How do I delete file folders?

Deleting file folders on your computer can seem daunting, but it’s actually a simple process once you know the steps. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about permanently removing folders and their contents on Windows and Mac operating systems.

Why Would You Want to Delete a Folder?

There are a few common reasons you may need to delete a folder from your computer:

  • Free up disk space – Deleting unused or redundant folders can help free up valuable storage space on your hard drive.
  • Remove clutter – Getting rid of unneeded folders helps keep your file system organized and clutter-free.
  • Privacy/security – You may want to delete sensitive folders containing financial records, personal photos, or other private information.
  • Troubleshooting – Sometimes deleting problem folders is necessary to resolve tech issues or start fresh.

Regardless of your specific reason, deleting folders is a basic computer management skill every user should know.

How to Delete a Folder on Windows

Windows gives you a few different options for deleting folders. Here are the common methods:

Delete with File Explorer

The easiest way to delete a folder is by using File Explorer (also called Windows Explorer):

  1. Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to delete.
  2. Right-click on the folder and select “Delete” from the menu.
  3. A confirmation dialog will appear – click “Yes” to confirm the deletion.
  4. The folder and all its contents will be permanently deleted.

Delete from the Keyboard

You can also delete folders quickly using keyboard shortcuts:

  1. Navigate to the folder in File Explorer.
  2. Select the folder you want to delete.
  3. Press the “Delete” key on your keyboard.
  4. Confirm the deletion in the pop-up dialog.

Delete Empty Folders

If you want to delete multiple empty folders quickly, here are the steps:

  1. Open the parent folder containing the empty folders.
  2. Press Ctrl + A to select all items.
  3. Right-click and choose “Delete”.
  4. Click “Yes” to confirm deletion of the selected items.

This will delete all the empty folders while leaving other items untouched.

Delete from Command Prompt

The Command Prompt provides another way to delete folders, though it’s a bit more complex.

To delete a folder named “FolderName” from Command Prompt:

  1. Type “cmd” in the Windows search bar and open Command Prompt.
  2. Type the command rmdir /s FolderName and hit Enter.
  3. The folder and its contents will be deleted.

This method is best for advanced users who are comfortable with command line interfaces.

How to Delete a Folder on Mac

MacOS also lets you delete folders in various ways:

Drag to Trash

The most common method is dragging and dropping:

  1. Locate the folder in Finder.
  2. Click and drag the folder to the Trash icon.
  3. The folder is now deleted.

Delete with Keyboard Shortcut

For quick deletions, use this keyboard shortcut:

  1. Select the folder you want to delete.
  2. Press Command + Delete.
  3. The folder will be moved to the Trash.

Right-Click Delete

You can also right-click to delete:

  1. Right-click on the folder you want to remove.
  2. Select “Move to Trash” from the menu.
  3. The folder will be deleted.

Delete from Terminal

The Terminal app provides a command line interface on Mac.

To delete a folder named “FolderName” from Terminal:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type rm -rf FolderName and press Enter.
  3. The folder and contents will be permanently deleted.

Again, use Terminal with caution as it’s for advanced users.

Important Notes About Folder Deletion

Here are some key points to keep in mind when deleting folders:

  • Deleted folders go to Recycle Bin/Trash – Items deleted through File Explorer or Finder will go to the Recycle Bin on Windows or Trash on Mac, allowing you to retrieve them if needed.
  • Use Shift + Delete for permanent deletion – On Windows, pressing Shift while deleting skips the Recycle Bin. On Mac, hold the Option key while emptying the Trash to bypass confirmation dialogs.
  • Command line deletion is permanent – Deleting folders through Command Prompt or Terminal permanently removes data, so be cautious.
  • Delete child items first – To remove a parent folder, delete its contents individually first.
  • Check folder size first – Know how much space you’re freeing up before deleting large folders.
  • Back up important data – Always backup critical files and folders before deleting, just in case.

What Happens When You Delete a Folder?

When you send a folder to the Recycle Bin or Trash, it may seem like the folder is gone for good. But that’s not quite the case – the files are still on your hard drive, they’re just marked as deleted.

This is what happens under the hood when you delete a folder:

  1. The folder directory entry is removed from your file system table.
  2. The disk space used by the folder is marked as available to overwrite.
  3. Until overwritten, the folder’s contents still physically exist on the hard drive.
  4. When the Recycle Bin/Trash is emptied, the files are overwritten by new data over time.

So when deleted, a folder becomes inaccessible through standard means, but remains on the hard drive in some form until the space is reused. This is why data recovery is possible, under certain conditions.

How to Recover a Deleted Folder

If you accidentally deleted an important folder, you may be able to get it back. Here are some tips for folder recovery on Windows and Mac:

Restore from Recycle Bin/Trash

If the folder was recently deleted through File Explorer or Finder, look in the Recycle Bin or Trash to restore it.

  1. Open your Recycle Bin/Trash folder.
  2. Find the deleted folder.
  3. Right-click and select “Restore” to undo the deletion.

This allows you to recover folders easily as long as the Bin/Trash hasn’t been emptied.

Use Previous Versions

On Windows, File History may have copies of your deleted folders stored as Previous Versions:

  1. Navigate to the original folder location.
  2. Right-click and select “Restore previous versions.”
  3. Select a previous version from before it was deleted.

This reverts the folder to the state it was in at the date of the version.

Undelete Software

If the above methods don’t work, you may need dedicated data recovery software to attempt to restore deleted folders. Some popular tools include:

Software Platform
TestDisk Windows, Mac, Linux
Recuva Windows
EaseUS Windows
Disk Drill Mac

These tools scan your drive and recover deleted files/folders through data carving or searching file system metadata. They offer the best chance for recovery when other options fail.

Can You Recover Folders after Emptying Recycle Bin?

Recovering deleted folders gets trickier once you empty the Recycle Bin or Trash, but it is sometimes possible:

  • Recovery software can find folders even after the Bin is emptied, as long as the space hasn’t been overwritten.
  • Cloud backup services like Google Drive or Dropbox may have old copies of the folder stored online.
  • You may find folder copies on external hard drives, flash drives, CDs/DVDs, or other media.
  • The folder may exist in system restore points or file history archives.

However, your chances decrease significantly after the Bin is emptied, so try other methods before getting to that point.

Can You Recover Permanently Deleted Files?

Recovering files and folders deleted permanently with Shift + Delete or Command Line is difficult but sometimes possible. Here are a few tips:

  • Stop using the drive – Continued use overwrites deleted data and lowers chances of recovery.
  • Use recovery software immediately – The less time that passes, the better.
  • Scan the drive sector-by-sector – This may find deleted folder traces not in file tables.
  • Look for traces in system backups – System restore points also store some deleted files.

Again, cloud backups and external media also provide a chance of finding deleted files if you act quickly. But intentional permanent deletions are meant to be irrecoverable, so manage expectations accordingly.

Can Files Be Recovered After Formatting a Hard Drive?

Recovering deleted files from a formatted hard drive is also difficult, but possible in some cases. When a drive is formatted:

  • The file system structure is erased and recreated empty.
  • All existing files/folders are marked as deleted space.
  • The drive can now be overwritten with new data.

So while formatting doesn’t immediately destroy data, recovering files is still challenging:

  • Stop using the drive right away to prevent overwriting deleted files.
  • Scan the raw sectors using recovery tools like TestDisk to find traces of files.
  • Reassembling file fragments is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Expect partial file contents rather than complete recovery.

The more you use a formatted drive, the lower your chances of recovery. But by avoiding overwrites and digging deep at the sector level, some files can potentially be rescued.

Delete System Files/Folders – Is It Safe?

In general, it’s not recommended to tamper with default system files and folders on your computer. Critical operating system data is stored in locations like Windows, Program Files, System32, etc. Deleting these core files can cause instability or prevent your computer from starting properly. Even if you can delete system folders temporarily, they may be automatically restored or recreated later.

However, advanced users may need to modify certain system files/registry entries to troubleshoot issues or customize their setup. This requires great care:

  • Know exactly what you’re deleting and why – Don’t just blindly delete system items.
  • Back up the system files first – Allow restore if problems occur.
  • Make changes gradually – Only edit small pieces rather than whole folders.
  • Use safe deletion methods – Move to Recycle Bin instead of permanent removal.

With sufficient expertise and cautions, selectively deleting certain system files can be done safely in some situations. But it’s typically an unnecessary risk for average users.


While deleting folders seems simple on the surface, there are some technical aspects to understand. Knowing your operating system’s default methods along with recovery options allows you to manage folders more effectively. With the right approach, you can clear out unnecessary clutter, free up disk space, and keep your computer organized.