How to Securely Clean Up the Trash on Your Mac

By Anders Smith

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Posted on #Clean up

Emptying the Trash doesn't mean that your files have been gone for good. With powerful recovery software, there is still chance to recover the deleted files from your Mac. So how to protect the confidential files and personal information on the Mac from falling into wrong hand? You need to securely clean up the Trash. This piece will cover how to secure empty the Trash on macOS Sierra, El Capitan and the earlier version.

What is Secure Empty Trash?

When you simply empty the Trash, the files and folders in the Trash are not totally erased but still remain in your Mac until they are overwritten by new data. If someone use a recovery software on your Mac before the files are overwritten, they could scan out the deleted files. That's why you need secure empty trash feature, which make the files unrecoverable by writing a series of meaningless ones and zeroes over deleted files.

The secure empty trash feature used to be available on OS X Yosemite and earlier. But since El Capitan, Apple has cut the feature because it is can not work on flash storage, such as SSD (which is adopted by Apple to its new Mac/MacBook models.) Therefore, if your Mac/MacBook are running on El Capitan or later, you'll need other ways to empty the Trash securely.

Secure Empty Trash on OS X Yosemite and Earlier

If your Mac/MacBook runs on OS X 10.10 Yosemite or earlier, you can use the built in secure empty trash feature easily:

  1. Drag the files into the Trash, then choose Finder > Secure Empty Trash.

  2. To empty the Trash securely by default, choose Finder > Preferences > Advanced, then select "Empty Trash securely."

Secure Empty Trash on Mac

You should notice that using secure empty trash feature to delete files will takes a bit longer than simply emptying the Trash.

Securely Empty Trash on OX El Capitan with Terminal

Since secure empty trash feature has been removed from OX 10.11 El Capitan, you can use terminal command to securely clean up the Trash.

  1. Open up Terminal on your Mac.

  2. Type the command: srm -v followed by a space. Please don't leave out the space and do not press Enter at this point.

  3. Then drag a file from Finder to the Terminal window, the command would look like this:

  4. Click Enter. The file will be securely removed.

Empty Trash with Terminal Command

Securely Empty Trash on macOS Sierra

However, the srm -v command was abandoned by macOS Sierra. So Sierra users can't use the Terminal method, either. To secure your files on macOS Sierra, you're recommended to encrypted your whole disk with FileVault. If you don't the disk encryption, there are third-party programs allowing you to securely empty the Trash. Macube Cleaner is one of them.

With Macube Cleaner (opens new window), you can not only securely empty the Trash (opens new window) but other many unneeded files to free up space, including:

  • Application/system caches;

  • Photos junks;

  • System logs;

  • Old/large files...

Macube Cleaner works on macOS Sierra, OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite. And it is simple to use. Here is how it work.

Step 1. Download and launch Macube Cleaner on your Mac.

Step 2. Click System Junk > Scan. And it will scan out part of files, like system/application caches, users/system logs, photos junks. You are able to remove some unneeded items.

Step 3. Choose Trash Bin to scan, and you will see all deleted files in trash bin. Then, click Clean to securely clean up the Trash.

Macube Cleaner Empty Trash

Also you can choose Mail Trash, Large & Old files to clean other unneeded files on your Mac.

Do you have other ways to secure clean the Trash, share with us below.

Our Writer
Anders Smith, the chief editor of Macube team, is a big fan of Apple. He likes to share his experience and ideas through writing.