Roman Kropachek Photo
Written by:

How to delete on a mac

how to delete on a mac

Whether you’re a seasoned Mac user or a newcomer, effectively managing your digital space is crucial. Deleting unneeded files or applications not only frees up disk space but also ensures a clutter-free and efficient environment. From my personal experience, I’ve found several easy-to-follow methods that made the process of deleting files, apps, and other data on my Mac both simple and safe. I’ll share these tips with you to enhance your Mac user experience.


Common Scenarios:

Spring Cleaning Your Mac 🧹

  • Deleting outdated files and applications to optimize performance.
  • Clearing out downloads and cache files for additional storage space.
  • Removing large, unused files that have been hogging disk space.

Uninstalling Unwanted Applications 🗑

  • Getting rid of applications that are no longer used or needed.
  • Cleaning up app-related support files and caches to ensure a complete uninstallation process.

Organizing Documents and Media 📁

  • Maintaining a tidy document folder by deleting irrelevant files.
  • Managing media collections by removing duplicate or unwanted items.

Step-by-Step Guide. How To Delete On A Mac:

Method 1: Using the Trash 🗑

  • To delete files or folders, simply drag and drop them into the Trash icon in your Dock.
  • Alternatively, right-click on the item and select ‘Move to Trash’ from the contextual menu.
  • To permanently delete the items, right-click on the Trash icon and choose ‘Empty Trash,’ or open the Trash and click the ‘Empty’ button.

Note: Items in the Trash will still occupy space on your Mac until the Trash is emptied.

Conclusion: Using the Trash is the simplest way to delete items and offers an opportunity to recover files before permanent deletion.

Method 2: Keyboard Shortcuts ⌨

  • Select the file or folder you want to delete and press the Command + Delete keys simultaneously to move it to Trash.
  • To bypass the Trash and immediately delete an item, press Command + Option + Delete keys together.
  • To empty the Trash without using the mouse, press Command + Shift + Delete.

Note: The second shortcut permanently deletes the item, so only use it when you’re sure you won’t need to recover the file.

Conclusion: Keyboard shortcuts provide a faster alternative for deletion tasks, especially for power users.

Method 3: Using Finder 🔍

  • Open Finder and navigate to the file or folder you wish to delete.
  • Right-click on it and select ‘Move to Trash’ or simply drag it to the Trash icon.
  • Go to ‘Finder’ in the menu bar, then click on ‘Empty Trash..’ to permanently remove the files.

Note: Be cautious when cleaning up system folders or directories as it might affect the functionality of your Mac.

Conclusion: Finder provides a user-friendly interface for managing and deleting files efficiently.

Upgrading to macOS Monterey 🚀

Learn how to upgrade to the latest Mac operating system to enjoy improved file management capabilities.

Permanent Deletion with Terminal 💻

  • Open the Terminal app found in the Utilities folder or by searching in Spotlight.
  • Type the command ‘rm’ followed by a space, then drag and drop the file into the Terminal window to auto-fill its path, and press Enter.
  • For secure deletion, use ‘srm’ instead of ‘rm’ to overwrite the file multiple times.

Note: Terminal commands are irreversible, so ensure the correct file path is used.

Conclusion: Advanced users may prefer Terminal for a swift, secure deletion method, although it requires caution.

Discover more about using Terminal on Mac.

Method 7: Using Third-Party Apps 🛠

Explore the versatility and additional functionalities that third-party cleanup tools provide for Mac users. Achieve efficient file management and deletion with robust applications designed for macOS.

Choose the best third-party app for your Mac.


Precautions and Tips:

Backup Before You Delete 💾

  • Always back up your Mac with Time Machine or another backup solution before deleting files or applications.
  • Verify the backed-up data is accessible and intact prior to any deletion.

Understand how to back up with Time Machine.

Review What You Remove 👀

  • Regularly audit your files and applications to decide what can be deleted.
  • Use built-in storage management tools to identify what is taking up the most space and remove non-essential items.

Optimizing Your Mac

When you make a habit of organizing and deleting unnecessary data on your Mac, you’ll notice a significant improvement in its performance. Over time, cached data, duplicate files, and unused apps can take a toll on your system. Disk Utility and other built-in macOS features can help you maintain your Mac’s health and speed.

Lean into the minimalist approach by regularly assessing the files you possess and determine what’s essential — less clutter means more clarity and efficiency in your workspace.

Remember to explore the comprehensive Mac Support page where you can find additional tips, walk-throughs, and support for your Mac.


Deleting files and applications on a Mac is a straightforward process that, when done regularly, can greatly improve your system’s performance. Choose the deletion method that works best for you, whether it is using the Trash, keyboard shortcuts, Finder, or third-party apps. Always remember to back up important data before deleting it, to avoid accidental loss. If you need further assistance, the Apple Support website is an invaluable resource for all Mac users.


To delete a file on a Mac, simply select the file in Finder and press Command + Delete. Alternatively, right-click on the file and choose Move to Trash.

Empty the Trash by right-clicking on the Trash icon and selecting Empty Trash, or press Command + Shift + Delete. Confirm the action if prompted.

Yes, you can usually delete applications by dragging their icons from the Applications folder to the Trash, although some may require an uninstaller.

To permanently delete files without using Trash, select them in Finder and press Option + Command + Delete. You’ll need to confirm the action.

Once the Trash is emptied, files cannot be undeleted natively. However, you can use third-party data recovery software to attempt recovery.

Yes, files from external drives can be deleted just like files on the Mac’s internal drive, by moving them to the Trash and then emptying it.

To delete browser history, open your browser, go to the history section, and look for an option like Clear Browsing Data or Clear History.

Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups, click the lock icon, select the user account, and hit the ‘-‘ (minus) button below.

It is difficult to accidentally delete system files as macOS requires administrator permissions to modify system folders and files.

Close any applications that may be using the file or restart your Mac to free up the file, then attempt to delete it again. When deleting files or managing your Mac, it’s essential to do so correctly to avoid data loss. For more information on managing your Mac, visit the official macOS support page.