ in .\*.sw? makes it compatible in multiple platforms.

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