Remove a non empty directory in php (using Standard PHP Library)

guttume • September 15, 2019

There are lot of useful inbuilt functions that comes with PHP interpreter. One such function is rmdir which allows us to delete a folder/directory through php code. The documentation for the function can be found here.

As useful this function is, it fails to delete a directory when the directory is not empty throwing a warning message Directory not empty. As a workaround, we need to first delete all files and folders recursively inside the specified directory and then delete the directory itself.

There are various ways to get all files and directories inside the specified directory. We can use opendir() along with readdir() for this purpose or just glob() function.

Here we will look at an alternative way, wherein we use an inbuilt utility that comes with SPL. SPL stands for Standard PHP Library which comes with loads of utilities such as DataStructures, inbuilt Exception classes, Iterators and others.

We will make use of two such Iterator classes from SPL, RecursiveDirectoryIterator and RecursiveIteratorIterator.

Lets look at the code first.

function removeDir($target)
        $directory = new RecursiveDirectoryIterator($target,  FilesystemIterator::SKIP_DOTS);
        $files = new RecursiveIteratorIterator($directory, RecursiveIteratorIterator::CHILD_FIRST);
        foreach ($files as $file) {
            if (is_dir($file)) {
            } else {

Here, removeDir is a funtion which takes a path to the target directory.

First we create a Traversable object using RecursiveDirectoryIterator which accepts one mandatory parameter, a path to a valid directory and one optional parameter, flags. Here, we have passed FilesystemIterator::SKIP_DOTS as a flag to skip the dot files.

The main component of this function is the $files object which is an instance of RecursiveIteratorIterator class. This class takes one mandatory parameter, an instance of Traversable, and two optional parameters, mode and flags . These optional parameters are used to change the default behaviour of the object. Here, we are passing RecursiveIteratorIterator::CHILD_FIRST as mode to get the children of the directory before getting the directory name itself.

Once we get the $files object, we simply traverse through each $file and delete them. Finally we delete the target directory.