How to Delete Text on a Mac Clipboard

By David Weedmark

Updated August 23, 2018

The clipboard in a Mac computer can hold only one thing at a time. Whatever is in the clipboard is replaced the next time you cut or copy something else regardless of what you cut or copy, including text, images or even a folder full of files. If you have copied sensitive or confidential information, you can clear it from the clipboard by copying something else. If you need to be absolutely certain that the text was deleted, you can paste the clipboard contents in a document or open the Clipboard viewer to see its contents. If you need to completely delete the contents of your clipboard, you can restart your Mac or use Terminal to clear it.

Using Copy or Cut to Delete the Clipboard

Highlight any text on any window on the Mac, including a TextEdit document, words on a Web page or even the title of a file in Finder. To take up as little memory in the clipboard as possible, you can highlight a single letter, a space between two words or a punctuation mark.

Press "Command" and "C" at the same time on the keyboard to copy the text to your clipboard. This deletes any text that was in the clipboard and replaces it with what you just copied.

Press "Command" and "X" to cut the text on an editable document instead of copying it if you want to ensure that you cleared the clipboard successfully. Without moving the cursor, immediately press "Command" and "V" to paste the text back exactly where it was. This illustrates that the clipboard contains the text you just copied without altering your document.

Using Terminal to Completely Clear the Clipboard

Click any empty space on the desktop to access Finder. Click the "Edit" menu and select "Show Clipboard." The Clipboard window opens, displaying the contents of the clipboard.

Launch Terminal, which is located in the "Utilities" folder inside the "Applications" folder.

Type or paste "pbcopy < /dev/null" in the Terminal window and press "Enter." This clears the clipboard. If you look at the Clipboard window, it is now empty.