Mac Performance

All the Easiest Ways to Delete Files on a Mac

There’s limited storage space on your Mac, so it’s a good idea to delete files and folders you no longer need to keep making space for new ones. That might mean clearing out the downloads folder, deleting ancient documents, or searching for hidden Mac files that are still taking up space.

Before we start

Some files are easy to delete on a Mac, but others are more difficult to find. Plugins and browser extensions, for example, won’t be in your Applications folder. By running MacKeeper’s Smart Uninstaller, you can quickly find and delete these files. It’ll also take care of files left over by deleted apps.

  1. In MacKeeper, click Smart Uninstaller from the left-side menu
  2. Click Start scan, and wait for it to finish
  3. When it’s done, select what you want to delete
  4. Click Remove selected

If that sounds useful, you can try MacKeeper for free, with no obligation to buy. Give it a try, and see what it can do for your Mac.

If you need to delete any files on your Mac, you’ll find everything you need to know below, including how to:

  • Bypass the Trash
  • Remove files that are in use
  • Find the biggest files to delete
  • Unlock and delete locked files

The Easiest Ways to Delete Files on a Mac

There are several ways to delete files on a Mac, but all of them are incredibly quick and easy to do. No matter which app you’re using, you can use any of the following three methods to quickly delete a file on your Mac:

  • Drag and drop a file onto the Trash icon on the Dock
  • Control-click a file you want to delete, then choose Move to Trash
  • Select a file and press Command (⌘) + Delete on the keyboard
Move to Trash

Using any of these three methods send your deleted file or folder to the Trash on your Mac. That means it will still occupy storage on your Mac. To completely delete a file, empty the Trash on your Mac.


Note, however, that many junk and miscellaneous files are hidden away in system folders. To clear other storage like this, you’ll need to find these folders, which can be made a lot easier with a junk cleaner for Mac


How to delete Mac files without sending them to the Trash

If you want to save a bit of time, you can instantly and permanently delete a Mac file without sending it to the Trash first. Of course, you should only do this if you're certain you want to delete a file, because you can't get it back from the Trash after.


After selecting it in Finder, use either of these methods to permanently delete a file on a Mac without sending it to the Trash first:

  • Hold the Option key and go to File > Delete Immediately from the menu bar
  • Press Option + Command (⌘) + Delete
Permanently delete a file

Whichever method you use, your Mac will ask to confirm that you want to permanently delete your selected file in a popup window.

How to find and delete the biggest files on a Mac

The easiest way to create more free storage on your Mac is to find and delete the biggest unnecessary files.

Follow these steps to do that:

  1. Click the Apple logo and select About This Mac
  2. Go to the Storage tab and click Manage
  3. Select Documents in the sidebar
  4. Use the Large Files tab to see the largest unnecessary files on your Mac. Or click File Browser to see all the file and folder sizes on your Mac
  5. Select a file and click Delete to get rid of it. This does not send that file to the Trash
Find and delete large files

You could also just check your Downloads folder, and delete any downloads that aren't needed anymore – things like app installers and PDFs.

How to delete iOS files on a Mac

Old iOS and iPadOS backups may take up a considerable amount of storage on your Mac, which is particularly unnecessary if you don’t own those devices anymore or if you back up your iPhone or iPad using iCloud instead.


To find and delete old iPhone and iPad backups:

  1. Click the Apple logo and select About This Mac
  2. Go to the Storage tab and click Manage
  3. Select iOS Files in the sidebar
  4. Select the iOS or iPadOS backup you don’t need anymore
  5. Click Delete
Delete iOS files

How to delete locked files on a Mac

When dragging a locked file to the Trash you’ll need to confirm this action by clicking Continue in an additional popup window.


Alternatively, if you’re logged in as a Mac administrator, you can unlock the file before deleting it:

  1. Select the locked file in Finder
  2. Control-click and choose Get Info, or press Command (⌘) + I
  3. Untick the checkbox next to Locked
locked file

How to delete hidden files on a Mac

You might have hidden junk files or app leftovers cluttering your Mac’s hard drive. These files are inherently harder to delete from your Mac because it takes longer to find them.

To locate hidden files on your Mac:

  1. In Finder click your computer's hard drive (under Locations)
  2. Next, open your Macintosh HD folder
  3. Press and hold down CMD + Shift + . (period)

This will show the hidden files. Do this in Applications, Documents, and Desktop folders as well. Once you’ve found hidden files, you can delete them as you would any other files on your Mac.  

desktop folder

Besides, check out our guide on locating and dealing with hidden files on your Mac to learn more ways to find them. 

How to delete files that are in use or stuck

Have you ever been stopped from deleting an app or files because your Mac says it’s open? This is a common issue, but it’s not the only reason you might be unable to delete files on your Mac.

Delete files in use

Some files spit out warning messages and alerts every time you try to get rid of them. This can happen for a variety of different reasons, like if the file is:

  • Locked
  • Corrupted
  • Currently in use
  • Protected by macOS

If you can’t delete a file on your Mac for any reason, use these troubleshooting tips and try deleting it again after each one:

  1. Close every app and file on your Mac
  2. Restart your Mac by going to Apple > Restart in the menu bar
  3. Boot your Mac into Safe Mode by holding Shift while powering it on
  4. Log in to an administrator’s account
  5. Boot into Recovery Mode by holding Command (⌘) + R while your Mac powers on, then open Disk Utility and run First Aid on your startup disk
  6. Disable SIP by booting into Recovery Mode, selecting Utility > Terminal from the menu bar, and running the following command: csrutil disable. After deleting your files, enable SIP again using csrutil enable

If you're trying to remove an installed program, you can possibly use a specialized app cleaner for Mac to delete it.

How to restore deleted files on a Mac

Wondering whether it’s possible to recover deleted files on a Mac? The answer is usually yes!


Most of the deletion methods we’ve covered in this post will send your deleted files to the Trash. This is great because there are lots of ways to restore different deleted files from the Trash. But even if you already emptied the Trash, data recovery specialists might still be able to help you recover deleted files anyway.


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