5 ways to delete files (temporarily or permanently) in Windows 10

Whether it’s work-related documents and presentations or personal pictures and files, when you run out of space on your Windows 10 computer or device, you have to delete some of them. We delete files regularly, and yet, not many of us know how the process works or that there is more than one way you can delete files. If you want to know how to delete files from Windows 10, including permanently deleting them so that they can no longer be recovered, read this article:

TIP: When you delete a file, even when you use the permanently delete option, that file can still be recovered. To learn why, read: What happens to deleted files? Why can you recover some of them?

1. Delete or permanently delete files using keyboard shortcuts

The simplest way to delete a file or a group of files is to open File Explorer and navigate to its location. Find the file that you want to delete, and click or tap on it to select it. You can select more than one file by pressing the CTRL key and keeping it pressed. With the mouse, click the files that you want to select. Release the CTRL key when done.

Selecting the files that you want to delete

TIP: To select all files in a folder, press CTRL+A on your keyboard.

To delete the selected file(s) and move it (them) to the Recycle Bin, press the Delete key on your keyboard.

The Delete key on a standard keyboard

By default, Windows 10 does not ask for a confirmation when you remove files, but if your Recycle Bin is configured to display a delete confirmation dialog, confirm the process by pressing Yes.

Are you sure you want to move this file to the Recycle Bin?

To delete the selected file(s) without moving to the Recycle Bin, press SHIFT+Delete on your keyboard.

Pressing SHIFT+Delete removes files without moving them to the Recycle Bin

This action permanently deletes the selected file(s), and Windows 10 asks for confirmation before it goes ahead with the removal. When you are asked “Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?”, press Yes.

Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?

The file is gone from your Windows 10 PC, without being moved to the Recycle Bin. It can be recovered only with specialized software like Recuva.

2. Delete files using the right-click menu

Another method involves selecting the file(s) that you want to delete in File Explorer and right-clicking (or pressing and holding) the selected item(s). In the contextual menu, choose Delete.

Delete a file from the right-click menu

This action moves the selected file(s) to the Recycle Bin, from which they can be recovered, if needed. It does not permanently delete files as other methods do.

3. Delete or permanently delete files from File Explorer’s ribbon

You can also browse to the files that you want to delete in File Explorer and select them. Then, click or tap the Home tab on the ribbon, and then the Delete button. This action removes the selected item(s) and moves them to the Recycle Bin.

Delete a file from the File Explorer’s Home tab

If you want to delete a file permanently, select it. In the Home tab on the ribbon, instead of clicking Delete, click the arrow beneath the Delete button and then choose “Permanently delete.”

Permanently delete a file from the File Explorer’s Home tab

4. Permanently delete files using PowerShell or Command Prompt

Windows 10 has a command that you can use to permanently delete files, and it can be used both in PowerShell and Command Prompt. Depending on what you prefer, start the Command Prompt or open PowerShell. Then, enter the command: del “path to file”.

For example, to delete the sample.jpg file found on the D: drive, in the Digital Citizen folder, we typed: del “D:Digital Citizensample.jpg”.

Delete a file from PowerShell

Press Enter to execute the command, and the file is deleted without any confirmation being required. As documented by Microsoft here, this command can be used with several parameters. The most interesting is /f, which forces the deletion even when dealing with a read-only file that normally cannot be deleted. To use this parameter, type in: del /f “path to file”.

Delete a read-only file from the Command Prompt

Don’t forget to press Enter to execute the command.

NOTE: When using the command-line to delete files, they are not moved to Recycle Bin.

5. Permanently delete files using specialized software

If you want to remove files from your Windows 10 PC so that they cannot be recovered with specialized file recovery tools, it is a good idea to remove them using apps that are permanent file erasers. Eraser is an excellent app for this purpose, and it works on any PC or device running Windows.

Eraser helps you delete files so that they cannot be recovered

You can also find similar apps in this article: 8 best free data erasing apps that permanently delete your files and folders.

Problems when deleting files: File In Use

When deleting a file, you may encounter an error that says: “File In Use. This action can’t be completed because the file is open in…” followed by an app’s name. If you Try Again, you hit the same error over and over.

File In Use error, in Windows 10

To solve this problem, you have to close the app mentioned by the error message. That app uses the file that you want to remove and keeps it open for editing. In this state, the file cannot be deleted. After the app is closed, and it no longer uses the file, the deletion process works.

If closing the app doesn’t lead to the expected result, restart Windows 10 and try again.

Which method do you prefer for deleting files from Windows 10?

Now you know how to delete files using the keyboard, the mouse, and even specialized software or commands in PowerShell. Before closing this guide, let us know which method you prefer and why. Are you a keyboard user? Do you prefer to use the mouse? Or maybe the del command? Comment below and let’s discuss the best way to remove files from Windows 10.