3 Ways to Delete All Files in a Directory Except One or Few Files with Extensions

Sometimes you get into a situation where you need to delete all files in a directory or simply cleanup a directory by removing all files except files of a given type (ending with a particular extension).

In this article, we will show you how to delete files in a directory except certain file extensions or types using rm, find and globignore commands.

Before we move any further, let us start by briefly having a look at one important concept in Linux – filename pattern matching, which will enable us to deal with our issue at hand.

Suggested Read: Use find Command to Search Multiple Filenames/Extensions in Linux

In Linux, a shell pattern is a string that consists of the following special characters, which are referred to as wildcards or metacharacters:

  1. * – matches zero or more characters
  2. ? – matches any single character
  3. [seq] – matches any character in seq
  4. [!seq] – matches any character not in seq

There are three possible methods we shall explore here, and these include:

Delete Files Using Extended Pattern Matching Operators

The different extended pattern matching operators are listed below, where pattern-list is a list containing one or more filenames, separated using the | character:

  1. *(pattern-list) – matches zero or more occurrences of the specified patterns
  2. ?(pattern-list) – matches zero or one occurrence of the specified patterns
  3. +(pattern-list) – matches one or more occurrences of the specified patterns
  4. @(pattern-list) – matches one of the specified patterns
  5. !(pattern-list) – matches anything except one of the given patterns

To use them, enable the extglob shell option as follows:

# shopt -s extglob

1. To delete all files in a directory except filename, type the command below:

$ rm -v !("filename")
Delete All Files Except One File in Linux

Delete All Files Except One File in Linux

2. To delete all files with the exception of filename1 and filename2:

$ rm -v !("filename1"|"filename2") 
Delete All Files Except Few Files in Linux

Delete All Files Except Few Files in Linux

3. The example below shows how to remove all files other than all .zip files interactively:

$ rm -i !(*.zip)
Delete All Files Except Zip Files in Linux

Delete All Files Except Zip Files in Linux

4. Next, you can delete all files in a directory apart from all .zip and .odt files as follows, while displaying what is being done:

$ rm -v !(*.zip|*.odt)
Delete All Files Except Certain File Extensions

Delete All Files Except Certain File Extensions

Once you have all the required commands, turn off the extglob shell option like so:

$ shopt -u extglob

Delete Files Using Linux find Command

Under this method, we can use find command exclusively with appropriate options or in conjunction with xargs command by employing a pipeline as in the forms below:

$ find /directory/ -type f -not -name 'PATTERN' -delete
$ find /directory/ -type f -not -name 'PATTERN' -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} rm {}
$ find /directory/ -type f -not -name 'PATTERN' -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} rm [options] {}

5. The following command will delete all files apart from .gz files in the current directory:

$ find . -type f -not -name '*.gz'-delete
Command find - Remove All Files Except .gz Files

Command find – Remove All Files Except .gz Files

6. Using a pipeline and xargs, you can modify the case above as follows:

$ find . -type f -not -name '*gz' -print0 | xargs -0  -I {} rm -v {}
Remove Files Using find and xargs Commands

Remove Files Using find and xargs Commands

7. Let us look at one additional example, the command below will wipe out all files excluding .gz, .odt, and .jpg files in the current directory:

$ find . -type f -not \(-name '*gz' -or -name '*odt' -or -name '*.jpg' \) -delete
Remove All Files Except File Extensions

Remove All Files Except File Extensions

Delete Files Using Bash GLOBIGNORE Variable

This last approach however, only works with bash. Here, the GLOBIGNORE variable stores a colon-separated pattern-list (filenames) to be ignored by pathname expansion.

Suggested Read: Useful 12 Practical Examples on Grep Command in Linux

To employ this method, move into the directory that you wish to clean up, then set the GLOBIGNORE variable as follows:

$ cd test
$ GLOBIGNORE=*.odt:*.iso:*.txt

In this instance, all files other than .odt, .iso, and .txt files with be removed from the current directory.

Now run the command to clean up the directory:

$ rm -v *

Afterwards, turn off GLOBIGNORE variable:

$ unset GLOBIGNORE
Delete Files Using Bash GLOBIGNORE Variable

Delete Files Using Bash GLOBIGNORE Variable

Note: To understand the meaning of the flags employed in the commands above, refer to the man pages of each command we have used in the various illustrations.

Thats all! If you have any other command line techniques in mind for the same purpose, do not forget to share with us via our feedback section below.

If You Appreciate What We Do Here On TecMint, You Should Consider:

TecMint is the fastest growing and most trusted community site for any kind of Linux Articles, Guides and Books on the web. Millions of people visit TecMint! to search or browse the thousands of published articles available FREELY to all.

If you like what you are reading, please consider buying us a coffee ( or 2 ) as a token of appreciation.

Support Us

We are thankful for your never ending support.

Aaron Kili

Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

Your name can also be listed here. Got a tip? Submit it here to become an TecMint author.

RedHat RHCE and RHCSA Certification Book
Linux Foundation LFCS and LFCE Certification Preparation Guide

You may also like...

14 Responses

  1. mekkanizer says:

    Hello, thank you for removing my valuable files. At least make a note that your shopt method does NOT work for directories (e.g. rm -rfv !(“dirname”))

    • Aaron Kili says:

      @Mekkanizer

      Oh sorry about losing your valuable files, but the heading/title is clear enough deleting of files with a particular extension. And the commands all show deleting of files e.g $ rm -v !("filename") not directory name. Next time don’t try what is out of the scope a guide expecting the same results.

  2. Bryan says:

    If the directory contains sub-directories, which may or may not contain file/s of a particular extension, how to delete all other files recursively from the sub-directories as well, without deleting our file/s of particular extension.

  3. Anand says:

    what is shopt -s extglob? and why can’t i able to delete without using this command like rm -v !(“*.gz”).

  4. Javier Huaman Martinez says:

    Perfect information.
    Thanks

  5. Dave Lane says:

    Nice tips, thanks for that, my only concern is that, if you get anything wrong, you’ll delete the files you don’t want to delete… I would’ve thought it’d better to move the file you want to save elsewhere temporarily, and then remove all the files in the directory and replace the one(s) you want to keep…

    • Aaron Kili says:

      @Dave

      Welcome, and nice tip as well. Things may go wrong especially when you type a wrong command, as you have mentioned, it is always a good practice to do a backup before removing files.

      • Greg P says:

        There probably should be some sort of saying that “two negative commands does not make for a positive result”, especially when you don’t have some undo method. So removing except for some kinds of files just seems a bit scary.

        Backing up before you do this seems like extra work. At any rate, I typically will try to find a nondestructive operation like ls to make sure something like this does what I want before I would even consider using rm.

        In particular, a nondestructive command that specifically lists what you will delete with rm the best. Maybe using mv first would be a good idea.

        • Aaron Kili says:

          @Greg

          Well said and its a good tip as you have explained here, however, cleaning up a directory by removing all files except a few would probably be a user’s intention. And before doing any removal of files, one must know why he/she is doing so, whether to remove old files of a particular type or just create more space on disk and so on.

          Lastly, the aim of the article is to provide a solution for a scenario where you can clear all files in a directory but need to leave those that end with a given extension.

  6. djf says:

    Obscure & good!!

    find I have used – but the other two are new – and until now unknown to me. But they are in my linux database thanks to you. ;-)

  7. sedlav says:

    Curiously all tools (rm, find, shopt) and mainly concepts (GLOBIGNORE, wildcard) mentioned here comes from GNU project but you give all credit to the Linux project I think this is a not correct position about the GNU Project which deserve as credit as Linux Project.

    • Aaron Kili says:

      @sedlav

      This is a important concern in relation to support for F.O.S.S in general, we shall do as you have said in every future article. However, we have always given credit to both the Linux and GNU projects in the past.

Got something to say? Join the discussion.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.