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Terminal Can Delete File | Mac Tutorial in 2024

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Jun 14, 2024 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

A terminal should not be something to frighten you. Many Mac users shy away from it because, in all fairness and honesty, using it can be complicated, but that's only before you realize how simple it is to use.

One of its most important functions is deleting files, so if you're wondering how to go about deleting a file in Terminal, or maybe even several files, keep reading. There are a few basic rules about Terminal you need to understand to do this, but you'll get the hang of them soon enough.

Part 1: Scenarios to Delete Files via Terminal

By default, your Mac comes with numerous ways to delete files, ranging from keyboard shortcuts to your Finder. Certain third-party apps can perform the action for you too.

For the majority of Mac users, deleting files using these mediums is more user-friendly than Terminal, which is arguably true. With that being said, is there a reason you should opt for the more complex option? Yes, there is.

Part 2: Terminal Commands to Delete Files

There are several commands you can utilize to your advantage. Some work better in certain situations than others, so go through the list and see which of them suite your needs the most.

This is the primary command used to delete a single file. Just type the name of the file after typing in the command; like so: rm filename

This is the command to remove write-protected files. Sometimes, if the file you're trying to delete is write-protected, you will be asked for confirmation. An example is given below:

rm: remove write-protected regular empty file 'filename'?

Once you see this prompt in your Mac's terminal, type y and then hit "Enter" to remove the write-protection.

This command is what you use to simultaneously delete multiple files. All you have to do is type rm followed by the name of each file; like so: rm filename1 filename2 filename3

This is the command to match and delete multiple files. Wildcards (*) can be implemented in Terminal to match numerous files of the same type or extension and delete them. For example, if you wanted to delete multiple doc files in the same directory, type this in your Terminal: rm *.doc

This is the command used to confirm the deletion of each file. If, for any reason, you'd rather be prompted for a confirmation before you delete a file, use this command before typing in the name of the file. Like so: rm -i filename(s)

This is the command to delete files while bypassing the prompt message. Think of it a command which uses "brute force" to get the files out of your Mac. Even if the files are write-protected, this command negates the need to input any other command. To use it, type in the command and the name of the file or files; like so: rm -f filename(s)

Part 3: Full Guide to Delete Files in Terminal

If you haven't been using Terminal to handle tasks on your Mac, you've been missing out on a lot. You basically cheat your macOS because Terminal circumvents the need for you to go through loner processes to delete files and more.

Commands like rm are exceptionally powerful in deleting files, while commands like rmdir easily get rid of directories.

Of course, with a tool so powerful, there will inevitably be risks, so you have to be careful with Terminal because you could end up doing more damage than good.

If you're still wary about using Terminal, this post will teach you easy and safe ways to delete irrelevant files while keeping the important ones safe.

Deleting Files in Terminal

Contrary to its looks, the Terminal window is actually quite user-friendly. To delete a file, just launch Terminal, type the rm command and then the name of the file to be deleted, and then hit "Enter/Return".

If the file is located in a particular directory-like your desktop, for instance-type this in Terminal and hit enter: cd ~/Desktop From there, just look for the file you want to delete and type rm, succeeded by the name of the file, like so: rm MyFile.rtf Hit the "Enter/Return key. The moment you do that, the file says "farewell, till we meet again." Of course, you won't be meeting it again because it's been utterly erased from your Mac. Do you see how effortless it is to use Terminal?

Are you still worried about something potentially going wrong? Well, in that case, you can resort to another, less potent command to delete your files. The main difference is, this one asks you for permission before taking action. Artificial Intelligence is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

This command is written as such: -i

You can also call this command interactive. Refer to the examples below to see what it entails:

rm -i MyFile.rtf

rm -i MyFile.rtf MyCV.rtf MyGreatAmericanNovel.rtf

Even if you type the commands up there and press "Enter", nothing will happen. The -i nullifies the action of the rm command. In your Mac's terminal, running these commands should look something like this:


You won't be able to delete the files until you type yes or just y to the confirmation message you see in the image above. Remember, the whole point of using the interactive command is to exercise caution before deleting a file, so have that at the back of your mind.

Delete Directories in Terminal

A Terminal is also capable of deleting entire directories or folders, but you can't just run the usual rm command or you'll end up seeing a message like this:


What this all means is, you have to make use of a different kind of command to get rid of folders: rmdir

So, let's say you wanted to delete a folder called Balloons. This is what you have to type in Terminal: rmdir Balloons Mind you, the -i flag bears no effect on rmdir, so there's no option for confirmation when deleting folders. By the way, rmdir can only delete empty folders, so if that's not what you're looking for, there's a bit more reading left for you to do down below.

Delete Absolutely Everything

The rm command has a big bad brother. It's a more powerful command written as such:

-R (or -r)

It's also known as the recursive option. Putting rm and -R together is a recipe for the TOTAL deletion of files.

When you run these commands on a folder, you're basically instructing Terminal to delete that folder into nonexistence. Your Terminal will delete the folder, the files it contains, any sub-folders that could be within the main folder, and even the files and more subfolders with the first subfolders. As you can see, the commands leave no room for escape.

Here's a practical example: If you have a heck load of archives in a particular directory, then sub-directories and files within them for good measure, it would be cumbersome to go about deleting the folders one by one, be it via Finder or even Terminal.

An easier and quicker way to do that is to just type this command in Terminal:

rm -R Archives

Fortunately, you can use -i flag with this command as a safety net.

rm -iR Archives

That's really the most important thing you need to know about deleting files via Terminal. There are many other commands, of course, but if you get the hang of these commands, you're off to a very good start.

Part 3: How to Get Back Deleted Files on Mac

You are the only one who truly knows how important your files are to you, which is why no one will blame you if, by some manner of an accident, you permanently delete files from your Mac; files that never even got a chance to get to your Trash.

There's a silver lining in every cloud though, and that silver lining is Recoverit Mac Data Recovery. Even files deleted via Terminal can still be recovered using Recoverit, and that's a feat that is impossible for several other data recovery software, but not Recoverit.

With features that make it possible to recover all file types deleted or lost in any possible way you can think of, this is the only solution you need to get back deleted files and data. Here's how to use it:

Step 1: Choose a Location


Step 2: Scan the Location


Step 3: Preview & Recover Deleted Files

It won't go amiss to choose a different save location for the recovered files from their original directory. The simple reason for this is when you recover deleted data back to the same directory it was deleted from, you stand a risk of overwriting the data before its fully recovered.

Recoverit Mac Data Recovery has been around for years, which should be credible proof of its efficiency and how trusted it is. Users who have tried other recovery software and then used Recoverit always state his simple fact: When it comes to data recovery, Recoverit takes the crown.


Closing Words

Rarely a day goes by without you turning on your Mac and accessing your files, does it? The files could be as small as a document or as large as a video encoded in the highest of definitions.

The terminal makes it very easy to make sure none of those files, big or small, use up space in your Mac's drive. The powerful tool is a shortcut to deleting any type of file or folder regardless of whether it's hidden or not.

Should the worst happen and you end up getting rid of important files, Recoverit can step in and make things right again. Give it a try. You won't regret it.

Recoverit author

Sue Wayne

staff Editor

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