When you want to empty the trash can or delete sensitive documents, it can be difficult to know how to permanently delete files on a Mac. People often believe that they have emptied the trash can and all of their files are gone, but in reality, some data still remains on the hard drive. In some situations, this data could be recovered, which is a potential security risk. This is why it is important to learn how to permanently delete files on a Mac.

Video Tutorial:

Why You Need to Permanently Delete Files on a Mac

Deleting files on your Mac doesn’t really make them disappear; they just become inaccessible. When you delete files from the trash can, they are still recoverable, which is a serious security concern. This is why you need to permanently delete files from your Mac to ensure your sensitive data cannot be accessed.

Permanently deleting files also frees up space on your hard drive, which can improve your computer’s performance. Additionally, if you are selling your Mac or giving it away, permanently deleting your personal files is essential to protect your privacy.

Method 1: Secure Empty Trash

Secure Empty Trash is built-in software in Mac OS X that allows you to permanently delete files on your Mac.

1. Click and hold the Trash icon in the Dock.
2. Select ‘Secure Empty Trash’.
3. Type in your administrator username and password.
4. Click ‘OK’.
5. Wait for the Secure Empty Trash process to complete.

– Secure Empty Trash is included in Mac OS X, so it is a free and easy option.
– It overwrites the data multiple times, ensuring that it is permanently deleted.
– It deletes all files in the trash, so you don’t need to manually select individual files.

– It takes longer to permanently delete files using Secure Empty Trash than regular deletion.
– It only permanently deletes files in the trash can.

Method 2: Terminal

Terminal is a command-line interface in Mac OS X that offers more control than the standard user interface.

1. Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal).
2. Type in "sudo rm -rf" followed by a space.
3. Drag the file or folder you want to permanently delete from Finder into the Terminal window.
4. Press Enter.

– Terminal offers more control than other methods, and allows you to delete files outside of the trash can.
– It is a quick and easy option once you’re comfortable with the command-line interface.

– It requires more technical knowledge than other methods, and can be difficult for beginners.
– Typing the wrong command in Terminal can cause serious damage to your computer.

Method 3: Third-party software, such as CleanMyMac X

CleanMyMac X is a third-party software that offers a variety of cleaning and optimization tools for Mac OS X, including the ability to permanently delete files.

1. Download and install CleanMyMac X.
2. Open the app and click ‘Shredder’.
3. Select the file or folder you want to permanently delete and click ‘Shred’.
4. Confirm that you want to permanently delete the file or folder.

– It offers a variety of cleaning and optimization tools in addition to file shredding.
– It has an easy-to-use interface for beginners.

– It is a paid software, so you need to purchase a license to use all the features.
– It may not be as secure as other methods, as it only overwrites the data once.

What to Do If You Can’t Permanently Delete Files on a Mac

If you can’t permanently delete files using the above methods, there are a few things you can try:

– Restart your computer and try deleting the file(s) again.
– Check if the file(s) are locked or in use by another application, and close the application.
– Use a file shredder or another third-party software to delete the file(s).

Bonus Tip

For added security, consider encrypting sensitive files on your Mac using built-in software or third-party applications. This ensures that even if someone gains access to your computer, they won’t be able to read encrypted files.


Q1: Is emptying the trash can the same as permanently deleting files on a Mac?

A: No. Emptying the trash can simply makes the files inaccessible, but they can still be recovered using data recovery software.

Q2: Can I recover files that have been permanently deleted on a Mac?

A: It is very difficult to recover files that have been permanently deleted on a Mac, especially if the data has been overwritten multiple times.

Q3: What happens to a file when it is permanently deleted on a Mac?

A: Permanently deleting a file on a Mac means that the data is overwritten multiple times, making it difficult or impossible to recover.

Q4: Can I permanently delete individual files in Terminal?

A: Yes. By typing in "sudo rm -rf" followed by a space and the file path, you can permanently delete individual files in Terminal.

Q5: Is CleanMyMac X the only third-party file shredder for Mac?

A: No. There are several other third-party file shredders for Mac, such as Shredo and MacCleanse.

Final Thoughts

Permanently deleting your files on a Mac is essential for privacy and security, as well as freeing up space on your hard drive. There are several methods to permanently delete files, including Secure Empty Trash, Terminal, and third-party software like CleanMyMac X. Make sure to take the necessary precautions when deleting files, especially if they are sensitive or confidential.

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