How to Delete Downloads On Any Platform

Save space by clearing out unwanted files

downloading message on a computer screen

Epoxydude / Getty Images

Each time you download a file through your web browser it gets stored on your device’s hard drive and remains there even after it’s no longer needed. This is often the case with software installers, which do not serve much of a purpose once an application has been installed. 

This can also be true for compressed files that are typically not required again after they’ve been extracted, or really for any other files that you won’t use again. Over time these downloads can become cumbersome in terms of combined size and you may want to delete them to free up some storage space.

The tutorials below show you how to delete downloads from the default locations in each operating system. If you chose to download files to other locations at any point, such as your desktop, then you’ll need to find and erase them manually.

How to Delete Downloads in Windows

  1. Open a new File Explorer window.

  2. Select the Downloads folder, often found in the left menu pane under This PC, Quick Access or both. If you do not see that option, you may need to manually navigate to C:\Users\*username*\Downloads

    In that path, C: is the letter of the drive containing your Windows installation and *username* is your username on your PC — remove the asterisks if you're typing the path into your file explorer address bar.

    The location of the downloads folder in the Windows File Explorer window.
  3. A list of downloaded files and folders should now be displayed. Select one or more that you wish to delete and right-click. 

    A fast way to select all the files that are in your download folder is to click one file, and then use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + A. That should cause all the files and folders in your Download folder to be highlighted, then you can delete them all at one time.

  4. A context menu should now be displayed. Click Delete.

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

    The Delete option in the right-click context menu of the Downloads folder in Windows.
  5. A warning dialog may appear, asking if you’re sure you want to move these downloads to the Recycle Bin. Click Yes to continue.

  6. Your downloads have now been placed in the Recycle Bin but still reside on your hard drive. As a result, you have not yet cleared any new storage space until you empty the Recycle Bin.

How to Delete Downloads in macOS

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

  2. A new Finder window should appear. Click Downloads, located in the left menu pane under the Favorites heading.

  3. All files that have been downloaded to the default location will be listed in this folder. Select one or more files you wish to delete.

  4. Manually drag them to the Trash, located in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, or select File > Move to Trash from the Finder menu. You can also utilize the following keyboard shortcut to move these downloads to the Trash: COMMAND + DELETE.

  5. Your downloads are moved to the Trash, but are still present on your hard drive. To remove them completely, 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 following keyboard shortcut to quickly delete all files in your Trash bin: COMMAND + SHIFT + DELETE

    All files contained in your macOS Trash will be deleted when you take this action, not just the downloads that were recently placed there. These cannot be recovered after the fact, so make sure there is nothing important in your Trash before proceeding.

  6. A warning message will appear, asking if you’re sure you want to permanently delete all items in your Trash. Select Empty Trash to continue.

How to Delete Downloads in Android

On newer versions of Android, downloads can be deleted from right within the Chrome browser, installed by default in Google’s operating system.

  1. Open your Chrome browser. 

    If you’re running an earlier version of Android, you may need to open the stock browser instead. These versions also have a Downloads icon in your main 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 should be displayed. Select the menu button located to the right of the file that you wish to delete, also represented by three vertically-aligned dots. When the pop-out menu appears, tap Delete.

  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 does not provide a single location where downloaded files can be accessed and deleted. There are ways, however, 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 your settings, some of these files may be stored in iCloud only and not on your actual device, so removing them will not actually clear any storage space. To check on your available storage space before and after deleting an item or group of items, take the following path from your Home Screen: Settings > General > About > Capacity / Available.

Delete Photos

Believe it or not, 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-hand corner. Next, tap each photo that you wish to delete so that they all have a blue and white check mark accompanying them. Finally, select the trash can icon in the lower right hand-corner of the screen and tap Delete Photo from the pop-up menu.

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 beforehand.

Delete Music and Audio

Music and other audio can also hog valuable storage space, especially if you’re holding onto files that you’re never going to listen to again or that you have 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, etc.) and locate the file or group of files you wish to delete. Tap and hold your finger over the item in question until a pop-up menu appears. Select Delete from Library.

Delete Other Files

You may have downloaded, created or stored other file types on your iOS device that are no longer needed. Open the Files app and tap Browse, located in the lower right corner. Multiple folders should now be displayed, each noting how many items are contained within. Tap the folder that contains files that you wish to delete. Hit Select, located in the upper right-hand corner, and choose the files that you wish to remove so that each is accompanied by a blue and white check mark. Tap the trash can icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen to complete the process.