How do I delete files using the keyboard?

Deleting files using only the keyboard can be an efficient way to remove unwanted files and folders without having to use the mouse. With just a few key combinations, you can quickly select and delete files and folders in Windows and macOS.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about deleting files with the keyboard:

  • On Windows, select a file with the arrow keys, then press Delete to delete it.
  • On macOS, press Command + Delete to move a selected file to the Trash.
  • Use Shift + Arrow keys to select multiple files, then press Delete to delete them all.
  • Press Ctrl + A to select all files in a folder, then Delete to delete them.
  • Use keyboard navigation to open the Recycle Bin/Trash and permanently delete files.

Selecting Files and Folders

Before you can delete a file or folder, you first need to select it using only the keyboard. Here are some tips for selecting files/folders without using your mouse or trackpad:

  • Use the arrow keys to navigate through files and folders on your system.
  • Press the Enter key to open a folder and navigate into it.
  • Press Shift + Arrow keys to select multiple adjacent files or folders.
  • Press Ctrl + Arrow keys to select multiple non-adjacent files or folders.
  • Press Ctrl + A to select all files within a folder.
  • Use Tab to cycle through elements, then use Shift + Arrow keys for extended selections.

Take some time navigating your file system solely with the keyboard to get comfortable with selecting files before deleting them. Opening, closing, and switching folders using only the arrow keys and Enter will help build your keyboard navigation skills.

Deleting Files on Windows

Once you’ve selected a file using the keyboard, deleting it on Windows is simple:

  1. Select the file you want to delete using the arrow keys.
  2. Press the Delete key.
  3. A confirmation dialog will appear, select Yes to confirm the deletion.
  4. The file will be moved to the Recycle Bin for later recovery if needed.

Here are some tips for deleting files efficiently on Windows using hotkeys:

  • Select multiple files with Shift/Ctrl + Arrow keys, then press Delete to delete them all at once.
  • Press Ctrl + A to select all files in a folder, then Delete to delete them together.
  • Use Shift + Delete to permanently delete files instead of sending them to the Recycle Bin.
  • Press Alt + D then E to select the Delete option from the File menu.
  • Press F2 to rename a selected file, then press Delete to quickly erase it.

Using keyboard shortcuts can help speed up your file deletion workflow in Windows. Take the time to get comfortable with the various selection and deletion hotkeys.

Emptying the Recycle Bin

When you delete files using the Delete key, they get sent to the Recycle Bin. To permanently erase files from your system, you need to empty the Recycle Bin using the keyboard:

  1. Press Win + E to open File Explorer.
  2. Press the right arrow key to navigate to This PC.
  3. Press the down arrow key to select the Recycle Bin.
  4. Press Enter to open the Recycle Bin.
  5. Press Ctrl + A to select all files/folders.
  6. Press the Delete key to permanently remove all items.
  7. Press Enter or click Yes on the confirmation dialog.

Emptying the Recycle Bin completely erases all files inside it. Be careful when doing this if you still need to recover certain deleted files.

Deleting Files on macOS

The keyboard shortcuts for deleting files on macOS are slightly different than Windows:

  1. Select the file or folder you want to delete using the arrow keys.
  2. Press Command + Delete.
  3. The selected items will be moved to the Trash.

Here are some helpful keyboard shortcuts for deleting files on a Mac:

  • Press Command + Option + Delete to empty the Trash and permanently erase deleted files.
  • Use Shift + Command + Arrow keys to select multiple items to delete.
  • Press Command + A to select everything in a folder, then Command + Delete to delete it all.
  • Press Control + Left Arrow to jump to the Trash in Finder, then navigate inside it.
  • Press Command + Backspace to permanently delete files without sending them to the Trash first.

As you get comfortable with file deletion on macOS, try using some of the extended keyboard shortcuts to speed up your workflow.

Emptying the Trash

To completely erase deleted files on macOS, you’ll need to empty the Trash using the keyboard:

  1. Press Command + Shift + Delete to open the Finder menu.
  2. Press the down arrow key to select Empty Trash.
  3. Press Return or Enter to empty the Trash.
  4. Press Return or Enter again on the confirmation prompt.

This will permanently delete all files that have been moved to the Trash. Be sure you don’t need to recover anything before emptying it.

Advanced Deletion Methods

In addition to the basic deletion shortcuts, there are some more advanced keyboard techniques for deleting files quickly and efficiently:

  • Open the Run dialog in Windows with Win + R, then enter “cmd” and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open an Administrator Command Prompt. Use the del command to delete files from here.
  • On macOS, open Terminal with Command + Spacebar and searching for “terminal”. Use the rm command to delete files and folders from the command line.
  • Use third-party deletion utilities like Eraser (Windows) or Permanent Eraser (Mac) that allow secure deletion of files bypassing the Recycle Bin/Trash.
  • On Windows, create a PowerShell script that bulk deletes files/folders then assign a keyboard shortcut to run the script as needed.

These advanced methods give you more options and power for deleting files without a mouse. But they require more technical expertise compared to the basic built-in keyboard shortcuts.

Important Deletion Safety Tips

When deleting files with the keyboard, follow these tips to avoid permanently losing important data:

  • Double check selections before hitting Delete to avoid mistakes.
  • Back up critical data regularly in case you need to restore it.
  • Disable keyboard shortcuts for children/others to prevent accidental deletion.
  • Use Shift + Delete sparingly since it bypasses the Recycle Bin completely.
  • Check the Recycle Bin/Trash before emptying to confirm contents.

Rushing when deleting files using hotkeys can lead to frustrating data loss. Take things slow and be extra careful when erasing files using only the keyboard.


Deleting files using keyboard shortcuts is convenient once you know the right keys for selection and removal on your operating system. Start by navigating your file system solely with the keyboard to get comfortable. Then utilize hotkeys like Delete, Command + Delete, and Shift + Delete to quickly remove files and folders.

Remember to use Recycle Bin/Trash recovery tools if you delete something important accidentally. And implement backups so you always have file copies if needed. With practice, keyboard deletion can boost your productivity and efficiency when managing disks and storage.


  • Use arrow keys to navigate and select files/folders to delete.
  • Press Delete on Windows or Command + Delete on Mac to send files to the trash.
  • Empty the Recycle Bin or Trash to permanently erase files.
  • Utilize selection shortcuts like Shift/Ctrl + Arrow to delete multiple items.
  • Be cautious when permanently deleting files using Shift + Delete or Command + Backspace.
  • Keyboard deletion takes practice – go slowly at first to avoid mistakes.

With the right keystrokes memorized, you’ll be able to manage your digital files quicker than ever solely from the keyboard. Just be careful when permanently erasing data and utilize backups for added protection.