Cholesterol is an essential component of mammalian cells. It is the major lipid constituent of the plasma membrane and is also abundant in most other organelle membranes. In the plasma membrane cholesterol plays critical physical roles in the maintenance of membrane fluidity and membrane permeability. It is also important for membrane trafficking, cell signalling, and lipid as well as protein sorting. Cholesterol is essential for the formation of liquid ordered domains in model membranes, which in cells are known as lipid nanodomains or lipid rafts. Cholesterol depletion is widely used to study the role of cholesterol in cellular processes and can be performed over days using inhibitors of its synthesis or acutely over minutes using chemical reagents. Acute cholesterol depletion by methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MBCD) is the most widely used method and here we describe how it should be performed to avoid the common side-effect cell death.