Remove a symlink to a directory

Matthew Scouten Source

I have a symlink to an important directory. I want to get rid of that symlink, while keeping the directory behind it.

I tried rm and get back rm: cannot remove 'foo'.
I tried rmdir and got back rmdir: failed to remove 'foo': Directory not empty
I then progressed through rm -f, rm -rf and sudo rm -rf

Then I went to find my back-ups.

Is there a way to get rid of the symlink with out throwing away the baby with the bathwater?



answered 10 years ago Greg Hewgill #1

If rm cannot remove a symlink, perhaps you need to look at the permissions on the directory that contains the symlink. To remove directory entries, you need write permission on the containing directory.

answered 10 years ago Joe Phillips #2

use the "unlink" command and make sure not to have the / at the end

$ unlink mySymLink

unlink() deletes a name from the file system. If that name was the last link to a file and no processes have the file open the file is deleted and the space it was using is made available for reuse. If the name was the last link to a file but any processes still have the file open the file will remain in existence until the last file descriptor referring to it is closed.

I think this may be problematic if I'm reading it correctly.

If the name referred to a symbolic link the link is removed.

If the name referred to a socket, fifo or device the name for it is removed but processes which have the object open may continue to use it.

answered 10 years ago Matthew Scharley #3

# this works
rm foo
# versus
rm foo/

Basically, you need to tell it to delete a file, not delete a directory. I believe the difference between rm and rmdir exists because of differences in the way the C library treats each.

At any rate, the first should work, while the second should complain about foo being a directory.

If it doesn't work as above, then check your permissions. You need write permission to the containing directory to remove files.

answered 10 years ago tj111 #4

Assuming your setup is something like: ln -s /mnt/bar ~/foo, then you should be able to do a rm foo with no problem. If you can't, make sure you are the owner of the foo and have permission to write/execute the file. Removing foo will not touch bar, unless you do it recursively.

answered 10 years ago Steve K #5

rm should remove the symbolic link.

[email protected]:~$ mkdir bar
[email protected]:~$ ln -s bar foo
[email protected]:~$ ls -l foo
lrwxrwxrwx 1 skrall skrall 3 2008-10-16 16:22 foo -> bar
[email protected]:~$ rm foo
[email protected]:~$ ls -l foo
ls: cannot access foo: No such file or directory
[email protected]:~$ ls -l bar
total 0
[email protected]:~$ 

answered 10 years ago Joshua #6

Assuming it actually is a symlink,

$ rm -d symlink

It should figure it out, but since it can't we enable the latent code that was intended for another case that no longer exists but happens to do the right thing here.

answered 6 years ago DeeEss09 #7

Use rm symlinkname but do not include a forward slash at the end (do not use: rm symlinkname/). You will then be asked if you want to remove the symlink, y to answer yes.

answered 4 years ago Yuri #8

On CentOS, just run rm linkname and it will ask to "remove symbolic link?". Type Y and Enter, the link will be gone and the directory be safe.

answered 8 months ago Keith Whittingham #9

I had this problem with MinGW (actually Git Bash) running on a Windows Server. None of the above suggestions seemed to work. In the end a made a copy of the directory in case then deleted the soft link in Windows Explorer then deleted the item in the Recycle Bin. It made noises like it was deleting the files but didn't. Do make a backup though!

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