Manual Reference Pages  - UNLINK (2)


unlink - delete a name and possibly the file it refers to




#include <unistd.h>

int unlink(const char *pathname);


unlink() deletes a name from the file system. If that name was the last link to a file and no processes have the file open the file is deleted and the space it was using is made available for reuse.

If the name was the last link to a file but any processes still have the file open the file will remain in existence until the last file descriptor referring to it is closed.

If the name referred to a symbolic link the link is removed.

If the name referred to a socket, fifo or device the name for it is removed but processes which have the object open may continue to use it.


On success, zero is returned. On error, -1 is returned, and errno is set appropriately.


EACCES Write access to the directory containing pathname is not allowed for the process’s effective UID, or one of the directories in pathname did not allow search permission. (See also path_resolution(7).)
EBUSY The file pathname cannot be unlinked because it is being used by the system or another process; for example, it is a mount point or the NFS client software created it to represent an active but otherwise nameless inode ("NFS silly renamed").
EFAULT pathname points outside your accessible address space.
EIO An I/O error occurred.
EISDIR pathname refers to a directory. (This is the non-POSIX value returned by Linux since 2.1.132.)
ELOOP Too many symbolic links were encountered in translating pathname.
  pathname was too long.
ENOENT A component in pathname does not exist or is a dangling symbolic link, or pathname is empty.
ENOMEM Insufficient kernel memory was available.
  A component used as a directory in pathname is not, in fact, a directory.
EPERM The system does not allow unlinking of directories, or unlinking of directories requires privileges that the calling process doesn’t have. (This is the POSIX prescribed error return; as noted above, Linux returns EISDIR for this case.)
EPERM (Linux only)
  The file system does not allow unlinking of files.
  The directory containing pathname has the sticky bit (S_ISVTX) set and the process’s effective UID is neither the UID of the file to be deleted nor that of the directory containing it, and the process is not privileged (Linux: does not have the CAP_FOWNER capability).
EROFS pathname refers to a file on a read-only file system.


SVr4, 4.3BSD, POSIX.1-2001.


Infelicities in the protocol underlying NFS can cause the unexpected disappearance of files which are still being used.


rm(1), chmod(2), link(2), mknod(2), open(2), rename(2), rmdir(2), unlinkat(2), mkfifo(3), remove(3), path_resolution(7), symlink(7)


This page is part of release 3.44 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found at

Linux UNLINK (2) 2011-09-15
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