Solved: recursively delete directory

When working with PHP, one challenge that many developers come across is the need to delete a directory and its subdirectories recursively. This operation becomes particularly essential when you are dealing with file management in your PHP application. While the rmdir() function in PHP provides the basic function to remove directory, it does not work when the directory is not empty. In this case, you need to delete all files and subdirectories first. This is where recursion comes in handy. Through this article, we take a comprehensive look into this process.

In a nutshell, to delete directory recursively, we need to create a function that can delete each file and subdirectory within the intended directory, then finally delete the parent directory itself. This might sound complex, but through PHP, it can be achieved quite seamlessly. Let’s see how we can do it.

function deleteDirectory($dirPath) {
    if (! is_dir($dirPath)) {
        throw new InvalidArgumentException("$dirPath must be a directory");
    if (substr($dirPath, strlen($dirPath) - 1, 1) != '/') {
        $dirPath .= '/';
    $files = glob($dirPath . '*', GLOB_MARK);
    foreach ($files as $file) {
        if (is_dir($file)) {
        } else {

Understanding the PHP Code

In the above function, first we check if the provided path is a directory. If not, an InvalidArgumentException is thrown. We then ensure that the directory path ends with a slash. Next, we get all files and folders of the provided directory by using the glob() function.

In the next step, we iterate through each file and directory returned by the glob() function. If the item is a directory, we call the deleteDirectory() function recursively, this allows us to delete all subdirectories and files. If the item is not a directory (which means it is a file), it is deleted by the unlink() function. Lastly, after every file and subdirectory has been deleted, we delete the main directory using the rmdir() function.

Recursive Function & PHP Libraries Involved

Recursion, in computer science, is a method where the solution to a problem depends on solutions to smaller instances of the same problem. Recursive function is a powerful tool that allows us to write clean and efficient code for complex tasks, such as navigating through nested data structures.

In our case, the PHP glob() function is used to find pathnames matching a pattern, GLOB_MARK adds a slash to each directory returned. The unlink() function is used to delete a file. rmdir() function is used to remove empty directories.

The understanding and application of recursive function, glob(), unlink(), and rmdir() plays a crucial part in successfully implementing this functionality. It is also important to handle exceptions and errors by checking whether the provided path indeed points to a directory and whether the files or directories can be successfully deleted, and providing corresponding feedback to users or developers.

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