The Basics

You undoubtedly know the basics of working with the Trash. Drag files in, drag mistakenly trashed files out and choose Finder > Empty Trash or right click to empty the Trash to delete the files and recover the disk space.

But instead of just dragging files to and from the Trash, you can take advantage of these trash tips that make working with the Trash faster and easier.

Move Files to the Trash

The most obvious method of trashing a file is to drop it on the Trash icon in the Dock, but on a large screen that can be fussy. Once you’ve selected one or more files in the Finder, try one of these alternatives:

  • Press Command-Delete. Super-easy
  • Control – or right-click on one of them, and choose Move to Trash
  • Choose File > Move to Trash

What if you want to delete a file immediately. Perhaps because you need to recover the disk space right away? Hold down Option and choose File > Delete Immediately, or press Command-Option-Delete. The Finder always asks whether you want to do this.

Remove Files from the Trash

Taking something out is easy: click the Trash icon on the Dock to open its window, and then drag the file out of the window. But, there is more to know about the best ways to remove files from the Trash.

First, if you trash a file and immediately realise it was the wrong thing to do, press Command-Z or choose Edit > Undo Move to Trash to put it back where it started

We like viewing the Trash window in Cover Flow view (open it, and then choose View > as Cover Flow) because of the document preview at the top of the window. We also like to sort by Date Added so that we can see the items we’ve trashed most recently (if the Date Added column isn’t showing, choose View > Show View Options and select the Date Added checkbox).

Trash Tips

In the Trash window, you can select an item and use the Put Back command to return it to its original location. Try one of these techniques:

  • Press Command-Delete. It’s the same shortcut as for Move to Trash but does the reverse when the selection is in the Trash window
  • Control – or right-click on one of them, and choose Put Back
  • Choose File > Put Back

Empty the Trash

The main reason to empty the Trash is if you need to reclaim the disk space. You can do that at any time, but in macOS 10.12 Sierra and later, you can have the Mac automatically remove items from the Trash after they’ve been in there for 30 days. Just choose Finder > Preferences > Advanced, and select the “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days” checkbox.

To empty the Trash manually, choose Finder > Empty Trash. If “Show warning before emptying the Trash” is selected in the window shown above, you’ll be prompted to confirm the deletion. If you don’t like the prompt, deselect that checkbox. Other shortcuts include:

  • Click and hold the Trash icon on the Dock, and choose Empty Trash.
  • Press Command-Shift-Delete.
  • To avoid the warning even when it’s enabled, press Command-Shift-Option-Delete.

Emptying the Trash doesn’t have to be an all or nothing action. Imagine that you’ve just trashed a few huge files and want to recover their disk space without deleting every other file in the Trash. Just select them, Control – or right-click one, and choose Delete Immediately. You can also press Command-Option-Delete.

With these tips, you can trash files, recover from mistakes, and clear disk space quickly and confidently. If you know of anymore, we’d love to hear about them.