Linux – Argument list too long error for rm, cp, mv commands

command-line-argumentslinuxunix

I have several hundred PDFs under a directory in UNIX. The names of the PDFs are really long (approx. 60 chars).

When I try to delete all PDFs together using the following command:

rm -f *.pdf

I get the following error:

/bin/rm: cannot execute [Argument list too long]

What is the solution to this error?
Does this error occur for mv and cp commands as well? If yes, how to solve for these commands?

Best Solution

The reason this occurs is because bash actually expands the asterisk to every matching file, producing a very long command line.

Try this:

find . -name "*.pdf" -print0 | xargs -0 rm

Warning: this is a recursive search and will find (and delete) files in subdirectories as well. Tack on -f to the rm command only if you are sure you don't want confirmation.

You can do the following to make the command non-recursive:

find . -maxdepth 1 -name "*.pdf" -print0 | xargs -0 rm

Another option is to use find's -delete flag:

find . -name "*.pdf" -delete
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