All the existing ways to delete files on a Mac

Deleting files on a Mac sounds easy, right? It is! However, there are so many different ways to delete files, depending on the circumstances and how you like to use your Mac. That is why it’s worth covering them. Also, there are lots of different reasons why you may want to delete files. For example, to free up space. In that case, how do you decide which files to delete in order to free up the most space? We’ll tell you. Finally, what happens if files just won’t delete? We’ve got that covered, too.

1. “Delete files on Mac” shortcut

There are several ways to delete files on Mac, and we’ll cover them all below. First, let’s learn about shortcuts that will simplify the process: 

  • Command + Delete is the fastest way to delete files. It sends the selected file to Trash. 
  • Option + Command + Delete. This shortcut deletes the file permanently and immediately, meaning that it is not sent to Trash but removed from Mac right away. Note that if you use it, this action cannot be undone. 

2. Use Optimize Storage menu

Most users rarely use the built-in Optimize Storage tool. If only they knew it’s an easy way to find and delete files and even apps.

  1. Go to Apple menu > About This Mac > More Info > Storage Settings.
  2. Check Recommendations under the colored graph. 
System Preferences - Storage

Under Recommendations, you can see your files broken down into categories. Clicking i next to the category and hitting “Delete” next to a selected file sends it to the Trash.


If your reason for deleting files is to free up space on your boot drive, one good place to start is with those that are taking up the most space and those that you no longer need regular access to. It’s a good idea to archive those large and old files and delete them from your boot drive.

Find even more large files

To find even more large files from different categories, you can use a popular Mac cleaning app CleanMyMac X. It scans your disk and shows you which files are taking up the most space. You can even filter files by size, type, and the date you last accessed them. 

It has a free version you can download.

There, you’ll find the dedicated tool called Large & Old Files.

One year ago information in LAOF module CMMX

We find it more helpful than the built-in Optimize Storage option because we can search more specifically for older files we might have completely forgotten about. You can right-click a file to reveal them in the Finder.

The way that everyone knows, and most people use, to delete files on a Mac is to drag them to the Trash and empty it. But even then, there are lots of options.

3. Delete files with Trash Bin

Another way to delete files on a Mac is to use Trash Bin. There are different ways to do it as well:

  • Drag files one at a time to the Trash.
  • Shift-click files that are next to each other in a folder to drag them all to the Trash.
  • Command-click files that are not next to each other to select them and drag them to the Trash.

Life would be pretty boring if we did things the same way all the time, though, right? And with that in mind, here are a few other ways to delete files on a Mac:

  1. A great shortcut to delete files on Mac is to right-click on the file in the Finder and select Move to Trash. This also works when you have multiple files selected.
  2. Select the file, or files, in the Finder, click on the File menu, and select Move to Trash.
  3. Select the file in the Finder and use the shortcuts we described above: Command + Delete or Option + Command + Delete. 

If you’re fed up seeing those warning boxes telling you that you are about to permanently erase items, you can turn it off. In the Finder, click on the Finder menu, then choose Settings > Advanced. Deselect the box labeled “Show warning before emptying the Trash.”

4. Use Terminal app

If the above methods don’t work, you can use a Terminal command instead. Here’s how to delete files in the Terminal on Mac:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal.
  2. Type the following, making sure there is a space after the ‘R’: sudo rm -R
  3. Don’t press Return; instead, click on Trash to open it.
  4. Drag the files from the Trash onto the Terminal window.
  5. Press Return.
  6. Type in your administrator password.

Press Return, and your file will be gone and deleted from the Trash.

5. Delete files safely with Shredder

Shredding files works like a real-world shredder — there’s no way to retrieve them. And CleanMyMac X has a free tool you can use to destroy your files at any time.

If you have the app installed on your Mac, just find the Shredder tab in the sidebar. Drag and drop a file you want to delete.

Shredder module of CleanMyMacX

When “shredded,” your file (or, rather, the space it occupied) is replaced with a random set of zeroes and ones. So, be careful, and double-check the file you’re about to delete.

6. Delete hidden files on Mac

In general, you shouldn’t touch hidden files. But if you know the file you want to delete is hidden, you can reveal it by navigating to its location in Finder and pressing Command-Shift-period to reveal hidden files — the greyed-out ones were hidden from view. Press the keyboard shortcut a second time to hide them again.

To be on the safe side, use this combination to delete hidden files from the Documents or Applications folders only. However, do not do it in the System and Library folders because you can delete files crucial for the proper functioning of macOS. Either way, always double-check what you send to trash, especially if the file has a strange name. 

What to do if files won’t delete

If, for some reason, you can’t empty the Trash, there are a couple of keyboard shortcuts you can try. First of all, make sure that the files you are trying to delete aren’t in use by an application. If you get an error message telling you they are, quit the application.

Right-click or control-click on a file in the Trash and select Delete Immediately. Hold down the Option key and empty the Trash in the normal way.

There are many different ways to delete files on a Mac, and they all do the same thing — remove the file from the directory and make the space available to use. If you want to free up space, choose your favorite one among the ways we specified and use it from time to time. 

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

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