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How to Permanently Delete Files & Folders on MacBook Pro/Air

Updated on Monday, April 22, 2024

iBoysoft author Connie Yang

Written by

Connie Yang
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee


How to Delete Files on a Mac With the Simplest Ways

Summary: This post by iBoysoft is about how to delete files on a Mac and how to delete files that can't be deleted. In addition, it will tell you how to delete hidden files, a large number of files, and the 'Other' storage on your Mac to free up more space.

delete files on Mac

It's time to organize files on your Mac when the limited storage space fails to store the new files or folders. Or, you want to delete the useless files to speed up your sluggish MacBook. Whatever your reason is, removing the files you no longer use is a nice idea.

So, how do you quickly or permanently delete files on your Mac? We'll help you. In this tutorial, you can learn the common ways to delete files on your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. In addition, the methods for removing hidden files, files that won't be deleted, or multiple files at once are also available for you.

Quick Navigation:


How to quickly delete files on Mac?

The fixed ways for uninstalling apps on your Mac and deleting files or folders like videos, documents, or images are easy to operate.

Here are three common ways to quickly delete files on a Mac:

  • Drag and drop a file to the Trash on the Dock.
    Drag files to Mac Trash
  • Right-click a file and select the Move to Trash option.
  • Select a file you want to delete and press down the Mac delete shortcuts Command + Delete keys on your keyboard.

The three ways only move your files to the Mac Trash. In other words, the files in Trash are still on your Mac hard drive and occupy your disk storage space. If you want to completely delete some files, please move on.


How to permanently delete files on Mac?

The quick deletion only moves your files to the Trash. If you want to completely/permanently delete the files on Mac (Files can't get back anymore), you need to right-click the Trash on the Dock and select Empty Trash after you've moved the files there.

Maybe you decide to completely delete some files without moving them to the Trash first. If so, you can clear them up thoroughly from your Mac using one of the following two ways.

  • Select the file and hold down the Option + Command + Delete keys on your keyboard.
  • Open Finder and select the target file. Then, navigate to the top Finder menu and click File. Meanwhile, hold down the Option key, you'll find the Move to Trash option in the File drop-down menu converted to Delete Immediately. Select the Delete Immediately option and click Delete on the pop-up confirmation window.

Select Delete immediately option under File option in Finder menu

What is easy to overlook is that you also need to clear caches on your Mac for complete app deletion. And clean up download history in browsers through downloads deletion on Mac.

Now, the target files are completely removed from your Mac and won't be recoverable unless using data recovery software.


How to delete hidden files on your Mac?

You probably never thought that your Mac had hidden files. In reality, macOS always hide some of your files for security, tidiness, or perhaps, the OS bug. Usually, the file name of a hidden file starts from a dot, and a folder name is not fixed, such as private, tmp, usr, etc.

To delete the hidden files on your Mac, you need to show them up on your Mac first:

  • Open Finder and select your Macintosh HD under locations at the left sidebar.
  • Hold down the Command + Shift + . (period) keys on your desktop.

Now, you can find the hidden folders and files appearing in your Macintosh HD folder. Then, try to move them to Trash or directly permanently delete them from your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

Check hidden files on Mac

Moreover, you can show up and delete the hidden files in your Applications, System, Library, or other folders one by one.


How do you delete a large number of files on Mac to free up space?

If you prepare to free up more disk space for your Mac, you need to tidy up and delete quantities of useless documents, apps, photos, iOS files, or other types of files.

To do so, you need to follow the steps below:

  • Click the Apple menu > About This Mac.
  • Select the Storage tab and click Manage.
    Open Finder Preferences
  • Select Applications at the left sidebar to check the unwanted apps. Then, select the ones you want to delete and click the Delete option.

Delete files under storage in About This Mac

You can also delete iOS files on your Mac and other recommendations on the list.

If you only want to delete large files on Mac in batches, you can:

  • Select Documents under Recommendations and click Large Files. It will list all the large documents there.
  • Choose multiple or all the large files if you ensure they are no longer in use.
  • Click Delete at the lower right corner.

delete large files on Mac

Moreover, it is worth mentioning that freeing up more storage isn't the key to optimizing your computer. Freeing up more memory on Mac is more workable.

How to delete 'Other' storage on Mac?

Perhaps, you find the greyed column among the whole storage bar under the Storage tab in About This Mac. That is called 'Other' storage on your Macintosh.

Files in 'Other' storage are those that can't be categorized into any common file types. They are usually OS-unsupported files, caches, dmg files, etc.

To delete files in 'Other' storage, you can follow this post: How to Delete 'Other' in Mac Storage to Free up Mac Space?


How do you delete files on Mac that won't delete?

Unexpectedly, when you try to delete a certain file, a warning message appears to alert you can't do that and the corresponding reasons.

If you insist on deleting the files that can't be deleted on your Mac, you need to fix the issue in the warning first. Then, try to delete them once again.

  • If the file is open or in use by an app or the system, you need to close or force quit it from the Dock. Or you can check the running programs in Activity Monitor and close all of them.
  • If the file is locked, right-click it and select Get Info to uncheck the Locked option.
    Unlock the locked files on Mac
  • If you are a guest user of this Mac, you can ask the administrator to help you delete your unwanted files.
  • If the file is protected by the operating system, you need to boot your Mac into Recovery Mode to disable SIP. (SIP is the built-in feature of Mac OS used to prevent protected files from malware attacks).
  • If the file is corrupted or can't be found by the system, try to restart your Mac to check if it's a temporary bug. If nothing changes, boot your Mac in Safe Mode to do the deletion or enter in macOS Recovery mode to run First Aid to check your startup disk.

If you find that the deleted files come back, don't worry, read this post to solve this problem: Deleted File Keeps Reappearing, Why and How to Fix?

All in all

When you ask someone how to delete files on a Mac and get the answer is "It's easy enough…", it's not true. Deleting a file on a Mac is not always as simple as moving it to Trash. There are different scenarios you may encounter.

Perhaps, you want to permanently delete some files or clear up a large number of files at once. Or, you find that you can't delete the files with the usual method.

Whatever your situation is, you can get help from this post. With this tutorial, you can do quick or permanent file deletion, remove hidden files to free up more space, or so.

Read also:

How to Delete Temporary Files on Mac Automatically or Manually?

FAQs about how to delete files on Mac


The delete key on a Mac locates under the power button on the keyboard. Some MacBooks are not designed with the delete key but replace it with the Backspace key. You can press the Fn + Backspace keys to delete a file.


First, select the files or folders in Finder. Next, drag and drop it to the Trash icon at the Dock on your Mac.


To delete files from your Mac hard drive, you need to move them to the Trash and empty your Trash. Or, you can select the file and press the Option + Command + Delete keys to permanently delete it from your Mac hard drive.


The reasons why you cannot delete some files on Mac are various, such as the file is used by a program or the system, the file is locked, you have no full permission for the file, or the file is corrupted or can't be recognized by the system.

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