What is rm command for windows?

The rm command in Windows is used to delete files and directories. It works similarly to the rm command in Linux and Unix systems. rm stands for “remove”. When you run the rm command on a file, it will immediately and permanently delete that file. There is no way to recover a file that has been removed with rm, so caution should be exercised when using this command.

Quick Answer Summary

  • rm is the remove command in Windows that deletes files and directories.
  • It works like rm in Linux/Unix to permanently delete files with no way to recover them.
  • The basic syntax is rm filename or rmdir directoryname
  • Use the /s switch to delete directories recursively.
  • Use /q for quiet/silent deletion with no confirmation prompts.
  • rm and rmdir commands are available in the Windows Command Prompt.

How the rm command works in Windows

The rm command is built into Windows and accessible from the Command Prompt. It allows you to delete files and directories by typing rm followed by the path or filename you want to remove. For example:

rm myfile.txt

This will immediately and permanently delete the file myfile.txt without sending it to the Recycle Bin. Be very careful when using rm on important files, as there is no way to recover them after running this command.

For directories, you need to use the rmdir or rd command instead of just rm. This will remove the directory if it is empty. For example:

rmdir mydirectory

If the directory contains files or other directories, the rmdir command will fail and display an error that the directory is not empty. In that case, you need to use the /s switch to recursively delete the contents of the directory and then the directory itself.

Basic rm and rmdir Syntax

Here is a summary of the basic syntax for the rm and rmdir commands in Windows:

rm filename – Deletes the specified file

rmdir directoryname – Removes the specified empty directory

rmdir /s directoryname – Removes the specified directory and all its contents recursively

Useful Switches for rm

The rm command has a few helpful switches you can use to change its behavior:

  • /s – Delete directories and their contents recursively
  • /q – Quiet mode, delete files without confirmation prompts
  • /f – Force deletion and suppress error messages

For example, to recursively delete an entire directory tree quietly:

rm /s /q mydirectory

Differences Between rm and del

Windows also has the del command, which works similarly to rm. However, there are a couple important differences:

  • del sends deleted files to the Recycle Bin, rm does not.
  • del cannot delete directories, only individual files.
  • del prompts for confirmation before deleting by default.
  • rm is more dangerous since it performs permanent deletion.

In general, del is safer for deleting individual files, while rm is used when you really want files gone for good.

Using rm with Wildcards

The rm command supports wildcards like * and ? to delete multiple files at once. For example:

rm *.tmp

This will delete all files ending in .tmp in the current directory. Or:

rm ??.txt

Will delete all .txt files with two letter names. Use wildcards carefully with rm to avoid accidentally deleting important files.

Recovering Files Deleted with rm

As mentioned previously, files removed with the rm command are immediately deleted and cannot be recovered through any built-in Windows tools. However, there are a few options if you need to try to recover a file deleted by rm:

  • Use third party data recovery software to scan the drive and find deleted files.
  • Restore from backups you have made previously.
  • On SSD drives, use special low-level recovery tools.
  • Recover data from shadow copies and system restore points (if enabled).

But there are no guarantees when recovering deleted files. The sooner you act, the better your chances are if you need to restore a file removed by rm.

Important Tips When Using rm

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when using the rm command in Windows:

  • Test commands first on disposable sample files/directories to make sure rm will work as expected.
  • Be extremely careful when using rm with wildcards (* and ?) to avoid unintended deletions.
  • Use the /s switch carefully to recursively delete entire folder trees – make sure that is your intent.
  • Consider using del for individual file deletions instead since it is safer and sends files to the Recycle Bin.
  • Back up important files and folders before using rm so you have restoration options.

Alternatives to the rm Command

If you are looking for a safer alternative to rm for deleting files in Windows, here are some other options:

  • Use the Recycle Bin and File Explorer for deleting individual files.
  • Shift+Delete bypasses the Recycle Bin but has confirmation prompts.
  • The del command sends files to the Recycle Bin.
  • Third party tools like File Shredder securely delete files.
  • PowerShell has Remove-Item for file deletion with more options.

In most cases, it is better to avoid the permanent file deletion of rm unless absolutely required. The above alternatives can provide more flexibility and safety when removing files in Windows.


The rm command is used in Windows to permanently delete files and directories without sending them to the Recycle Bin. It works similarly to rm on Linux/Unix systems. Take caution when running rm to avoid accidentally deleting important files, as they cannot be recovered using built-in Windows tools once removed with rm.

Use switches like /s and /q to recursively delete folders or suppress confirmation prompts. Rm should be used with care, testing first on disposable files. For most day-to-day file deletions, the Recycle Bin or del command are safer choices than rm. But when you absolutely need to permanently delete files beyond recovery, rm can accomplish the task – just be cautious whenever using it.

Command Description
rm filename Deletes the specified file
rmdir directory Deletes the specified empty directory
rm /s directory Recursively deletes the directory and contents
rm /q file Quietly deletes file with no confirmation prompt
rm *.tmp Deletes all .tmp files in current directory

This summarizes the key commands, syntax, and things to know about using rm to delete files and directories on Windows systems. Use this dangerous but powerful command carefully and make sure you have backups of anything important before permanently removing it with rm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you recover files deleted with rm?

Files deleted with the rm command cannot be recovered through built-in Windows tools. However, third party data recovery software or manual disk scanning methods sometimes make it possible to restore deleted files. But there are no guarantees and the sooner you act, the better your chances.

Is rm the same as del?

Rm and del are similar Windows commands for deleting files, but del sends deleted files to the Recycle Bin while rm performs permanent deletion. Del also cannot remove directories.

How do I delete a folder with rm?

To delete an empty folder with rm, use rmdir foldername. To delete a folder and all its contents recursively, use rm /s foldername.

What happens if you rm System32?

Deleting the critical Windows System32 folder with rm will render your operating system unusable. Never run destructive rm commands on vital system folders unless you want to damage your Windows installation.

Can you rmdir a full directory?

No, rmdir will display an error if trying to remove a directory that contains files or other folders. You must use rm /s to recursively delete populated directories.

Is there an rm command for Mac?

Yes, MacOS and Linux both include an rm command that works similarly to the Windows version. It permanently deletes files without sending them to a trash folder. The same cautions apply when using rm on any platform.

Example usages of the rm command

Here are some examples of using rm in various scenarios:

Delete a single file:

rm file.txt

Delete multiple files:

rm file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt

Delete files matching a pattern:

rm *.tmp

Recursively delete a directory:

rm /s myfolder

Quietly delete a file without confirmation:

rm /q mylog.log

Force delete read-only files:

rm /f important.docx

These provide a sampling of rm usage to permanently delete files or folders. Always test first and be cautious when running destructive rm commands.


In summary, the rm command is a powerful but dangerous way to permanently delete files and directories in Windows. Use it with extreme caution and make sure to have backups of anything important. For most day-to-day file deleting tasks, sending files to the Recycle Bin with File Explorer or del is safer than rm. But when you absolutely need to obliterate files beyond recovery, rm can get the job done – just be very careful whenever you use it!