Painlessly Remove All Ruby Gems

Jan. 14, 2009

I noticed a lot of people searching for a way to delete all installed ruby gems and finding my Painless Cleanup of Ruby Gems With Similar Names page. I added this page for those of you who want to delete all installed gems instead of just cleaning them up.

Listing all gems is easy: gem list

OK, we can list our gems, but how do we delete them all? My list looks something like this:

abstract (1.0.0)
actionmailer (2.2.2, 2.1.2, 2.1.1, 2.1.0, 2.0.2, 1.3.6)
actionpack (2.2.2, 2.1.2, 2.1.1, 2.1.0, 2.0.2, 1.13.6)
actionwebservice (1.2.6, 1.2.5, 1.2.3, 1.2.2, 1.2.1, 1.1.6)
activerecord (2.2.2, 2.1.2, 2.1.1, 2.1.0, 2.0.2, 1.15.6)
will_paginate (2.2.2)
ZenTest (3.11.0)

Now that we have a list, we need to get rid of the version info. We do this with the shell command ‘cut’. ‘cut’ removes sections from each line of files or STDOUT. We remove sections by setting a delimiter ‘-d" "’ and a field ‘-f N’ (N is the section we want to keep). In this case, we want to cut out everything to the right of the gem name. There is a space between the gem name and the version info so we will use the [space] as a delimiter. Field 1 will be everything to the left of the delimiter (our gem name) so we will insert ‘1’ as the field number.

Let’s use the two commands to generate a list of all installed gems. We accomplish this by ‘piping’ or chaining the two commands with the ‘ | ’ character. Our command now looks like this: gem list | cut -d" " -f1 ... and our new list is:


The command to uninstall all versions of a gem is: gem uninstall -Iax STRING uninstalling all versions of the gem merb-helpers is: gem uninstall -Iax merb-helpers That only uninstalls all versions of one gem and we have a list which we want to iterate through to delete all versions of all gems. We do this with the ‘xargs’ command which builds and executes command lines from STDIN or the list we generated with the command: gem list merb | cut -d" " -f1

You probably noticed there are three flags (I, a, x) in the uninstall command. The flags do the following: -I Ignore dependency requirements while uninstalling, -a Uninstall all matching versions, -x Uninstall applicable executables without confirmation. So the command gem uninstall -Iax uninstalls all matching gems and its associated executable without regard to dependencies.

Our ‘xargs’ command to run the uninstall ALL gems is: xargs gem uninstall -aIxxargs’ iterates through each line of our list and uninstalls each gem. The gem name will be appended (but not visible). Again, we ‘pipe’ or chain the cleanup command to our previous command.

'gem list | cut -d" " -f1 | xargs gem uninstall -aIx'

We just deleted all installed ruby gems!

Successfully uninstalled abstract-1.0.0
Successfully uninstalled actionmailer-1.3.6
Successfully uninstalled actionmailer-2.0.2
Successfully uninstalled will_paginate-2.2.2
Successfully uninstalled ZenTest-3.11.0

A couple of caveats: first, I use Fedora Core Linux but the commands should work for all Linux flavors. The commands should also work for Mac users using ‘sudo’. This command will remove EVERY gem listed so be judicious.

You now have the tools to list all versions of installed gems, remove the version number leaving only the list of gems, and then executing the ‘xargs’ command to delete all installed gems.

(update) Shashank Tiwari wrote a blog post about removing all Ruby gems from Windows.  You will find it here:

Short url :

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