How to Remove a Non-Empty Folder in Python?

Problem Formulation:

  • Given a path to a folder as a Python string. The folder is non-empty.
  • How to remove the whole folder in your Python script?

Example: Say, you have the path='path/to/folder' in your Python script and it contains some files and subfolders:

path
--to
----folder
------file1.dat
------file2.dat
------subfolder1
--------file3.dat
------subfolder2
--------file4.dat

You want to remove all the bold content in the previous example folder structure.

Method 1: Remove Files At Once with shutil.rmtree()

The module shutil provides a function rmtree() that removes all folders and files recursively from a given path.

import shutil

# String path of folder to be removed:
path = 'path/to/folder'

# Remove the folder recursively:
shutil.rmtree(path)

The shutil.rmtree() function deletes the entire directory tree at the provided path pointing to a directory (not a file or a symbolic link of a directory).

Note that read-only files cannot be removed from a folder using this utility because they are, well, read only. That’s why it’ll throw an error when you try to remove read-only files. If you want to remove the remaining folder contents regardless, you need to set the optional argument ignore_errors.

shutil.rmtree(path, ignore_errors=True)

However, the read-only files won’t be removed in any case!

Method 2: Remove Files Individually with os.walk()

A more fine-grained approach is provided by the os.walk() function:

import os

# String path of folder to be removed:
path = 'path/to/folder'

# Remove the folder by walking through the files (from the bottom up):
for root, dirs, files in os.walk(path, topdown=False):
    for name in files:
        os.remove(os.path.join(root, name))
    for name in dirs:
        os.rmdir(os.path.join(root, name))

ATTENTION: Before using this code make sure it’s tailored to your specific problem as it can potentially remove all files in your operating system if you specify your top-level path as ‘/’ or any other root path in your specific operating system.

  • The os.walk(path, topdown=False) method provides an iterator over all files at the given path. The topdown=False argument ensures that you move from the bottom up, i.e., you first remove all the contents of a folder before deleting the folder itself.
  • The os.remove(os.path.join(root, name)) method removes the file at the location root + name where name is the file suffix (e.g., 'file.dat') and root is the path to this file (e.g., '/path/to/file/').
  • The os.rmdir(os.path.join(root, name)) method removes the folder at the location root + name where name is the folder suffix (e.g., 'file.dat') and root is the path to this file (e.g., '/path/to/file/').

Method 3: Walking over Files and Folders Using pathlib

import pathlib


# String path of folder to be removed:
path = 'path/to/folder'

# Remove the folder
del_folder(path):
    for sub in path.iterdir():
        if sub.is_dir():
            # Delete folder if it is a folder
            del_folder(sub)
        else :
            # Delete file if it is a file:
            sub.unlink()
    
    # This removes the top-level folder:
    path.rmdir()

del_folder(pathlib.Path(path))

Resources:

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