Best Trash Emptying Practices?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by adammcd, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. adammcd, Sep 26, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012

    adammcd macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2007
    I know many Mac users who make sure to empty their trash every time they place something into it (in many cases motivitated by an OCD-esque can't-stand-to-see-a-full-trash-icon mindset, I think). But is this really necessary?

    I'm no trash expert, but I came up with a couple PROs and a couple CONs of (frequently) emptying one's trash. Feel free to add/correct to this list.

    (Frequent) Trash-emptying PROs

    [Frees up space]:
    If you let you trash get too big, it can take up significant hard drive space (only an issue if you don't have lots of extra hard drive space).

    [Good for sensitive data]:
    If you are trashing a file that has sensitive data in it, you probably don't want it hanging around in your trash folder where it is easily recoverable.

    (Frequent) Trash-emptying CONs

    [Takes extra time & is annoying]:
    Many users move items to the trash and empty the trash in two separate steps. It's possible to trash+empty in one step (in various ways), but then you're at higher risk of accidentally permanently deleted a file.

    [It can be nice to have a (recent trash history) archive of trashed items]:
    Gmail encourages users to "archive" most emails instead of "trash" them. I follow this practice, and, sure enough, I sometimes find myself looking back at old emails. Less frequently (but, on occasion), I have found myself looking back through my trash bin and was happy that I hadn't emptied it.

    Question for the community: Assuming you have plenty of free hard drive space, could having a large trash negatively affect your computer's performance (in a way that is of significance?).
  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    If you don't intend to delete something, you shouldn't put it in the trash to begin with. It doesn't make sense to clutter disk space with a large trash file. Emptying the trash is important when deleting files from external drives, because the space isn't freed up on the drive until the trash is emptied with the drive attached. If you're "archiving" deleted files from your internal drive by keeping them in the trash, there's no way to empty only external drive files without emptying internal drive files.

    In short, if you think you might need a file again, store it in a folder somewhere and don't put it in the trash. If you know you won't need a file again, putting it in the trash and emptying the trash is a no-brainer.
  3. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    Short answer No.
    It has no effect at all unless you have too little space left and fragmentation becomes a problem. To the application or OS a file in the trash does not exist anymore it cannot have any adverse effects other than taking up space on the physical disk.

    Technically there is nothing keeping you from using it as an archive. The trash is intended to get files out of the way but not delete them incase one makes a mistake or wants to rollback changes.
  4. adammcd thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2007
    Ah, great point! I forgot about that.

    Perhaps my Gmail analogy wasn't the best. I typically delete my trash every few months, so I certainly don't use it as a permanent archive. Ideally, I would like a trash bin that auto-deletes older stuff and keeps the fresh trash around just a little while.

    I used to keep a "to the trash" right next to the "Trash" (before the days of the Mac's Dock). I would put items into the "to the trash" folder instead of the Trash. Every couple months I would empty my Trash and move the "to the trash" contents to the Trash. This got old (annoying) after a while, so now I just give my trash contents a quick scan before my (bi-monthly) trash emptying.

    I was really just curious if anyone else had the same/similar thoughts or practices as I do. Sounds like not!
  5. adammcd thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2007
    Exactly, but if so many just "empty" the trash every time a single item enters it, then this safety valve is gone.

    I just don't understand why so many users spend the extra time emptying their trash dozens/hundreds of times over the course of a few months (by incessantly emptying it) instead of just doing it once every few months. But perhaps I am overestimating just how common incessant trash-emptying is.
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    What extra time? Command-Shift-Delete, Enter. Done! It takes every bit of 2 or 3 seconds, if you move slow. If you want to wait months to do it, that's fine. Why would it matter what others choose to do?
  7. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    Perhaps you're overestimating the amount of time it takes. Personally, if I happen to notice the Trash icon, a quick cmd-shift-delete takes care of it.

    If there's something I think I might want later, I simply don't put it in the Trash. I long ago created a Killable folder for that. When I bother cleaning that out, it all goes at once.

    Over the course of a month, I may have spent 90 seconds noticing the Trash icon and pressing the cmd-shift-delete key-combo. If I were to reflect on all the time I've wasted in a month, that reflection alone would likely exceed 90 seconds, especially if I were to attempt to prioritize the amount of time wasted on each thing. So I'm wondering if people who wonder about other people's "incessant trash-emptying" might be a little Over-Concerned.
  8. adammcd, Sep 26, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012

    adammcd thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2007
    Two reasons:

    [1] I was plain old curious at to why some empty their trash as often as they do (especially if there's no real need to do so). I called it "incessant" for lack of a better word — didn't intend to offend. The main answer here seems to be "because it is easy/effortless to do" (which, I agree with), but I guess I don't understand why a constantly empty trash is desirable to begin with. Oh well. :)

    [2] I was wondering if by only emptying my trash every couple months —unlike all the other mac-savvy people I know— I was doing my computer a disservice. Sounds like I'm OK here.

    Lastly ... a big thanks to everyone who responded!
  9. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    You didn't offend at all. I'm genuinely puzzled how one person's trash-emptying could affect another. It's so quick and simple to empty the trash, doing so as often as one desires isn't a problem. Likewise, if someone wants to go months between emptying, that's their choice, and it's perfectly fine.

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