Python rmdir: Deleting Non-Empty Folder

Managing files and folders is a fundamental task in programming, and Python provides a robust set of tools to handle such operations. However, when it comes to deleting non-empty folders, developers often encounter challenges. The rmdir function in Python comes to the rescue, offering a straightforward way to remove folders along with their contents. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into using Python’s rmdir function to efficiently delete non-empty folders, empowering you to manage your filesystem with ease.

Understanding the rmdir Function

The rmdir function in Python’s os module is specifically designed for removing empty directories. However, to delete non-empty folders, you need to leverage an alternative approach, as rmdir cannot handle directories with contents.

Deleting Non-Empty Folders: A Step-by-Step Guide

To delete non-empty folders, you can use a combination of functions from the shutil module. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

import shutil

def delete_folder(path):
print(f”Successfully deleted ‘{path}‘ and its contents.”)
except Exception as e:
print(f”Error deleting ‘{path}‘: {e})

# Example usage
folder_path = “path/to/your/non_empty_folder”

The shutil.rmtree function recursively deletes a directory and its contents, ensuring that both files and subdirectories are removed.

Best Practices for Deleting Non-Empty Folders

When working with the rmdir function or shutil.rmtree for deleting non-empty folders, consider these best practices:

  • Error Handling: Wrap the deletion code in a try-except block to handle potential errors gracefully and provide informative error messages.
  • Permission Checks: Ensure that your program has the necessary permissions to delete the folder and its contents. This is particularly important when working with sensitive files.
  • Backup: Before executing folder deletion, consider creating a backup of the folder’s contents to prevent accidental data loss.
  • Confirmation: If the folder deletion is irreversible, consider implementing user confirmation prompts to avoid unintended deletions.


  • Can I use the rmdir function to delete non-empty folders? No, the rmdir function can only delete empty directories. For non-empty folders, use shutil.rmtree.
  • Does shutil.rmtree permanently delete files? Yes, shutil.rmtree deletes both files and subdirectories within the specified folder. Use it with caution and make backups if necessary.
  • Can I use shutil.rmtree to delete specific file types? No, shutil.rmtree is designed to delete entire directories and their contents, not specific file types.
  • How can I delete a specific file within a folder using Python? You can use the os.remove function to delete individual files. Make sure to provide the correct file path.
  • Are there alternatives to shutil.rmtree for deleting non-empty folders? While shutil.rmtree is a popular choice, you can also use the send2trash library to move folders and files to the system trash rather than permanent deletion.


Python’s rmdir function might be limited to removing empty directories, but with the shutil module’s powerful rmtree function, you can confidently delete non-empty folders and their contents. By following best practices and incorporating error handling, you can ensure a smooth and secure folder deletion process. Whether you’re tidying up your filesystem or managing data, Python equips you with the tools to efficiently handle file and folder operations.

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