A Beginner’s Guide to the Mac Trash

The Trash is a temporary storage location for files you wish to delete. You can put files into the Trash in a variety of ways, and take them back out again. To delete the files, you must empty the trash. You can also set items to automatically delete after 30 days. You should never put something in the Trash unless you are absolutely sure you want to delete it forever.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to the Mac Trash.

So let's take a look at the basics of using the Trash. Trash is a holding place for files that you want to delete. You can see it on the right side of the Dock. The last item there. You can put something in it by dragging it from any location in the Finder into the Trash.

Another way you can put something in there is to simply select it and then hit Command Delete. That also puts it in the Trash. You get the same kind of throwing away into the trash sound in both cases.

If you want to see what's in the Trash you can click on it here in the Dock and it will open up a window showing you the contents. You can see the two files that I put there.

Now it's a temporary holding place. The files are still there and you can rescue them and I'll show you how to do that in a minute. But to completely get rid of them you would go to Finder and then Empty Trash. You can see there's a keyboard shortcut for that as well. You can also Control click on the Trashcan icon in the Dock and then select Empty Trash. That permanently gets rid of the files.

In addition, if you wait long enough the files may delete by themselves. If you look in Finder, Preferences under Advanced you will see Remove itms from the Trash after 30 days. So if that's checked then every item is automatically deleted after it has been in the trash for thirty days. This is very useful for if you're helping somebody maintain their Mac and you're finding that they're always running out of space because they've got tons of stuff in the trash and they never empty the trash. Turn this on and Trash will kind of clean itself.

Now if you want to take something out of the Trash you can simply drag it just like any other item in the Finder. So you can drag this back to its location. In addition you can select it and go to File and there's an item called Put Back. You can also Control click on it and say Put Back. This will not only take it out of the Trash but it will remember where it came from and put it back in precisely that same location.

The most important thing to remember about the Trash is that it's there simply to prevent you from making a mistake. It makes deleting a file a two step process rather than a one step process. All too often I see people putting things in the Trash that they're not 100% sure they want to delete. You should be 100% sure you want to delete the file before you put it in the Trash. People put things in there thinking they will review them later and then they empty the Trash and realize they've thrown something away they that they really need. Never put anything in the Trash that you think you may need. If you want a temporary holding place for things to review later create a special folder on the Desktop or Documents folder for reviewing things later on and then when you've reviewed them, take them from there and put them in the Trash. But don't use the Trashcan for that.

Comments: 2 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to the Mac Trash”

    2 years ago

    Why do you say to “Control click” on the trash to empty it. All you have to do is click and hold the mouse down ti get “Empty Trash.” No need to press the Control Key.

    2 years ago

    Shirley: There are other ways to do it as well. But using Control+click is a general good practice to reveal the functions of objects throughout macOS.

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