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How to Empty All of Your Mac’s Trash

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 4/7/2010

When you want to empty the trash on your Mac, don’t forget iPhoto Trash, iMovie Trash, and more!

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    There's More Trash than You Think!

    It’s time to take out the garbage. Just as with cleaning the house, it takes some time to gather up all of the trash, put the bags together, and then tote them out to the garbage can. So, before you empty the “actual" Trash, make a final pass to see if there’s anything you missed. There are a few hiding places for garbage like the iPhoto Trash and the iMovie Trash. These Trash receptacles are not unlike the smaller trash cans in the bathrooms and offices of your own home!

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    How to Empty the iPhoto Trash

    If you’ve ever used iPhoto to manage your pictures, import images from a digital camera, or browse through the iPhoto library, you’ll want to see what’s in the iPhoto Trash. If there’s anything in there, you should empty the Trash now:

    1. Open iPhoto.

    2. From the Source pane on the left side of the interface, select Trash.

    3. If there are images in the Trash, select File>Empty Trash. Click OK to verify that you want to permanently delete these items.

    4. Quit or close iPhoto.

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    How to Empty the iMovie Trash

    If you’ve ever used iMovie to manage your videos, import video from a digital camera, or create a movie, you’ll want to see what’s in the iMovie Trash. If there’s anything in there, you should empty the Trash now:

    1. Open iMovie.

    2. Choose File>Empty Trash. Click OK to verify that you want to permanently delete these items.

    1. Quit or close iMovie.

    Tip: If any of your third-party programs have a Trash option inside their interface, check to see if those Trash files need to be deleted.

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    Ready? Empty it All!

    There are plenty of ways to empty the Trash, but the most straightforward is to select the Finder and choose Finder>Empty Trash. You’ll have to verify that you want to empty the items in the Trash permanently. You can also use Shift+Command+Delete or Control+click the Trash icon. The latter doesn’t ask you to verify that you want to empty the Trash, though, so be careful.

    There’s no hard and fast rule to tell you how often to empty the Trash; it all depends on how much you delete. I tend to empty the Trash about a week after deleting applications or projects, which is generally long enough to decide if I’ve made a mistake or if I deleted files I actually need. Here are some general guidelines:

    · Empty the Trash at least once every two weeks.

    · Don’t empty the Trash immediately after making a large deletion, such as an application, artwork, or several files. You might find you need them later.

    · Empty the Trash if it gets larger than 1 GB.

    · Empty the Trash before selling your computer.

    · Don’t empty the Trash if you’ve deleted something and are getting error messages.