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How to Delete Trash on Mac

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Jan 15, 2024 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

Mac is one of the most popular operating systems in the world over. It offers a wide range of features to its users – one of them is its Trash folder. When we delete something from Mac, it is moved to the Trash folder for us to recover afterward. Though, there are times when users can't seem to delete trash on their system or struggle to undelete trash on Mac as well. To resolve this, we have come up with this in-depth guide on how to delete trash on Mac.

Part 1. How to Delete Files and Folders on Mac

To begin this guide, let's learn how to delete any file or folder on a Mac system. When a file is deleted from Mac, it is moved to the Trash folder for future recovery scope. Ideally, there are different ways to get rid of anything on Mac. Let's get to know about the two main approaches.

Solution 1: Drag and Delete Files

The easiest way to get rid of a file is by dragging it moving it to the trash folder.

  1. Firstly, go to Finder and locate the file that you wish to get rid of.
  2. Once you locate it, select the file, and drag it.
  3. Drop it to the Trash folder present in the dock to delete the file.


Solution 2: Command Delete

Mac has made it very easy for users to delete trash simply by using the keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Locate the file which you wish to delete and select it.
  2. Then, press both Command and Delete keys at the same time.
  3. Confirm your choice to move the file to the trash folder.


Part 2. How to Empty Trash on Mac

If you have accumulated a lot of data on your Mac, then emptying the trash becomes very important. It would release the storage from the trash completely and make your system run faster at the same time. So, to create this space, and to permanently delete trash on Mac, follow the step by step guide mentioned below.

I. When You Need to Delete Single Item from Trash Bin

Sometimes, users don't wish to get rid of the entire trash can as they may have to recover a few files back later for future use. So, to get rid of just a single item, you can follow these simple steps.

  1. Firstly, open the trash folder and then open the terminal app from the applications.
  2. Simply type the letter rm i.e. remove in the terminal app, then give space and drag any item you wish to delete from trash to terminal.
  3. Let it process so that only that particular item will be deleted from trash.


If you fail to empty Mac trash, you need to find the solutions here: Fix "Cannot Empty Trash on Mac".
- 3 minutes to read it.

II. When You Wish to Delete All Items from the Trash Bin

If you no longer have any useful content stored in the trash, you can delete multiple items in the trash as well.

  1. Open trash can and click on the empty button at the right corner of the screen.
  2. The system would ask for your confirmation, just click on the "yes" option to proceed.


Part 3. How to Empty Trash by Repairing Mac Disk

We've already learned how to secure delete trash on Mac. As you can see, emptying the trash is an easy and uncomplicated process. But, what if you're not able to delete items in the trash or you get an error like the trash won't empty. If this happens to you, do not worry, there are several solutions through which the user could empty trash by repairing Mac OS X.


Files being used

The first situation could be when the user is unable to delete the file in use, so if you wish to know how to delete the files that are being used, follow these steps:

  1. Firstly, shut down all the apps in use including the app you wish to delete.
  2. Once you've closed all the applications, open the trash and delete the files you wish to get rid of.


Files Being Locked

The second obstacle that the users might face in deleting a particular file is when the file appears to be locked. When the operating system shows us this error message that the file is locked. Simply, hold the down option and again choose to empty trash. The OS X would overwrite the file, resulting in deleting it.

Other Situations

Still, if the user is not able to delete or empty the trash. The steps below to get all unwanted files out of the system permanently may seek great help to them.

  1. Firstly, search and open Terminal in applications or utilities from the right corner.
  2. After the terminal appears on the screen, type cd ~/.Trash and simply press the return button.
  3. Then, type rm followed by space.
  4. Next, click on the trash icon. Then, select and drag all items to the terminal.
  5. In the end, it would be deleted from the trash folder.

Bonus Tips - Recover Accidentally Emptied Trash

Trash is one of the overlooked aspects of OS X that users think of only if they get stuck. Though, if you get to learn how to manage the trash folder on Mac, then you can easily make the most of our data and speed-up the processing of your system as well. Here are some more tips to add that could be really advantageous for a Mac user in the long run.

I. If you wish to undelete trash on Mac, you can simply download Recoverit Mac Trash Recovery Software and get back all of your precious files/folders/pictures/videos in 3 simple steps. It can recover all sorts of files that have been removed from the Trash folder in a user-friendly way. The data recovery tool supports all the leading Mac versions and has one of the highest recovery rates. It features different data recovery modes for users to get back their lost data in all scenarios.

II. If you wish to remove items from the Trash automatically after 30 days, simply open advanced options from the settings and choose to remove items from the Trash in 30 days.


III. If you want to secure delete trash. Deleting the trash without getting any error is another important feature that Mac provides to its users. To activate it, follow these steps:

  1. Click and hold the trash can icon in the dock.
  2. The user needs to hold down the command key and click Trash. By doing this, empty trash would change to secure empty trash.
  3. Select it and delete the trash securely.


IV. If you want to delete trashes file on Mac USB: A lot of people find it hard to delete the trash from a connected USB source. The rm command of the terminal works well in this case. File(s) can be deleted from USB by following 4 simple steps:

  1. Go to the applications and open the terminal.
  2. Type rm followed by a space.
  3. Drag all files you want to delete from the finder to the terminal.
  4. Press return.

V. How to undo delete trash Mac: Sometimes, we end up deleting something we didn't wish to remove. Mac has an option to simply undo and recover the files back. You can do this in 4 easy steps:

  1. Open the trash folder.
  2. Select the file(s) you wish to put back in the original location.
  3. Right-click after selecting the files.
  4. Choose the "put back" option and your files will get back to its original location.

VI. How to automatically empty the trash: If you wish to manually empty the drive, then follow this technique. Just access an amazing feature on Mac from the Apple menu > About this storage > Manage. You will find an option to automatically empty the trash. Click on it and be free from the hassle of emptying trash again and again.

After reading this article, you'll definitely be able to delete, undelete, and recover data from the Trash. In case if you have accidentally deleted something, then try Recoverit Data Recovery. Apart from that, you can also follow some of our suggestions to manage trash in Mac like an expert.

Get to learn about secure emptying Trash on Mac.
Recoverit author

Sue Wayne

staff Editor

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