Destroy command (Team Foundation Version Control)

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2022 - Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018

Visual Studio 2019 | Visual Studio 2022

Use the tf destroy command to destroy, or permanently delete, version-controlled files from Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC).


Deleting a TFVC repository inside Azure Devops is not allowed once it has been created. The command tf destroy will only destroy, or permanently delete, version-controlled files or folders but will not delete the TFVC repository. It will still appear in the list of options with the message deleted.

Sometimes you have to clean up version control systems. For example, if some files are infected with a computer virus, you have to remove them permanently from version control. Don't destroy files that are still needed. The destroy action can't be reversed.

Before you run tf destroy without the /keephistory option, first delete the files you want to destroy. For more information, see Delete files and folders from version control.

After you delete the files, you can synchronize the TFVC warehouse. Otherwise, the warehouse won't be synchronized with the destroyed items.


To use the destroy command, you must belong to the Team Foundation Administrators security group. For more information, see Default TFVC permissions.


tf destroy [/keephistory] <itemspec1>[;<versionspec>][<itemspec2>...<itemspecN>] 
[/stopat:<versionspec>] [/preview] [/startcleanup] [/noprompt] [/silent] [/login:username,[password]] [/collection:TeamProjectCollectionUrl]]





<itemspec1> [<itemspec2>...<itemspecN>]

Specifies the server path of the file or folder to be destroyed. Use multiple itemspec values to delete multiple items. For example, tf destroy $/TeamProject1 $/teamProject2 $/TeamProject3.

Local paths aren't supported.


Provides a version such as C58 for the /keephistory or /stopat options. The allowed values are date, tip, or a specific changeset. For more information about how TFVC parses a version specification to determine which items are within its scope, see Use Team Foundation version control commands.


Provides a value to the /login option. You can specify a username value as either DOMAIN\username or username.


The URL of the project collection that contains files that you want to destroy, for example, http://myserver:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection.





Optional. Specifies that the history of a file is preserved even as its contents are destroyed. This option can't be specified with the /preview option.


Optional. Can be used only if /keephistory is specified also.

Specifies the file version for the file, and the files that follow thereafter, for which the history is preserved.

The default version for /stopat is tip (T) for the latest checked-in version of an item.

You can't use label or workspace versionspec values to specify an item for the /stopat option.


Displays the files that would be destroyed in the command prompt window. When tf destroy runs in preview mode, the files aren't actually destroyed.


The text in the command prompt window displays the word Destroyed with each file that would be destroyed. However, the file is actually not destroyed when the /preview option is used.


Forces the TFVC metadata clean-up process to start immediately after the deletion finishes. If the user doesn't specify /startcleanup, the destroyed metadata clean-up process occurs when the database maintenance cleans up all the files that are no longer referenced by Azure DevOps Server. By default, the clean-up is scheduled to run every five days. Seven days after the TFVC metadata are cleaned up, the content is deleted by another clean-up process. By default, this content clean-up process runs once each day.

/noprompt or /i

Specifies that the destruction of files is non-interactive. /i is an alias for /noprompt.


Specifies that, when you destroy files or folders, the output isn't written to the command prompt window.


Specifies the user name and password to authenticate the user with TFVC.


Specifies the project collection.


When you use tf destroy to destroy version-control files, the application tier of TFVC receives the destroy request and checks to see whether you're a member of the Team Foundation Administrators security group. If you aren't a member, the system displays an error-message dialog box that tells you that you don't have sufficient permissions to perform the operation.

After the system verifies your permissions, it runs the destroy command. This command deletes all file references, shelvesets, and pending changes. The actual destruction of files, which is a permanent deletion, happens the next time that the content that is no longer referenced by Azure DevOps Server is cleaned up. You can also specify the /startcleanup option to clean up the files immediately after tf destroy runs.

If you run tf destroy without specifying /i and /preview, the system displays a console Yes or No prompt for each filespec value. Otherwise, you can specify Yes to All.

  • If you don't specify /keephistory, you're prompted by an interactive text that warns of pending changes, if they exist. The interactive text points to /preview if you want more information about the changes.

  • If you specify /keephistory, you're also prompted by Yes, No, or Yes to All text. If you select Yes or Yes to All, the destruction process starts, and the server paths to the destroyed items appear in the command prompt window.

Destroyed: <serverItem1>
Destroyed: <serverItem2>
Destroyed: ...

If you specified the versionspec value as tip, the server paths displayed in the command prompt window include deletion IDs. For example, Destroyed: $/Test1/MyProject;X123 might appear in the command prompt window.

If you use the /preview option, the files aren't destroyed, but the command-line text displays the files that would be destroyed. For example, if you enter tf destroy /preview $/Test1/MyProject/MyProject/Program.cs at the command-line, the command window displays this text:

Destroyed: $/Test1/MyProject/MyProject/Program.cs

However, the file is actually not destroyed because you used the /preview option.

For more information on how to use the tf command-line utility, see Use Team Foundation version control commands.

Effects of /keephistory on other version control operations

If you specify the /keephistory option to retain the history of destroyed files, the files are treated as destroyed by the following TFVC operations:

  • Change content. If you try to change the content of a destroyed file, for example edit or branch, the system issues an error message that states the content has been destroyed.

  • Branch, merge, or unshelve. If you try to branch, merge, or unshelve destroyed items, the system issues an error message that states the content of the items has been destroyed.

Destroy previously deleted items

If an item has already been deleted, a deletion ID is attached to it and results in a filename change.

Code search doesn't handle tf destroy notifications, so using tf destroy for TFVC repos won't automatically delete files from the search index. As a result, these files appear in the code search results. To avoid these ghost files scenarios, delete files before the tf destroy operation.


The following example permanently deletes the file a.cs.

tf destroy $/proj/pi/a.cs

The following example deletes a folder, aFolder:

tf delete $/MyTeamProject/aFolder

To destroy the deleted item aFolder, enter at the command line:

tf destroy $/MyTeamProject/aFolder;x123

where x123 is the deletion ID.