How to Delete Downloads on Any Platform

Save space by clearing out unwanted files

What to Know

  • Windows: Open a File Explorer window. Select the Downloads folder. Highlight the files you want to delete. Right-click and choose Delete.
  • macOS: Open Finder and select Downloads (under Favorites). Highlight the files to remove, then choose File > Move to Trash.
  • Android: Open Chrome browser, tap menu button. Select Downloads. Next to the item you want to delete, select the menu button > Delete.

Each time you download a file through a web browser, it is stored on your device's hard drive and remains there even after it's no longer needed. Over time, these downloads take up hard drive space. Here's how to remove those downloads from the default download location on any operating system.

How to Delete Downloads in Windows

Accessing File Explorer enables you to remove downloaded files.

  1. Open a new File Explorer window.

    File Explorer in search results
  2. Select the Downloads folder, often found in the left menu pane under This PC, Quick Access, or both. If you don't see that option, you might need to navigate to C:\Users\username\Downloads manually.

    The Downloads folder

    In that path, C: is the letter of the drive containing your Windows installation, and username is your username on your PC.

  3. A list of downloaded files and folders appears. Select one or more that you wish to delete and right-click.

    Downloads folder

    A fast way to select all the files in the download folder is to click one file and then use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A. That highlights all the files and folders in the Download folder. Then, you can delete the files all at one time.

  4. In the context menu that displays, click Delete.

    Other methods of deleting these files and folders are to press the Delete key on the keyboard after selecting the files or to select the Delete option from the File menu.

    The Delete command
  5. A warning dialog might appear, asking if you're sure you want to move these downloads to the Recycle Bin. Click Yes to continue.

  6. The downloads are placed in the Recycle Bin but still reside on the hard drive. As a result, you haven't cleared any new storage space until you empty the Recycle Bin.

How to Delete Downloads in macOS

The Finder app can help you locate downloads to delete.

  1. Launch the Finder app via the smiley face icon found in the lower-left corner of the screen, within the macOS Dock.

    The Finder icon in the macOS dock
  2. A new Finder window appears. Click Downloads, located in the left menu pane under the Favorites heading.

    Downloads in Finder
  3. The files that you downloaded to the default location appear in this folder. Select one or more files to delete.

  4. Manually drag the files to the Trash, located in the lower-right corner of the screen, or select File > Move to Trash from the Finder menu. You can also use the Command+Delete keyboard shortcut to move these downloads to the Trash.

  5. The downloads are moved to the Trash but are still present on the hard drive. To remove the files altogether, select Finder from the menu at the top of the screen and click Empty Trash when the drop-down menu appears. You can also use the Command+Shift+Delete keyboard shortcut to delete all the files in the Trash bin. 

    Taking this action deletes all the files contained in the macOS Trash, not only recent downloads. You cannot recover these after the fact, so make sure there is nothing vital in the Trash before proceeding.

  6. A warning message appears, asking if you're sure you want to delete all items in the Trash permanently. Select Empty Trash to continue.

How to Delete Downloads in Android

On newer versions of Android, you can delete downloads from the Chrome browser, installed by default in the Google operating system.

  1. Open the Chrome browser.

    If you have an earlier version of Android, you might need to open the stock browser instead. These versions also have a Downloads icon in the primary group of apps. If your phone or tablet has this option, you can locate and remove downloaded files from there as well. 

  2. Tap the menu button, located in the upper-right corner and represented by three vertically-aligned dots.

  3. When the drop-down menu appears, select Downloads.

  4. A list of previously downloaded files appears under the My Files heading. Select the menu button located to the right of the file you wish to delete, represented by three vertically-aligned dots. When the pop-out menu appears, tap Delete.

    Downloads in Chrome for Android
  5. Repeat this action for each download that you wish to delete.

How to Delete Downloads in iOS

Unlike the other operating systems in this tutorial, iOS doesn't provide a single location where downloaded files can be accessed and deleted. However, there are ways to free up some space on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch by removing photos, videos, audio files like music and podcasts, as well as documents. 

Depending on the settings, some of these files may be stored in iCloud only and not on your device, so removing them won't clear any storage space. To check the available storage space before and after deleting an item or group of items, go to the Home screen and select Settings > General > iPhone Storage. At the top of the next screen, you'll see a bar graph showing how much space you're using.

iPhone Storage in iOS

Delete Photos

Photos can take up a surprising amount of storage space on your iOS device. To remove those you no longer want, first, open the Photos app and tap Select, located in the upper-right corner. Next, tap each photo that you wish to delete so that the photos have a blue and white check mark accompanying them. Finally, select the trash can icon in the lower-right corner of the screen and tap Delete Photo from the pop-up menu.

Deleting photos in iOS

Delete Videos

Videos can take up even more space, especially those of a significant length. Follow the same steps you did to delete photos, instead choosing Videos from the Media Types menu in the Photo app.

Delete Music and Audio

Music and other audio can take up valuable storage space, especially when you hold onto files that you're never going to listen to again or that you backed up elsewhere. To remove these, first, open the Apple Music app and select the Library icon in the lower-left corner of the screen. From the Library screen, select the appropriate category (Artists, Albums, Songs, or another category) and locate the file or group of files you wish to delete. Tap and hold the item in question until a pop-up menu appears. Select Delete from Library.

Deleting a downloaded song from Apple Music

Delete Other Files

You might have downloaded, created, or stored other file types on your iOS device that you no longer need. Here's how to delete them.

  1. Open the Files app and tap Browse, located in the lower-right corner.

  2. Multiple folders display, each noting how many items are within it. Tap the folder that contains files that you wish to delete.

  3. Select the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner.

    Browsing files in the Files app
  4. Choose Select.

  5. Tap the files you want to remove so that a blue and white check mark accompanies each.

  6. Tap the trash can icon in the lower-right corner of the screen to complete the process.

    Deleting items in the Files app
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