Dropbox, the cloud-based file storage service, has 500 million users. And an appreciable number of those Dropbox users can’t figure out how to delete files, let alone how to delete files permanently, on Dropbox. In part that’s because despite being nearly 10 years old, Dropbox’ user interface (“UI”) is still stuck in 1998, and in part because, well, the “how to delete” mechanism is buried and poorly documented.
Moreover, even once you delete files that are stored on Dropbox, they aren’t really deleted. They are just moved to another area of your account, where they take up space, and are still discoverable. To permanently delete your files from Dropbox, you need to add another step.
Before we outline the steps for deleting files from Dropbox, we need to remind you of two things: 1) “the cloud” is really, and only, just someone else’s computer, and 2) because “the cloud” is just a third-party’s computer, if you store your stuff on “the cloud” for more than 180 days (6 months), a warrant is NOT required to get at it.
Ok, here is both how to delete your files from Dropbox, and how to permanently delete your files from Dropbox.
How to Delete Files on Dropbox
To delete files on Dropbox, hover over the file that you want to delete, and depending on what sort of computer you are on either right-click, or control-click, which will open a dropdown menu:
In this example we are clearing out a bunch of files – leaving us with:
So, only three files left, right?
Because these files have actually just had their status changed to ‘deleted’, but have not actually been deleted or otherwise removed from your Dropbox account.
Much like with Gmail, deleting something doesn’t actually mean removing it from your account, and doesn’t mean that it isn’t still taking up space in your quota. For that you need to permanently delete it.
How to PERMANENTLY Delete Files on Dropbox
If you thought how to delete files generally on Dropbox was inobvious (or even if you didn’t), the secret to permanently deleting files from Dropbox is, well, just that, nearly secret!
Here’s how to do it.
Remember our “only three files left” screenshot from above?
Still only three files, right?
Go up to the icons near the top of your screen, next to the search box, and hover over the trash can icon:
This will pop-up the option to ‘Show deleted files’. Click on that.
Now take another look:
There are all of your deleted files, in all their splendour. It’s like Night of the Living Dropbox Files.
To permanently delete these files from Dropbox, hover over the ‘deleted’ file that you want to permanently delete, and select “Permanently delete…”
Note that if you are using Dropbox for offsite backups, in order to not run out of space you will need to manage those backups from your backup software (or manually delete the files from within Dropbox). At the time of this writing there seems to be no way to have Dropbox automatically purge files (either by age or quantity).