MirBSD manpage: rm(1)

RM(1)                        BSD Reference Manual                        RM(1)


     rm - remove directory entries


     rm [-f | -i] [-dPRrv] file ...


     The rm utility attempts to remove the non-directory type files specified
     on the command line. If the permissions of the file do not permit writ-
     ing, and the standard input device is a terminal, the user is prompted
     (on the standard error output) for confirmation.

     The options are as follows:

     -d      Attempt to remove directories as well as other types of files.

     -f      Attempt to remove the files without prompting for confirmation,
             regardless of the file's permissions. If the file does not exist,
             do not display a diagnostic message or modify the exit status to
             reflect an error. The -f option overrides any previous -i op-

     -i      Request confirmation before attempting to remove each file, re-
             gardless of the file's permissions, or whether or not the stan-
             dard input device is a terminal. The -i option overrides any pre-
             vious -f options.

     -P      Overwrite regular files before deleting them. Files are overwrit-
             ten three times, first with the byte pattern 0xAA, then 0x55, and
             then with random data, before they are deleted. Some care is tak-
             en to ensure that the data are actually written to disk, but this
             cannot be guaranteed, even on traditional filesystems; on log-
             structured filesystems or if any block-journaling scheme is in
             use, this option is completely useless. If the file cannot be
             overwritten, it will not be removed.

             Files with multiple links will not be overwritten. If the -f op-
             tion is given, they will still be removed, otherwise, they will
             remain untouched.

             Entries are renamed to the basename "rm.XXXXXXXX" (where 'X' are
             generated randomly) within the same parent directory before re-
             moving, if the length of the generated total pathname will not
             overflow the buffer. This prevents recovery of (almost) all
             basenames as well.

     -R      Attempt to remove the file hierarchy rooted in each file argu-
             ment. The -R option implies the -d option. If the -i option is
             specified, the user is prompted for confirmation before each
             directory's contents are processed (as well as before the attempt
             is made to remove the directory). If the user does not respond
             affirmatively, the file hierarchy rooted in that directory is

     -r      Equivalent to -R.

     -v      Cause rm to be verbose, showing files as they are processed.

     The rm utility removes symbolic links, not the files referenced by the

     It is an error to attempt to remove the files "." or "..". It is forbid-
     den to remove the file ".." merely to avoid the antisocial consequences
     of inadvertently doing something like "rm -r .*".

     The rm utility exits 0 if all of the named files or file hierarchies were
     removed, or if the -f option was specified and all of the existing files
     or file hierarchies were removed. If an error occurs, rm exits with a
     value >0.


     Recursively remove all files contained within the foobar directory

           $ rm -rf foobar

     rm uses getopt(3) standard argument processing. Removing filenames that
     begin with a dash (e.g., -file) in the current directory which might oth-
     erwise be taken as option flags to rm can be accomplished as follows:

     rm -- -file


     rm ./-file


     rmdir(1), unlink(2), arc4random(3), fts(3), getopt(3), symlink(7)


     The rm utility differs from historical implementations in that the -f op-
     tion only masks attempts to remove non-existent files instead of masking
     a large variety of errors.

     Also, historical BSD implementations prompted on the standard output, not
     the standard error output.

     The interactive mode used to be a dsw command, a carryover from the an-
     cient past with an amusing etymology.

     The rm utility is almost IEEE Std 1003.2 ("POSIX.2") compatible, except
     that POSIX requires rm to act like rmdir(1) when the file specified is a
     directory. This implementation requires the -d option if such behavior is
     desired. This follows the historical behavior of rm with respect to

     The -v option is an extension.

     The -P option attempts to conform to U.S. DoD 5220-22.M, "National Indus-
     trial Security Program Operating Manual" ("NISPOM") as updated by Change
     2 and the July 23, 2003 "Clearing & Sanitization Matrix". However, unlike
     earlier revisions of NISPOM, the 2003 matrix imposes requirements which
     make it clear that the standard does not and can not apply to the erasure
     of individual files, in particular requirements relating to spare sector
     management for an entire magnetic disk. Because these requirements are
     not met, the -P option does not conform to the standard.


     An rm command appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.

     Modification of the -P option to overwrite with random content and rename
     entries to random filenames before removal appeared in MirBSD #10.


     The -P option assumes that the underlying filesystem is a fixed-block
     file system. FFS is a fixed-block filesystem, LFS is not. In addition,
     only regular files are overwritten, other types of files are not. Recent
     research indicates that as many as 35 overwrite passes with carefully
     chosen data patterns may be necessary to actually prevent recovery of
     data from a magnetic disk. Thus the -P option is likely both insufficient
     for its design purpose and far too costly for default operation. However,
     it will at least prevent the recovery of data from FFS volumes with

MirBSD #10-current              August 7, 2017                               2

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