How to Use “Delete Immediately” on Files to Bypass Trash in Mac OS X

Nov 23, 2015 - 25 Comments

How to delete files immediately in Mac OS X and bypass the Trash

The latest versions of Mac OS X include a new ability to immediately delete a file or folder from the Mac, bypassing the Trash can. Essentially how the “Delete Immediately” feature works is by circumventing the Trash and rather than waiting for user action to remove the files, it just deletes the file(s) instantaneously from the Mac, making the delete immediately function faster than the typical manner of removing a file in Mac OS X.

Delete Immediately is a handy feature if you want to rid a file or folder from the Mac right away and without having to manually empty the Trash, it effectively skips the Trash function and just deletes the files. This is not intended to be a replacement for secure empty Trash, however and doesn’t offer the same rewrite function.

There are two ways to access and use Delete Immediately in Mac OS X, with a quick access keystroke and from the File menu.

There is no way to undo this action so only use Delete Immediately if you really truly do want to vanquish a file from the Mac.

How to Delete Files Immediately with a Keyboard Shortcut on Mac

The quickest way to access the Delete Immediately function in Mac OS X is through a keyboard shortcut:

  1. Select the file(s) or folder(s) you wish to instantly and permanently delete and hit the following keystroke sequence: Option + Command + Delete
  2. Confirm with the dialog that you wish to delete the files permanently and immediately

Confirm to delete a file immediately in Mac OS X

This just circumvents placing the files into the Trash, it deletes the file(s) immediately from the Mac.

How to Access Delete Immediately from Mac Finder

You can also access the Delete Immediately option and skip the Trash by using the File menu in the Mac file system:

  1. Select the file(s) or folder(s) you wish to instantly and permanently delete then hold the OPTION key as you access the “File” menu from the Finder
  2. Choose “Delete Immediately” from the File menu
  3. Delete immediately in Mac OS X Finder and bypass the Trash

  4. Confirm with the dialog that you wish to delete the files permanently and immediately

Confirm to delete a file immediately in Mac OS X

Again, this skips the Trash, and the files are instantly deleted. The same as using the keyboard shortcut.

Similar to using the Trash is that if a file is locked or in use the Trash action will be prevented, and if you encounter a “item can’t be moved” error, you’ll likely need to quit apps and relaunch the Finder first.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Jess says:

    That was meant to be nested under someone’s asking how to close the dialog that comes up, for those of us that prefer using the keyboard to a mouse.

  2. Jess says:

    Tab won’t work, unfortunately, the dialog doesn’t have a z-order.

    But, ⌘ + d will do the job.

  3. GreenRaccoon23 says:

    Did a recent update remove this feature? All of a sudden I can’t use any of these methods anymore; it’s always sent to the Trash directory instead. It’s extremely annoying and time consuming to have to launch a Terminal and manually type in `rm -rf “${HOME}/.Trash/”` every single time I want to delete something. That’s just ridiculous.

  4. Michael says:

    I wasn’t pressing the option key. I guess that’s why I didn’t see the option.

  5. Michael says:

    I am not seeing this menu option on Sierra. Anyone know why?

  6. Mateo says:

    Well anyways, I don’t know too well if I like this new feature, so is there any way to change it back to the old way instead of having this “Delete Immediately”?

  7. inhab says:

    That’s nice, but then the dialog window comes and you have to go to your mouse again and choose Delete (because the default is Cancel). Is it possible to choose the Delete button from the keyboard?

    • Icke says:

      Hit tab once to change focus to delete and then hit space to execute. To additional strokes though but at least you don’t have to raise your hands from the keyboard.

  8. QuattroGam3r says:

    Thanks for this ;) I had been using CMD+DEL followed by CMD+Shift+DEL. This shortens my keystrokes and makes the process quicker.

  9. Shangha1 says:

    Good for emails which you believe are infected

  10. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Instant delete is useful in glad we have it in OS X el the captain now. Before you had to use trash or rm in the command line.

    Now, El Capital is my favorite part of the best thing to say that I don’t think it’s time for a while and then you can get the best thing about the future. OS X Fuji is next. What’s the name to be? Maybe sequoia or OS X Mohave or OS X Shasta or OS X Joshua tree. Maybe OS X traffic. Get it? Heheh

  11. dharv says:

    In 10.10.5 the File menu still says Move to Trash (Cmd-Del or Opt-Cmd-Del) and it still moves to Trash so…

    …by “The latest versions of OS X” you mean El Capitan, right? So why not say so?

  12. MartSoCal says:

    Looks like it will also permanently delete an eMail from a mailbox in Mac mail.

  13. Flavio Cesar says:

    This command also works to substitute the previous “Secure Empty Trash” when you have problems deleting stuck files.

    • Soroush Pour says:

      To quote the article: “This is not intended to be a replacement for secure empty Trash, however and doesn’t offer the same rewrite function.”

      While it may help unstuck files, it won’t necessarily be a secure rewrite of the blocks on disk and the file may potentially be recovered.

  14. junebeetle says:

    Cool! I’ve done this for a while by locking the .Trash folder :)

  15. vdiv says:

    Why does it need two modifier keys?

    Why not just Shift+delete as it is in Windows?

    • Nuri says:

      It’s quite easy to customize systemwide and app-specific shortcuts with BetterTouchTool (freeware). Great tool.
      As to the question, it’s because regular deletion has a modifier key to begin with on macs. And that, in turn, is because of the absence of a dedicated delete key. (Hence the modified use of backspace for deletion). Then again, all shortcuts and even the keyboard mapping is customizable using OS X and freeware.

    • Homesick Bob says:

      I d’rather have this option on the right click after the trashcan e.g. and no further shortcut. For the moment i’m using FileShredder in the Finder tool bar…

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