Delete a File using Java IO Streams

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Tarun Luthra
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There are two boolean methods that can be used to delete files and directories in Java. File.delete() method of package deletes the file or directory denoted by the abstract pathname. It can delete only empty directories and does not throw any exceptions.

Likewise, Files.deleteIfExists(path) method of java.nio.file package is also used to delete files and empty directories. However, this method throws two exceptions: DirectoryNotEmptyException and IOException.


A file is a resource for recording data in a storage device like a hard disk, pen drive, etc. It is identified by its filename and location.

File Handling in Java performs various operations such as creating a file, reading its content, writing to a file, and deleting a file. Java uses the concept of a stream to make I/O (Input/Output) operations on a file. A stream is a sequence of data or objects that supports various methods.

Streams in Java are of two types, Character Stream and Byte Stream. Byte streams are used to perform input and output of 8-bit bytes. Mostly, they are used to read or write raw binary data. Character stream is used to perform read and write operations on 16-bit Unicode.

In Java, we can delete files using these two methods i.e. File.delete() and using Files.deleteIfExists(). Let us discuss each of these one by one.


Contradictory to delete operations in other operating systems or programming languages, files being deleted using the Java program are deleted permanently from the system. They are not moved to recycle bin or trash.

Method 1: Using File.delete() Method

The File class in package is used to perform various operations on files such as createNewFile(), exists(), canWrite(), canRead(), etc. To delete a file using the File class, we use its delete() method. This method doesn't take any parameters, and it returns a boolean. Let us note down a few important points regarding the delete() method in the File class.


  • SecurityException – If a security manager exists and its SecurityManager.checkDelete(java.lang.String) method denies delete access to the file

Important Points

  • It is used to delete both files and empty directories. File.delete() method can delete empty directories only.
  • Returns true if and only if the file or directory is successfully deleted; false otherwise.
  • Throws only one exception, SecurityException, for the reasons mentioned above.


Let us look at an example:



  • In the above example, we are importing the package, which contains the File class.
  • In the main() method of the class, we create temp_file object of the File class and pass the address of the file to be deleted.
  • The file can be of any format or extension. In the if statement, we call the delete() method of the File class using the temp_file object.
  • If the delete() method returns true, we print the successful custom message.
  • Else, if it returns false, we print that the file was not deleted.

The File.delete() method cannot delete a file:

  • If its path is wrong or corrupted
  • Proper delete access is not available to the user
  • Some I/O Stream error has occurred


As for deleting a file, we neither use the FileWriter class (used for writing to a file) nor the Scanner class (used for reading from a file); there's no need to close the stream using the close() method. FileWriter and Scanner classes require the closing of the file before exiting.

Method 2: Using Files.deleteIfExists(Path path) method

Files.deleteIfExists(Path path) is a boolean method defined in java.nio.file package. This method deletes a file mentioned in the path if it exists. It also deletes a directory in the path only if the mentioned directory is empty.


It takes a path as a parameter, the path to the file/directory to be deleted. It returns true if the file was deleted by this method; false if the file could not be deleted because it did not exist.

The file couldn't be deleted due to various reasons:

  • The file is not present in the path, or the path is invalid/does not exist.
  • I/O Stream error while deleting the file.


This method throws three types of exceptions to show various scenarios:

  • DirectoryNotEmptyException - If the path is a directory and could not be deleted because the directory is not empty
  • IOException - If an I/O error occurs
  • SecurityException - In the case of the default provider, and a security manager is installed, the SecurityManager.checkDelete(String) method is invoked to check to delete access to the file.

Let us now see an example:



  • In the above example, we import java.nio.file and packages and create a Main named class.
  • In the main() method of this class, we have put try and catch blocks as our desired method deleteIfExists() throws exceptions.
  • We first try to delete the file using the method and store the result in the isDeleted variable of the boolean type.
  • If the isDeleted is true, we print a successful completion message; else, we print an unsuccessful custom message.
  • If the method throws an exception, we are catching them in the various catch blocks and displaying suitable information.


  • To delete a file using Java, you can use two methods i.e. File.delete() Files.deleteIfExists(path) methods defined in and java.nio.file packages respectively.
  • delete() method doesn't throws SecurityException and returns a boolean. If the file is deleted successfully, it returns true else; it returns false.
  • deleteIfExists() method throws an exception in case of I/O errors, or the given path's directory is non-empty. It also returns a boolean, true if the file is deleted. Otherwise, it returns false.
  • Both Files.delete() and Files.deleteIfExists() can delete only empty directories.