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How To Delete Files On Mac

When we work on our Macs every day, we install apps, create new files, and download useful information. Unfortunately, even on the most expensive Mac models, hard drive storage is limited, and it’s likely that you’ll eventually reach that limit, making it impossible to work and create more while also significantly slowing down your Mac overall.

The solution is straightforward: scan your Mac for files that you no longer require and delete them to free up space. Consider how many outdated documents, movies you’ve already seen, one-time downloads, and meme images you can delete without even realizing it.

So, let’s go over some methods for deleting documents, files, and folders, as well as what to do if you can’t delete files for some reason.

The most common methods for deleting files on a Mac

Surprisingly, there are several ways to delete files on Mac, and it’s important to understand them all so you can choose the one that works best for you:

  1. The simplest way to delete a file on a Mac is to select it with your cursor and then drag it to the Trash icon in your Dock.
  2. You can also right-click any file and choose Move to Trash from the context menu.
  3. The ⌘ + Delete shortcut is the quickest way to delete files.

When you delete files on your Mac, they are not completely erased. They have simply been moved to the Trash, where they will remain until you empty it. To securely empty the Trash, either right-click on the Trash icon and select Empty Trash, or open the Trash and select Empty.

If you need to remove a specific file from the Trash, right-click on it and select Delete Immediately…, followed by Delete.

  1. Even if you’re deleting files permanently, it’s a good idea to keep a Time Machine backup on an external drive somewhere just in case.
  2. You must confirm that you want to empty the Trash by default.
  3. To disable this notification, go to Finder ➙ Preferences and uncheck “Show warning before emptying the Trash.” You can also enable automatic Trash cleaning in the same menu by checking “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days.”

Note: By default, files deleted from the iCloud Drive folder are automatically emptied from the Trash after 30 days.

If you change your mind about a file in the Trash, you can restore it by dragging it out or right-clicking on it and selecting Put Back.

How to Delete Mac Files Without Using the Trash

In some cases, you may want to ensure that your files are permanently deleted and thus forego moving files to the Trash to avoid forgetting them there.

Find your item, hold the Option key, click Finder in the menu bar, and then select Delete Immediately to learn how to permanently delete files. Option + ⌘ + Delete is the keyboard shortcut for this action. Such permanent deletion is irreversible.

However, the most dependable way to force delete a file is to use a professional file shredder, which completely destroys your files and ensures they can never be recovered. This is an excellent choice for any sensitive information.

CleanMyMac X is an app that includes a user-friendly file shredder that can securely delete any number of files in seconds while leaving no trace.

It is very simple to use CleanMyMac X Shredder:

  1. Start the app.
  2. Select Shredder from the sidebar.
  3. Choose Files…
  4. Select Shred

On a Mac, how do you delete large files?

When it comes to freeing up space on your Mac, it’s often not about quantity but quality, which means that deleting a few large files may yield better results than deleting thousands of small ones.

But how do you know where to look on your Mac for the largest files? Fortunately, macOS now includes a default utility for this:

  1. In the menu bar, select Apple ➙ About This Mac.
  2. Switch to the Storage tab ➙ Manage…
  3. Navigate to Documents ➙ Large Files (all files will be organized by size)
  4. Select any files and press the Delete button.

CleanMyMac X also includes tools for exploring and deleting documents that take up a lot of space on your Mac. Unlike Apple’s solution, they provide even more guidance on which files you should and should not delete.

The first option, Large & Old Files, scans your hard drive for not only large files but also files you haven’t used in a long time and probably don’t need. You can then remove them with a single click.

The second option is even more visually appealing. Space Lens ranks the top-level folders by size before allowing you to dive into each one, graphically exploring what’s taking up space on your Mac and what can be deleted at the folder level.

How to Delete Multiple Files at the Same Time

On a Mac, you’re not limited to deleting one file at a time, which would be inconvenient. In general, you can select multiple files throughout the system by holding or Shift and then deleting everything at once. You can select and delete files in this manner even in the storage optimization utility described above.

However, the most efficient way to delete a large number of files is to use a scanner or automated tool and let it do all of the work for you. Consider how many duplicate files you could have on your Mac. How are you supposed to find all the photos and documents you’ve copied in various locations, as well as the email attachments? Gemini makes it simple.

Gemini is the most effective duplicate finder app on the market today. It not only scans any folder on your Mac for exact duplicates, but it also assists you in locating similar files that you may not want to keep an extra copy of. Once the scan is complete, you can either let Gemini handle duplicate files or go over everything to ensure you’re not deleting anything important. It only takes a few seconds.

How to Delete Files That Won’t Go Away on a Mac

When a file refuses to delete, there could be several reasons for this.

A file you’re attempting to delete may be open at the time. Simply closing the file should help clear the error message in this case.

If you receive a notification that the selected file is locked, you must unlock it before you can delete it. To do so, select it, then go to File ➙ Get Info (⌘ + I), and uncheck the Locked box. You can now delete the file as usual.

In some cases, you may not have the necessary permissions to unlock the file. To fix this, go to the same Get Info menu, scroll down to Sharing & Permissions, click the dropdown next to your user, and change it to include writing permissions. Log in as an administrator instead.

You may notice that the file is in use at times. To resolve this issue, try closing the file and Quit (⌘ + Q) any apps that may be running it. If the problem persists, open Utilities, locate the exact process, and stop it as well. The final step here could be to restart your Mac.

How to Delete a File on a Mac

Because macOS is a Unix-based system, almost all system operations can be performed using Terminal commands rather than a graphical interface. When you are unable to delete files for whatever reason, using Terminal may be of assistance.

Caution: Making an error in Terminal can result in critical errors. Proceed with caution.
Using the rm -f command to delete any files in Terminal is simple. Instead of rm -rf, use rm -rf for folders.

To delete a file or folder, enter the command first, then drag and drop the file or folder into Terminal to display its path. Return the mouse button.

If the command still does not work, try sudo rm -f. To confirm, enter your password.

How to Remove Hidden Files from a Mac

It may come as a surprise, but there are many files on your Mac that are hidden from view. Typically, these are system or configuration files. As a result, most of them are almost weightless, but deleting them may help fix bugs or reset certain settings. But how can you if you can’t see them?

The trick is to use the shortcut ⌘ + Shift + . (dot) to make hidden files visible. (dot) in the Finder.

You can now delete those files as normal.

How to Empty Error-Producing Trash

Moving files to the Trash does not always imply that you can easily remove them. When attempting to empty the Trash, you may encounter errors that prevent you from completely erasing the contents.

Hold down Option before right-clicking on the Trash icon and selecting Empty Trash.

It’s also worth noting that by using specialized hard drive recovery software such as Disk Drill, you may be able to recover some files that you’ve just accidentally deleted.

Disk Drill is a leading Mac recovery software that allows you to recover files not only to your Mac, but also to USB sticks, SD cards, and any other external volumes — regardless of the cause of the loss.

Simply choose your hard drive and click “Search for lost data,” then recover the files as needed. Read how to recover deleted files on Mac for more information on file recovery techniques.

As you can see, learning how to permanently delete files on Mac takes only a few minutes. There are several methods for accomplishing this, ranging from using Space Lens to Shredder with CleanMyMac X to removing duplicates with Gemini. And if you make a mistake, Disk Drill has your back and can assist you in recovering.

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