How to Delete Downloads on Mac Computers

By Abby •  Updated: 02/26/23 •  5 min read

How to Delete Downloads on Mac Computers

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Deleting downloads on MacBooks is a fairly straightforward process, but it can still be confusing for someone who isn’t familiar with their computer.

Whether you’re trying to free up space, remove clutter or just have the satisfaction of a clean device, removing your old downloads is an important part of caring for your machine.

The Dock Bar Method 

One of the easiest ways to delete downloads is through the Dock bar at the bottom of your screen. Simply right-click (or control + click) on the download and select “Move to Trash” from the drop-down menu. This will move the file from its current location into your trash folder, and it can then be permanently deleted by emptying the bin.

The Finder Method

If you can’t find your download in Dock, try using Finder. Launch your Finder App and select “Downloads” in the sidebar on the left-hand side of your screen.

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From there, you can locate and delete any files that have been downloaded to that folder by simply dragging them into the trash bin or deleting them directly with the command + delete (if you are using an external keyboard).

Browsers & Third Party Apps 

Many times, when downloading a file from a website or third party app, it will be saved directly in its own app library/folder instead of being sent automatically to Downloads or other accessible folders within Finder.

To remove these downloads, simply open up their respective apps and look for an option labeled “Delete files…” or something similar in their setting’s menus; this should provide access to their internal libraries where you can manually delete any unwanted downloads found there.

Also, while working on the browser, you might also want to learn and memorize how to clear history on Safari Mac (or a different browser) and other temporary storage to improve the overall performance.

iCloud Drive

Apple has made it easier than ever before to store and access files across all devices with iCloud Drive, which means that some may not even need traditional storage anymore when working with macOS devices – if so, then any downloaded files should be removed accordingly through iCloud Drive’s settings page as well.

The method may also work well for users who use cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive too!

External Drives & Connections

If you are downloading files onto an external drive such as a USB flash drive, then those files may not appear in Finder unless they are already set up with specific permissions – if so, then they may need to either be deleted manually via their respective drives/connections or formatted completely before plugging them back into any other machines again afterwards.

This process varies depending on what type of connection/drive is being used too so please refer to its respective user manual for more information about how best to proceed here.

Command Line

For more experienced users, another option is to use Terminal in order to manually search for and delete files that may have been missed elsewhere – first open up Terminal and enter in either “find Downloads – name [filename]” (to search only within Downloads) or else “find  -name [filename]” (to search system-wide); once located, simply enter in “rm [filename]” followed by Return/Enter which should delete it from wherever it was found.

System Cleaner Tools 

A variety of Mac system cleaner tools exist which provide quick one-click solutions for quickly removing all kinds of unwanted files, including downloads.

These programs often come with additional features such as the ability to schedule regular clean-ups or optimize other areas of your machine too so they’re worth considering if you’re serious about keeping a tidy computer.

Secure Erase

If you have particularly sensitive data that needs to be deleted, then it may be worthwhile also running an extra secure erase on the file/folder before finally deleting it – this will overwrite its contents multiple times in order to protect against any potential intrusion by malicious software or hackers which could otherwise recover certain pieces of information from within them.

Backup & Restore 

Finally, another way to effectively delete downloads is to periodically create backups of your system and then restore it to a previous version; while this may not delete anything directly, it will effectively wipe any newly created or modified files which should include unwanted downloads as well.


To wrap things up, deleting downloads on a MacBook is generally quite straightforward but there are several different ways to do so depending on your needs – whether you use Finder, third-party apps/browsers, iCloud Drive, external connections/drives or even command line tools and system cleaners (if your computer knowledge is solid); plus additional methods such as secure erase and backup & restore can be used for added safety too.

So make sure that you’re aware of all these options when cleaning out those unwanted downloads from your Mac.

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