To delete something is to remove or erase it. You can delete text from a document, data from a spreadsheet, or even entire files and folders from a disk. Computers provide several ways for you to delete content quickly so that you can keep working without much interruption.

Computer keyboards have either one or two keys that issue a delete command. All keyboards have a Backspace key (labeled Delete on Mac keyboards) at the right end of the numbers row, and some have a smaller secondary Delete key too. When editing text, pressing the Backspace key deletes one text character behind (to the left of) the text cursor. Pressing the smaller Delete key deletes text to the right of the text cursor. If you have a block of text selected, pressing either key deletes the entire selection.

You can delete files and folders from a disk in several ways. You can click and drag a file or folder's icon from the file manager into the Recycle Bin (on Windows) or Trash (on macOS). You can select it, then choose the Delete / Move to Trash option from a menu, toolbar, or right-click menu. Finally, you can select a file or folder and press the Delete key (on Windows) or Command + Delete (on macOS).

Moving a file or folder to the Recycle Bin or Trash does not delete it right away. The operating system keeps files there temporarily, allowing you to restore them if you need them again. They are not removed from the file system until you empty the Recycle Bin or Trash, and even then, traces of the files will remain on the disk until the disk overwrites those sectors with new files. Data recovery utilities can often undelete files if you act soon enough.

Updated November 3, 2023 by Brian P.

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