Delete means "delete," right? It turns out, the answer is: Not always.
On your Mac, the phrase used is "Send to Trash," but that can also be confusing. When you delete a file from your desktop or another folder, it's easy to assume that the file is gone forever. But really, it's just been sent to another place.
Just like a physical trash can, the contents of your Mac's Trash Can are only cleared out when you empty them. Using the same analogy, if it's been a while since you've emptied your trash bin, there's a treasure trove of documents and items for someone to snoop through. And, if you haven't properly shredded private documents, they can still be found later on down the road.
The same is true with your Mac. Software programs can be used to recover files that have been deleted from your Trash Can. That's why it's critical that you take these steps to delete your files securely.
Macs with older operating systems
For anyone who's using an older operating system, like Yosemite, you can securely delete files from the Trash Can in just a few steps.
Go to your Finder menu and select "Secure Empty Trash." Doing this will essentially shred your files before they're deleted. In the world of computers, "shredding" just means that your files will be overwritten with random code so that if they're ever recovered the original code can't be pieced back together. (Click here for more information about when you should wipe, shred, erase or delete your files.)
El Capitan and higher
For newer versions of Mac's OS, this built-in feature of the Trash Can was actually removed. However, you can still get this functionality by using a little trick. Just follow these steps:
1. Open your Launch Pad
2. Click on the Other folder
3. Click on Terminal
4. In the command prompt, type: srm -v
Be sure to leave a space after the v. (Note: srm stands for "secure remove")
5. Drag and drop the file you'd like to delete
When MacOS Sierra was released, Apple switched things up again and removed the secure delete option for both the Trash Can and the Terminal.
To shred files you'd like to remove from Mac Sierra, you'll need to use a shredding app. An app called Secure Delete - File Shredder works well, however, it does cost $4.99 to download.
FileShredder is another option, and it also costs $4.99 to download.