Destroy version-controlled files

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

Visual Studio 2019 | Visual Studio 2022

Over time, a version control server acquires a growing number of files and folders. This can cause problems as you try to manage disk space requirements. You might be forced to remove all the projects and their hierarchies from version control. For example, a project might be created for learning purposes only, or perhaps some files are contaminated with a virus. Therefore, as a TFVC administrator, occasionally you may have to destroy files and folders that are under version control.

The following procedure shows you how to destroy files and folders by using the tf destroy command. Although the files are permanently removed, you can retain the history associated with them. For more information about the options and arguments available for tf destroy, see Destroy command (Team Foundation Version Control).


The destroy operation is available only from the command line.


  • To use the destroy command, you must be a member of the Team Foundation Administrators security group. For more information, see Default TFVC permissions.

  • 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 a file, its file name now includes a deletion ID. For example, if a file name is aFile.cs, after deletion the file name is aFile.cs;x123, where x123 is the deletion ID.

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

To permanently destroy version-controlled files

In Windows, select Start and then type Developer Command Prompt. From the search results, select the developer command prompt for your Visual Studio version, such as Developer Command Prompt for Visual Studio 2022.

  • To preview destroying the file aFile.cs without destroying it, enter at the command prompt:

    tf destroy /preview /i $/MyTeamProject/aFile.cs


    The text in the command prompt window displays Destroyed: $/MyTeamProject/aFile.cs, but the file isn't actually destroyed when you use the /preview option.

  • To destroy the file aFile.cs, enter at the command prompt:

    tf destroy /i $/MyTeamProject/aFile.cs

    This command displays information about possible pending changes and shelvesets in the command prompt window. If you specify /i or non-interactive, you aren't prompted with a Yes, No, or Yes to All dialog before files are permanently removed.

  • To destroy all the files in aFolder and at the same time retain their history, enter:

    tf destroy /keephistory $/MyTeamProject/aFolder


    You can't specify /preview with /keephistory.

    This action retains the historical information about all the files in aFolder. You can use the tf history command to view the history of a file. You can also view the history in Source Control Explorer in Visual Studio. For more information, see History command and Get the history of an item.

  • Use the /stopat option to retain the historical information up to and including a versionspec value. The versionspec value can be the latest version, a specific changeset, or a date. For more information about versionspec values, see Use Team Foundation version control commands.

    To destroy all the files in the project MyTeamProject, and at the same time retain the history for the files up to and including 10/23/2005, enter:

    tf destroy $/MyTeamProject /keephistory /stopat:D10/23/2005
  • Use the /startcleanup option to immediately clean up the TFVC metadata of the files that are no longer referenced by Azure DevOps Server. Without this option, those metadata are removed when the database is maintained by a SQL process that runs every five days. Seven days after the TFVC metadata deletion, the content of the destroyed files will be deleted by another SQL process.

    To immediately destroy all the files in aFolder, enter:

    tf destroy /startcleanup $/MyTeamProject/aFolder