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Permanently deleting files on Mac OS

What's the Mac keyboard shortcut to rm a file? I know command + delete sends it to trash, but I want to permanently delete it, say with command + fn + delete.

UPDATE: It doesn't look like there is one. So, I want to create a service with Automator and then assign a keyboard shortcut to it from System Preferences.

I can get to Automator -> Service -> Service receives selected files or folders in Finder.app, but how do I write the script that then runs rm -rf #{file/folder name}?

marked as duplicate by jtbandes, ChrisF, iglvzx, Simon Sheehan, Mokubai Dec 28 '12 at 11:10

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Dec 15 '10 at 16:05

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  • 2
    maybe with shift? at least that's the way you have to do it on other OS – thejh Dec 15 '10 at 16:00

To answer your edit requesting Automator help:

Use the Run Shell Script action, Pass input as arguments and the following script:

for f in "$@"
    rm -rf "$f"

You can assign a keyboard shortcut via Application Menu, Services, Services Preferences. It's a bit difficult to assign backspace/"delete" to a keyboard shortcut (see comments on this answer) though.

You can alternatively create an application in Automator, and add a reference to the Finder toolbar (applications can be dragged there).

Assigning a keyboard shortcut using delete (backspace) or forward delete:

  1. Define a simple keyboard shortcut for the service without delete (e.g. Cmd-Ctrl-Opt-G) using System Preferences. Quit System Preferences.
  2. Open ~/Library/Preferences/pbs.plist using Property List Editor and copy the key for the service. It's within NSServicesStatus and looks something like (null) - Service Name - runWorkflowAsService. Quit Property List Editor.
  3. Open Terminal and enter the following command (use the line you copied earlier between the quotes and double-quotes):

    defaults write pbs NSServicesStatus -dict-add '"(null) - Service Name - runWorkflowAsService"' '{ "key_equivalent" = "@\U0008"; }'

  4. Open Application Menu » Services » Service Preferences, and toggle your service.

  5. Enjoy your new key combination.

In the command line, @ is Cmd, ^ is Ctrl, $ is Shift, and ~ is Option. Mix and match these modifiers to your preferences. \U0008 is delete (backspace), \U007F is forward delete.

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  • Regarding assigning a keyboard shortcut using delete: defaults write pbs NSServicesStatus -dict-add '(null) - My Service Name - runWorkflowAsService' '{ "key_equivalent" = "@\U0008"; }' should work, but (null) (indicating a standalone service, not part of an application) is apparently not a valid key for defaults: defaults[56054:903] Could not parse [the key] – Daniel Beck Dec 15 '10 at 18:52
  • Thanks! I am doing this only for Finder, so it shows up in com.apple.finder.plist. Perhaps I'll change it to work for All Applications. What's the purpose of increasing the number value for NSServicesUserDirectoryModDate? I thinks $ is Shift. What's fn? – ma11hew28 Dec 15 '10 at 19:46
  • @Matt Even if your service is only applicable to Finder, it's key combination is stored in pbs.plist. Fn is not a modifier key. If you want to go on with Fn-Cmd-Delete or similar, this is the exactly same thing as Cmd-Forward Delete. Delete's code is \U0008 above, I don't know the key code for forward delete. If you find it out, just put it into the command line of step 3 and it should work. – Daniel Beck Dec 15 '10 at 20:03
  • @Matt You could try @\U007F for Cmd-Forward Delete, 0x7F is the ASCII key code for DEL. – Daniel Beck Dec 15 '10 at 20:05
  • 1
    Sorry, another edit is needed :-) as the following seems to work: defaults write pbs NSServicesStatus -dict-add '"(null) - My Service Name - runWorkflowAsService"' '{ "key_equivalent" = "@\U0008"; }' (Hence: double quotes within the single quotes. Not sure why I suddenly tried that!) – Arjan Dec 15 '10 at 20:57

See this MacGeekery post.


I'm not sure what the keyboard shortcut is or even if it exists but you can run an applescript that will permanently delete files. Here's a link with instructions http://macphobia.com/deleting-an-item-windows-and-mac.macphobia

set txt to ""
tell application "Finder"
    repeat with f in (get selection)
        set txt to txt & quoted form of POSIX path of (f as text) & " "
    end repeat
end tell
set cmd to "rm -rf " & txt
display dialog cmd & "?"
do shell script cmd

You can use FastScripts (or for example Keyboard Maestro) to assign a shortcut that's only available in Finder.

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