How to Delete a Single File from Trash on Mac

Jul 18, 2019 - 4 Comments

How to delete individual files from Mac Trash

If you have a ton of files in the Mac Trash can but don’t want to empty the entire trash for whatever reason, you can use a handy feature to delete specific files or single folders from the Trash. This allows you to selectively target and delete individual items that are in the Mac Trash without emptying and deleting everything, which can be helpful if you’re wanting to review other files in the Trash before completely deleting them from the Mac.

For example, if you have 1000 items in the Trash can on a Mac but you want to delete a single file that is 8GB, you can target that 8GB file to delete right away while ignoring the other items in the Trash. Using this handy ‘delete immediately from Trash’ trick is quite easy, here’s how it works.

How to Delete Specific Files from Trash on Mac Without Emptying Entire Trash

  1. Open the Trash on the Mac as usual by selecting it from the Dock
  2. Locate and select the file or item you wish to delete individually in the Trash
  3. How to delete a specific file from the Trash without emptying entire Trash

  4. Right-click on the individual files icon or name and choose “Delete Immediately”
  5. How to delete immediately a specific file from Trash on Mac

  6. Confirm that you want to immediately delete the chosen file or document from the Trash
  7. Confirm to delete immediately specific file from Trash on Mac

  8. Repeat with other specific files to delete them immediately as desired

This is a particularly helpful trick if you’re triaging a very large or cluttered Trash can on a Mac, since you can target individual large files to free up disk space.

In the screenshot examples shown here, a 7GB Xcode installer was specifically targeted for immediate deletion from the Trash, without deleting the other files found in the Trash.

A few other helpful tips for managing large Trash folders are to use Quick Look to glance at files in the Trash (since items in Trash can’t be opened, but you can preview them with Quick Look), and learning how to undo moving files to Trash on Mac with the “Put Back” feature which sends the file from the Trash back to its original location, handy if you decide you don’t want to delete that file or item after all. And of course if you forget to empty the Trash constantly you can always set the Trash to automatically empty on Mac which will clear out items after they’ve been in the Trash for 30 days.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it may be because elsewhere in the Mac Finder you can use “Delete Immediately” to bypass the Trash entirely and instantly delete a file from the Mac, without ever having to use the Trash or empty the Trash at all.


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


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  1. Robert P. Hartle says:

    I usually love The tips & tricks on here, but this one is just plain dumb. Very dangerous way to manage Mac Files and trash… just a small distraction from Notification Center and BOOM… you’ve just trashed the file you were trying to save. Very stupid file management. Simply empty trash often don’t let it build up and look in there FIRST.

    • JJ says:

      There’s nothing dangerous about removing a single file from a computer as long as that single file is a file you want to delete and should delete. If you don’t know what files to delete, it’s best to not delete anything.

      As for this specific trick, you have to be in the Trash to empty a specific file from the Trash with this trick, I am not sure what Notification Center has to do with it.

  2. Isaac Ostermann says:

    Excuse me, but I definitely have no idea how to open thing, that names Trash . . .

  3. Howie Isaacks says:

    Here’s an idea… Just empty the whole trash! No one should be hoarding their trash anyway. I never put anything in the trash that I want to keep. I empty it almost immediately.

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