To delete files on a Mac, use the Command ⌘ + Delete keyboard shortcut, drag the file to the Bin icon in the Dock, or right-click and choose Move to Bin.
You can bypass the Bin and delete files immediately using the Option ⌥ + Command ⌘ + Delete shortcut, but this action is irreversible. Advanced users can also use the Terminal for file deletion.
- Files moved to the Bin aren’t immediately deleted; they remain there until you empty the Trash.
- Files in the Bin can be permanently deleted by right-clicking the Bin icon and choosing Empty Bin.
- Locked files require additional steps for deletion, such as unlocking them via Finder.
- Terminal commands offer a powerful way to delete files but should be used cautiously.
Drowning in digital clutter on your Mac? Over time, unnecessary files can accumulate, taking up valuable storage space and potentially slowing down your device. But you can easily delete files on a Mac you don’t need and free up space.
If you’re unsure about the best practices for deleting files on a Mac or simply need a refresher, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, I’ll walk you through different ways of safely and effectively removing files from your Mac, ensuring you reclaim space while preserving important data. Let’s dive in!
Before We Begin
Some items are simple to remove on a MacBook, but others can be tricky. For instance, plugins and browser extensions are not in your Applications folder. But with MacKeeper’s Smart Uninstaller, you can easily find and remove them. Plus, it cleans up leftover files from old apps.
Why Delete Files on a Mac?
Deleting files on a Mac is essential for several reasons. The most common reasons to delete files on your Mac are as follows:
- 📦 Free Up Storage Space: Over time, unused files, applications, and other data can accumulate, taking up valuable storage space. By deleting unnecessary files, you can free up space on your Mac and ensure it runs smoothly.
- 🚀 Improve Performance: A cluttered hard drive can slow down your Mac. Regularly clearing out old and unnecessary files can maintain optimal system performance and speed up a slow Mac.
- 📂 Organize Your Workspace: Deleting irrelevant files helps keep your folders and desktop organized, making locating important documents and applications easier.
- 🔒 Enhance Security: Old files, especially those downloaded from the internet, might pose security risks. Regularly reviewing and deleting such files can reduce potential vulnerabilities.
- ☁️ Prepare for Backups: It’s a good idea to delete unnecessary files before backing up your Mac. This ensures that your backup is streamlined and doesn’t contain redundant data.
- 🔄 Software Updates: Some software updates require a certain amount of free installation space. Deleting unneeded files can help make room for these updates.
- ❗ Avoid System Errors: A nearly full hard drive can lead to system errors or application crashes. Regularly deleting files can prevent such issues.
The Quickest Ways to Delete Files on a Mac
There are multiple methods to remove files from your Mac. Each approach is straightforward and swift. Regardless of the app you’re working with, you can use any of these three techniques to delete files from your Mac efficiently:
- The quickest way to delete a file on your Mac is to select it and use the Command ⌘ + Delete keyboard shortcut.
- You can also remove a file on a Mac by selecting it with your cursor and dragging it to the Bin icon in your Dock.
- Alternatively, right-click a file and choose Move to Bin from the context menu.
When you remove files on a Mac, they aren’t instantly erased. Instead, they’re shifted to the Bin, lingering there until you clear it. To thoroughly empty the Trash on your Mac:
- Right-click the Bin icon and choose Empty Bin.
- Alternatively, open the Bin and click the Empty button in the top-right corner.
To permanently remove particular files in the Bin, right-click them and choose Delete Immediately… followed by Delete.
✅ Even if you’re erasing files for good, it’s wise to maintain a Time Machine backup on external storage as a safety net.
By default, a confirmation is required to empty the Bin. To bypass this alert, follow these steps:
- Click Finder in the menu bar and select Settings.
- Go to the Advanced tab.
- Uncheck the box next to Show warning before emptying the Bin.
- Within the same settings, you can activate auto-trash clearing by selecting Remove items from the Bin after 30 days.
1. How to Delete Mac Files Without Sending Them to the Bin
To speed up the deletion process, you can bypass the Bin and directly delete a file on your Mac. However, be cautious, as you won’t be able to retrieve the file from the Bin later.
🚨 Once deleted in this manner, the action is irreversible.
After highlighting the file in Finder, follow these steps to skip the Bin and delete the file:
- Hold the Option ⌥ key, navigate to File in the menu bar, and click Delete Immediately.
- Use the Option ⌥ + Command ⌘ + Delete Mac keyboard shortcut.
Regardless of your chosen method, a confirmation popup will appear, ensuring you intend to permanently delete the selected file. Click the Delete button on the pop-up.
2. How to Delete Multiple Files on Mac
On a Mac, you can delete more than just one file simultaneously, saving you from a drawn-out process. Deleting multiple files on a Mac is quick and simple. Here’s a step-by-step guide to deleting multiple files on a Mac:
- Go to the folder or location where the files you want to delete are stored.
- Select multiple files using one of the following methods:
- Using the Mouse: Hold down the Command ⌘ key and click each file you want to delete.
- Using the Keyboard: If the files are consecutive, click the first file, hold down the Shift ⇧ key, and click the last file. This will select all files in between.
- Select All Files: If you want to select all files in a folder, press Command ⌘ + A.
- Drag the selected files to the Bin icon in the Dock or press Command ⌘ + Delete.
- To permanently delete the files, right-click the Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
⚠️ Always double-check the files you’re about to delete to ensure you don’t accidentally remove important documents. Once the Bin is emptied, recovery becomes more challenging.
3. How to Delete Hidden Files on a Mac
Your Mac’s hard drive might have unseen junk files or remnants from apps. These files are more challenging to remove since identifying them can be time-consuming.
To find these hidden files on your Mac, follow these steps:
- Open Finder and click the Macintosh HD folder in the left sidebar.
- Inside the folder, hold down Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + . (period) simultaneously.
- It will reveal the concealed files. You can select and delete the folders you want.
You can also perform this in the Applications, Documents, and Desktop folders. After spotting the hidden files, you can delete them like regular files on your Mac.
Just like hidden files, your Mac may have leftovers from the apps you uninstalled. You can use MacKeeper to get rid of app leftovers. Here’s how:
- Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
- Open MacKeeper and click Smart Uninstaller in the left sidebar under Cleaning.
- Click Start Scan.
- When the scan completes, click Leftovers in the left sidebar.
- Select the leftover files you want to delete and click Remove Selected.
- Click Remove on the pop-up window to confirm.
- This will remove the app leftovers from your Mac.
4. How to Delete Locked Files on a Mac
Deleting locked files on a Mac requires a few additional steps compared to regular files. If you attempt to move a locked file to the Bin, an extra popup window will appear, prompting you to click Continue to confirm the action.
On the other hand, if you have administrator privileges on your Mac, you can unlock the file and then proceed with its deletion.
Here’s how to unlock a file via Finder:
- Locate the locked file in Finder.
- Right-click the file and select Get Info or press Command ⌘ + I.
- In the Get Info window, look for the Locked checkbox under the General section.
- Uncheck the Locked box.
- Now, you can delete the file as you normally would.
5. How to Delete a File Shortcut on Mac
Deleting a file shortcut (often referred to as an alias on a Mac) is a simple process. Here’s how you can do it:
- Navigate to where the alias (shortcut) is located on your Mac, whether on the desktop, in a folder, or elsewhere.
- Click the alias to select it. You can identify an alias by the small arrow on the bottom left corner of its icon.
- Click and drag the alias to the Bin icon in the Dock or press Command ⌘ + Delete with the alias selected.
- If you want to remove the alias from your Mac permanently, right-click the Binicon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
❗️Deleting an alias will not delete the original file or folder it points to. The original item remains intact and unaffected.
6. How to Find and Delete Large Files on a Mac
Finding and deleting large files on a Mac can help free up storage space. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you locate and remove large files on your Mac:
- Open System Settings on your Mac.
- Click General and select Storage.
- Scroll down to Documents and click the small i next to it.
- To view the biggest redundant files on your Mac, use the Large Files tab. (I had no large files on my Mac, so it showed an empty pane).
- Alternatively, select File Browser to view the sizes of all files and folders on your device.
- To remove a file, select it and hit Delete. This action will erase the file without moving it to the Bin first.
7. How to Delete iOS Files on a Mac
Outdated backups from iOS and iPadOS can consume significant storage on your Mac. This is especially redundant if you no longer have those devices or transitioned to backing up your iPhone or iPad via iCloud.
To locate and remove old iPhone and iPad backups, follow these steps:
- Open System Settings on your Mac.
- Click General and select Storage.
- Scroll down to iOS Files. (Only appears if you have an iOS backup on your Mac).
- Identify the iOS or iPadOS backup you wish to remove.
- Press Delete.
8. How to Delete Word Documents on Mac
If you have outdated Word documents on your Mac that you no longer use, you should remove them to free up space. Deleting Word documents on a Mac is similar to removing other types of files. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Go to the folder or location where the Word document you want to delete is stored. Common locations include the Documents folder or the Desktop.
- Click the Word document to select it. If you want to delete multiple Word documents, hold down the Command ⌘ key and click each document you want to delete.
- Drag the selected Word document(s) to the Bin icon in the Dock or right-click the highlighted document(s) and choose Move to Bin from the context menu.
⚠️ Always double-check the documents you’re about to delete to ensure you don’t accidentally remove important files. If unsure, consider backing up the document(s) before deletion.
9. How to Delete Photos on Mac
Deleting photos on a Mac can be done in a few different ways, depending on where the photos are stored. Here’s how to delete photos on your Mac in different ways:
a. Using the Photos App
- Open the Photos app by searching for it in the Spotlight Search.
- Find the photo(s) you want to delete.
- Click to select a photo. For multiple selections, hold down the Command ⌘ key and click each photo.
- Press the Delete key on your keyboard or right-click and choose Delete X Photos.
- To permanently remove the deleted photos, select the Recently Deleted album in the left sidebar and click the Delete All button in the top-right corner.
b. From Finder
- Open Finder.
- Navigate to the folder or location where the photo(s) are stored.
- Select the photo(s) you want to delete.
- Drag them to the Bin or press Command ⌘ + Delete.
- To permanently delete, right-click the Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
🚨 Before deleting photos, ensure you have backups, especially if they’re important or irreplaceable. If you use iCloud Photos, deleting a photo will remove it from iCloud and all synced devices.
10. How to Delete Downloads on Mac
A lot of your Mac’s clutter comes from old downloads. Clearing out things like unused app installers and PDFs can help declutter your Mac and free up storage space. Here’s how to delete downloads on your Mac:
- Open Finder.
- In the sidebar, click Downloads to access the Downloads folder.
- Select the file(s) or folder(s) you want to delete. Hold down the Command ⌘ key for multiple files and click each item you want to delete.
- To select all files, press Command ⌘ + A.
- Move the selected items to the Bin icon in the Dock or press Command ⌘ + Delete.
- To permanently delete the items, right-click the Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
⚠️ Before deleting any files, especially if they are the only copies, ensure you won’t need them in the future or consider backing them up to an external drive or cloud storage.
11. How to Delete a File in Use
If you’ve tried to delete a file but received a message that it’s “in use,” here’s what you can do:
- If you know which application is using the file, close that application. For instance, if it’s a Word document, close Microsoft Word.
- Click the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your screen and select Force Quit.
- Choose the application that might be using the file.
- Click Force Quit again.
- Click the Force Quit button on the confirmation dialog box to confirm that you want to force quit the app.
- Sometimes, simply restarting your computer can free up the file.
- Now, try deleting the file again.
🚨 Force quitting applications can affect unsaved work, so proceed with caution. Always ensure you’ve saved any important data before taking these actions.
12. How to Delete Mac Files via Terminal
Since macOS is built on a Unix foundation, many system tasks can be executed directly through Terminal commands, bypassing the graphical interface. This can be especially handy when facing challenges deleting files.
⚠️ Terminal is powerful, and a misstep can result in significant issues. Tread with caution.
To delete files on your Mac via Terminal, follow these steps:
- Open Terminal on your Mac by searching for it in Spotlight search.
- Type the following command, making sure there’s a space after the R, but don’t press Enter:
sudo rm -R
- Instead of pressing Enter, click the Bin to open it.
- Drag the files from the Bin onto the Terminal window and press Enter.
- Enter your administrator password, and the file will be deleted from your Bin.
Delete Unnecessary Files on Your Mac
Deleting files on a Mac might seem tedious, but multiple quick and efficient methods are tailored for different scenarios, from clearing out old downloads to handling locked files. Whether using Finder, Terminal, or specialized tools, choosing the best approach that fits your comfort level is key.
Here are a few more tips to maintain a clutter-free Mac:
- Find, merge, and delete duplicate photos on Mac to prevent similar images from cluttering your library.
- If you use the iMessage app, regularly delete messages on MacBook to prevent them from piling up.
- Backups take up a lot of space. You can delete old Time Machine backups on your Mac to free up storage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the delete key on a Mac?
On a Mac, the Delete key is labeled as Delete or ⌫ and functions like the Backspace key on Windows. For forward delete, Mac users can press Fn + Delete or use the ⌦ key on a full keyboard. Familiarizing yourself with these keys enhances your Mac typing experience.
How do you delete files and folders on a Mac?
To delete files and folders on a Mac, select the desired items in Finder, then press Command ⌘ + Delete. This moves them to the Bin. To permanently remove, right-click the Bin icon and choose Empty Bin. Always back up important data before deletion.
Why won’t my files delete on my Mac?
Files on a Mac might resist deletion due to being in use, permissions issues, or system errors. Ensure the file isn’t open in any application. If the issue persists, try using Terminal commands or check the file’s permissions in Finder. Always back up important data before making changes.