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Strange Files Deletion and Renaming in Shell

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There may come a time that you will discover that you have somehow created a file with a strange name that cannot be removed through conventional means. This section contains some unconventional approaches that may aid in removing such files.

Files that begin with a dash can be removed by typing

    rm ./-filename
A couple other ways that may work are
    rm -- -filename
    rm - -filename
Now let's suppose that we an even nastier filename. For example there can be a file with no filename. The solution is to type
    rm -i *
This executes the rm command in interactive mode. Just answer "yes" to the query to remove the nameless file and "no" to all the other queries about the rest of the files.

Another method that can be used  is to obtain the inode number of the strange file using ls: 

    ls -i
and then type
    find . -inum number -ok rm '{}' \;
where number is the inode number.

The -ok flag causes a confirmation prompt to be displayed. This is for your safety in case you mistypes inode number.

If you want to rename the file with the strange name, following modification to the find command works:

    find . -inum number -ok mv '{}' new_filename \;

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[Jul 04, 2016] nfs - How do I rename files with strange characters

Unix & Linux Stack Exchange

have file with greek or cyrillic characters.

It is not owned by me, but by the web server user (www).

I cannot use the shell as the web server user (www) or as root, but I've used a script (executed by the web server user) to set the modbits directory it is in to 777 and the file itself to 666.

I am not able to rename (or delete this) file. Even using the inode and using find fails:
$ ls -i1
19120017 Idezbox - коробка.jpeg

$ find . -inum 19120017 -exec mv -i {} sane \;
mv: cannot move `./Idezbox - коробка.jpeg' to `sane': No such file or directory

Wildcards fail:
$ mv Idezbox*.jpeg sane
mv: cannot move `Idezbox - коробка.jpeg' to `sane': No such file or directory

The following Perl-script also fails:
find . -type f -print0 | \
perl -n0e '$new = $_; if($new =~ s/[^[:ascii:]]/x/g) {
print("Renaming $_ to $new\n");
rename($_, $new);

It prints out:
Renaming Idezbox - коробка.jpeg to Idezbox - xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.jpeg

but the subsequent rename command has no effect.
However, note that there are 7 greek characters and 14 "x"-es.

Moving to the directory above and trying to delete "Junk":
$ rm -riv Junk
rm: descend into directory `Junk'? yes
rm: cannot remove `Junk/Idezbox - коробка.jpeg': No such file or directory

Some requested output:
$ mount | grep "on /ifi/asgard/k00"
asgard:/ifi/asgard/k00 on /ifi/asgard/k00 type nfs (rw,tcp,rsize=32768,wsize=32768,hard,intr,

$ df .
Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
104857600 53201568 51656032 51% /ifi/asgard/k00
$ ls -al
total 88
drwxrwxrwx 2 www ifiweb 4096 2014-08-11 14:16 .
drwxrwsrwx 14 inf5270 inf5270 4096 2014-08-11 14:15 ..
-rw-rw-rw- 1 www ifiweb 35176 2012-04-14 13:38 Idezbox - коробка.jpeg
-rwxrw-r-- 1 gisle ifi-a 139 2014-08-11 14:15

$ who ami i
gisle pts/122 2014-08-11 11:37 (

After having read through all comments and answers (thanks everybody!) I no longer think this is just about escaping or quoting the cyrillic characters. I need to look into the NFS angle.

Edit 2015-10-02:

The problem turned out to be NFS-related. Since the file was created directly on a NFS-mounted volume, which I accessed from another computer, nothing worked. Logging directly in on the server as root allowed a sysadmin (I am a mere user on this particular system and can't do this) to delete the file (using some standard method to escape the Greek characters). Kudos to G-Man for putting me on the right track (in a comment). If G-Man is still around and converts his comment into an answer, I'll accept it.

/ nfs / character-encoding

shareimprove this question

edited Oct 2 '15 at 2:10

asked Aug 11 '14 at 11:30

Free Radical


What about vidir from moreutils? – MadTux Aug 11 '14 at 11:37


Can you edit the question to show the output of mount, df . and ls -A. – richard Aug 11 '14 at 11:44


@FreeRadical Then you must have some alternate problem as well, it is not a simple "how to quote"-problem. – peterh Aug 11 '14 at 11:59


Can you add the output of mount, df . and ls -A to you question. They are probably of relevance. – richard Aug 11 '14 at 12:01


Did you create the file from your RHEL computer? I suspect that the problem has to do with the interface between your client and the NFS server. It may be necessary to login directly to the server to manipulate the file, or at least access it from a workstation running a different OS. (You know, the one whose name begins with 'W'.) – G-Man Aug 11 '14 at 17:02

show 15 more comments

5 Answers

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up vote


down vote


Your question indicates that this problem file is on an NFS-mounted filesystem, and nothing you do from your RHEL client successfully touches the file. This suggests that the problem has to do with the interface between your client and the NFS server. It may be necessary to login directly to the server to manipulate the file, or at least access it from a workstation running a different OS.

linux - How to remove invalid characters from filenames \

Server Fault

One way would be with sed:
mv 'file' $(echo 'file' | sed -e 's/[^A-Za-z0-9._-]/_/g')

Replace file with your filename, of course. This will replace anything that isn't a letter, number, period, underscore, or dash with an underscore. You can add or remove characters to keep as you like, and/or change the replacement character to anything else, or nothing at all.

Following answers at, You can use:

rename -n 's/[^\x00-\x7F]//g' *

where * matches the files you want to rename. If you want to do it over multiple directories, you can do something like:

find . -exec rename 's/[^\x00-\x7F]//g' "{}" \;

You can use the -n argument to rename to do a dry run, and see what would be changed, without changing it.

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