How to Add a Trash Icon to the Desktop of Mac OS X

Jul 29, 2010 - 14 Comments

mac trash icon desktop Long ago in a time far far away, OK really it was just prior to Mac OS X, there used to be a Trash icon on the Desktop. Yup, earlier versions of Mac OS didn’t have a Dock at all, and the Trash was just another item on the desktop, sitting in the bottom right corner.

For the nostalgic, you can easily replicate this functionality by using the command line to create a symbolic link of the actual functioning Trash to a folder named Trash on your desktop. That may sound complex but it’s really not, you can do it with a single line entered into the Terminal application.

How to Add a Trash Can to the Mac Desktop

Launch the Terminal app (found in /Applications/Utilities) and enter the following syntax exactly:

ln -s ~/.Trash ~/Desktop/Trash

Hit return, and a new folder named ‘Trash’ will appear on your desktop. This folder has direct access to the Trash in the Dock, thus any files or folders you drag here will be sent to the Trash as usual.

You can assign any icon you’d like to this folder to make it look like a Trash can, the image below is the actual Mac OS X trash icon in it’s 512x512px transparent PNG format:

Mac OS X trash can icon

Digging around the web can help to find the flat oldschool varieties from Mac OS 6, Mac OS 7, 8, and 9. Even earlier versions of Mac OS X had slightly different trash icon varieties.

Note that the desktop Trash can described here doesn’t have full Trash functionality, the icon won’t change if it’s full, and it also lacks the ability to eject disks that are dragged into the directory, but for those dreaming of the days of Trash on the desktop from Mac OS 7 they may find that acceptable.

If you want to remove the desktop Trash icon, just drag it to the (actual) Trash in the Dock where it will be deleted.


Related articles:

Posted by: David Mendez in Customize, Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Robert says:

    No way to change on Sonoma. The old way of “info” copy, paste does not work any more. Even tried going to actual png of Trashfull.png but even though you are admin system will not let you change that. So in Sonoma its a folder icon or if you really want a trash can icon on your desktop use Shift, Command “N” to create generic folder, chang icon through info and label it “To be deleted” and end of day move contents to actual Trash.

  2. Daniel says:

    Step 1 I got

    ln: ./.Trash: File exists

    Step 2 I got:

    -bash: /Users/daniel/Desktop/Trash: No such file or directory

    So… it didn’t work for Mac OS Sierra 10.12.6

    • tun says:

      You must use proper syntax for the commands to work as intended and place the Trash icon onto the Mac desktop. This is essentially creating an alias onto your Mac desktop of the Trash icon, like was in Mac OS Classic.

      ln -s ~/.Trash ~/Desktop/Trash

      • HANSON KURT LOUIS says:

        After reboot on a Mohave beta, …? tried things but seems like it’ll remain no=can=do to put the wired garbage can on my ~/k(mmmmmmm/Desktop

  3. Nimbler says:

    this site has awesome Mac information for all levels of experience. I love it!

  4. […] the nostalgic, a Trash icon can be placed on the desktop like the good old days of System 9 and before by using symbolic […]

  5. Dale says:

    The command to return an item from the trash to its original location will not work unless that command is issued immediately after putting the item in the trash in the first place. Any intermediate actions will break the connection. If I am wrong, or if there IS a way to return an item at any later time, let me know. Thanks!

  6. Thanks says:

    Very helpful Tip. Thanks very much!

  7. Robert says:

    try CandyBar from Panic / IconFactory. That will do it :)

    • Robert says:

      but no matter how u choose to customize that icon. u have to know that every time you’ll empty the trash can the con will reset, and that’s because of the way macs store the folder icons

  8. […] per l’espulsione dei Volumi montati nel Finder, e diversamente da quanto riportato nella fonte originale di questo tip, non è possibile cambiare l’aspetto dell’icona stessa con qualcosa di più gradevole e […]

  9. Ian says:

    I tried changing the icon as well, but I couldn’t do it. With the same image on the clipboard I was able to change the image of another folder. It appears not to work on shortcuts.

  10. Gilbert says:

    Tried to change the folder to a trash icon but won’t do it.

  11. revtrev says:

    Great tip. If I have a trash can on my desktop I’d have another reason to keep it clean.

Leave a Reply


Shop on and help support OSXDaily!

Subscribe to OSXDaily

Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Twitter Feed Follow on Facebook Subscribe to eMail Updates

Tips & Tricks


iPhone / iPad



Shop on Amazon to help support this site