How to Skip the Trash and Instantly Delete Files in OS X

In Windows, you can turn the Recycle Bin into a trash dump by holding the “Shift” key to permanently delete a file. Mac users haven’t been so lucky, until the release of OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

Deleting files on OS X has never been a particularly convenient process. Up until the most recent release, Mac users have had to move files to the trash, then empty the trash to permanently delete it. That’s just one extra step and for an operating system that prides itself on being intuitive and user-friendly, that one extra step doesn’t make much sense. Thankfully, El Capitan rectifies that.

Say you have some items you want to delete. You select them and then click the “File” menu. Normally, it will say “Move to Trash” but if you hold down the “Option” the selection will change to “Delete Immediately…”.

You will still need to confirm you want to delete the items with the resulting dialog.

You can also just employ a keyboard shortcut. Select your item or items, then press Option+Command+Delete. Again, a confirmation dialog will appear and you will need to click “Delete” to finish the process.

Of course, you can still delete items the old fashioned way, by dragging them to the Trash and then emptying it, but if you want to speed things up a bit, you can bypass the confirmation dialog by clicking on the Finder menu, selecting “Preferences”, and unchecking the “Show warning before emptying the Trash” box under the “Advanced” tab.

Remember, deleting files in the manner is instant and irreversible. Once they’re gone, they’re gone (save for some difficult and not-always-reliable data recovery methods). But then that’s the case when you empty the Trash, too.

Using the File menu method isn’t necessarily more convenient; in fact, it’s no less convenient than the Trash method, but using the keyboard shortcut will undoubtedly come in handy for many longtime Mac users who are used to keyboard shortcuts anyway.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.