Windows PowerShell Remove-Item

Windows PowerShell Remove-Item (Del)

Warning:  I have been unusually cautious on this page, because if a delete script goes wrong and forces a delete of the wrong files it could be disastrous.  Hundreds of people will succeed no trouble, but I do worry about that one person who gets the wrong end of Remove-Item and deletes the wrong files.

Note 1: There is no PowerShell Delete-Item cmdlet it’s Remove-Item

Windows PowerShell Remove-Item Progression


Delete-Item Safety Measures

Before deleting files or erasing stuff, I advise you to see what happens with Get-Item before you unleash Remove-Item.

When testing a deletion script my idea is to create folder called C:\GuyStuff\ then create a few files in this folder.

PowerShell Script To Create Test Folder and Files

This is in preparation, my idea is that we delete test files and not existing ones.

# PowerShell Create Folder and Files
New-Item C:\GuyStuff -type directory -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
for ( $i = 1; $i -le 5; $i+=1 ) {
New-Item C:\GuyStuff\BadFile$i.txt -type file -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Write-Host "$i Files created"

Preparation – Run Get-Item

#PowerShell Script to List Files
Get-Item C:\GuyStuff\*.*

Actually Delete Files – PowerShell Remove-Item Example

#PowerShell Remove-Item Example to Delete Files
$BadFile = Get-Item c:\GuyStuff\*.*
$BadFile | Remove-Item -force
Get-Item C:\GuyStuff\

Note 2:  This script features the -force switch to zap protected files.

Note 3: The verb is remove, there is no such built-in cmdlet as Delete-Item.

Note 4:  For an advanced real-life Remove-Item script see here.

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Remove-Item -WhatIf Safety Parameter

One of my very few warnings is before you use Remove-Item for a real task append the -WhatIf switch.

#PowerShell Script to Mimic Deleting Files
$BadFile = Get-Item c:\GuyStuff\*.*
$BadFile | Remove-Item -WhatIf -force
Get-Item C:\GuyStuff\*.*

Further Research on Remove-Item

PowerShell’s Remove-Item Parameters

# PowerShell Remove-Item Parameters
Get-Help Remove-Item -full

Checking the help file will reveal useful parameters, for instance -force -exclude.  Dare I tell you that there is also -recurse, but in the case of Remove-Item, use that parameter with the utmost care.

Remove-Item Aliases Del and Erase

Check the aliases with this little script:

# PowerShell Remove-Item Alias
Get-Alias -definition Remove-Item

Note 5: There is no actual PowerShell Delete-Item cmdlet, however, there is a ‘del’ alias.

With Microsoft, there are always at least three ways of doing everything, what seems like redundancy when you are an expert, seems like perspective when you are a beginner.  As you increase your range of PowerShell commands, keep an eye out for another PowerShell Alias, for example gci (Get-Childitem).

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Real-life Tasks for Remove-Item

Microsoft's Windows operating systems create temporary files, let us use PowerShell's Remove-Item to clean up these unwanted files.

Researching Similar PowerShell Cmdlets

# PowerShell Item Cmdlet Research
Get-Command -Noun Item

As we know there is a Get-Item and a New-Item cmdlet, but you may not realize there is a Copy-Item cmdlet.  PowerShell -Noun or -verb research always throws up at least one surprise.  In this case it’s the absence of a PowerShell Delete-Item cmdlet, use Remove-Item instead.

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Summary of PowerShell Remove-Item

The syntax for Remove-Item is straightforward.  I urge you to take precautions because if you get the path wrong, the effect could be devastating, especially if you are gung-ho with the -force and the -recurse parameter.  For this reason I suggest that you check with Get-Item before you actually use Remove-Item, even then consider the -whatIf switch if there is any doubt.

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See more PowerShell examples for syntax constructions

PowerShell Tutorials   • Syntax   • Pipeline   • Quotes   • Remove-Item   • ItemProperty

Select-String  • -replace string   • Group-Object   • Sort-Object   • PowerShell Splatting

Windows PowerShell cmdlets   • Windows PowerShell  • New-Item  • PowerShell New Object

Please email me if you have a better example script. Also please report any factual mistakes, grammatical errors or broken links, I will be happy to correct the fault.