System: Linux Mint 19 Cinnamon.

Shell: Bash version 4.4.19(1).


Along with hundreds of testing scenarios, I must have created countless of temporary installation directories with files as their content, which I need to delete every time manually. It looks like this:

$ ls --group-directories-first --classify

test1/  test2/  testA/  testFin/  decrypt-file-aes256*  encrypt-file-aes256*  Makefile  openssl-encryption.tar.xz  openssl-encryption.tar.xz.asc  SHA512SUM

I want to automatize this cleanup process.


I have found the find command can be very useful, e.g.:

find . -maxdepth 1 -type d -exec rm -rf {} +

This, in my early tests from the terminal, showed to be working, but before I put it into my Makefile, clean target, I want to ask if there is any safety measure I should take into account?

That example, however, produces a small error:

rm: refusing to remove '.' or '..' directory: skipping '.'

How to go about being more specific here?

Current re-factored 'clean' Makefile target


    @echo; tput bold; tput setaf 3; echo Target: $@; tput sgr0; echo

    @if [ $$(id --user) -eq 0 ]; then \
        tput bold; tput setaf 1; echo "ERROR: Target '$@' has to be run as normal user!"; tput sgr0; echo; exit 1; \

    @if [ ! -f .safeclean-$(distrib_name) ]; then \
        tput bold; tput setaf 1; echo "ERROR: Target '$@' has to be run from within its Makefile's directory!"; tput sgr0; echo; exit 1; \

    @ls -l | grep '^d' > /dev/null || echo "There are no more directories."

    @for dir in *; do \
        if [ -d "$$dir" ]; then rm --force --recursive --verbose "$$dir"; fi \

    @rm --force --verbose $(distrib_name).tar.xz $(distrib_name).tar.xz.asc

    @echo; tput bold; tput setaf 2; echo "Ok. Directory clean successful."; tput sgr0

Example output (visual)

Example output (visual)


First of all, please be extra careful before doing find + rm in a Makefile.

Having said that, you may find it easier to script it:

        test -f .safefile && \
        for fn in * ; do \
                test -d "$$fn" && rm -rf "$$fn" ; \

Where .safefile is a file that should exist in your top-level directory. It will ensure that you don't run this from a different location by mistake.

The additional benefit is that you can also add logic to it when you need to.

  • The loop could possibly be removed and replaced by rm -rf */ unless there are several thousands of directories. If the directories are all called test* (as in the question), then rm -rf test*/ would do it. – Kusalananda Oct 15 '18 at 6:51

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