Windows – What’s the fastest way to delete a large folder in Windows

file-managementwindowswindows-xp

I want to delete a folder that contains thousands of files and folders. If I use Windows Explorer to delete the folder it can take 10-15 minutes (not always, but often). Is there a faster way in Windows to delete folders?

Other details:

  • I don't care about the recycle bin.
  • It's an NTFS drive.

Best Solution

The worst way is to send to Recycle Bin: you still need to delete them. Next worst is shift+delete with Windows Explorer: it wastes loads of time checking the contents before starting deleting anything.

Next best is to use rmdir /s/q foldername from the command line. del /f/s/q foldername is good too, but it leaves behind the directory structure.

The best I've found is a two line batch file with a first pass to delete files and outputs to nul to avoid the overhead of writing to screen for every singe file. A second pass then cleans up the remaining directory structure:

del /f/s/q foldername > nul
rmdir /s/q foldername

This is nearly three times faster than a single rmdir, based on time tests with a Windows XP encrypted disk, deleting ~30GB/1,000,000 files/15,000 folders: rmdir takes ~2.5 hours, del+rmdir takes ~53 minutes. More info at Super User.

This is a regular task for me, so I usually move the stuff I need to delete to C:\stufftodelete and have those del+rmdir commands in a deletestuff.bat batch file. This is scheduled to run at night, but sometimes I need to run it during the day so the quicker the better.

Technet documentation for del command can be found here. Additional info on the parameters used above:

  • /f - Force (i.e. delete files even if they're read only)
  • /s - Recursive / Include Subfolders (this definition from SS64, as technet simply states "specified files", which isn't helpful).
  • /q - Quiet (i.e. do not prompt user for confirmation)

Documentation for rmdir here. Parameters are:

  • /s - Recursive (i.e. same as del's /s parameter)
  • /q - Quiet (i.e. same as del's /q parameter)
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