5 Ways to Empty Trash on Mac That Won’t Delete

The files you delete on your Mac are not deleted permanently, they will move to Trash Bin. Sometimes, few files and folders just refuses to get removed. Maybe the file is still in use, or it is locked or the file might have a special character making your Mac think it’s just too important to be deleted.

Whatever be the reason, below are few ways which will help you on emptying the Trash and to get rid of the stubborn files and folders. Go through the steps carefully so that you don’t end up deleting something important and regretting later. For which we have a solution too! Keep reading.

Different Ways to Empty Trash Bin on Your Mac

#1 Delete Immediately Option

This is a simple keyboard shortcut to force your Mac to empty the Trash bin. While holding the Control key, right-click (control-click) on a file in the Trash and select ‘Delete Immediately’. You should be able to remove all your files from the Trash.

#2 Check If the File is Still in Use

When emptying the Trash, if you get ‘File in Use’ error then try to close the app which is using the file. If you don’t know which app it is, try closing all the running apps. This will ensure that the file is not being used by any app. Now go back to Trash and try emptying it. If it still doesn’t, well, we’ll move to the next method.

#3 Force Empty the Stubborn Trash

This is another method to empty the trash. Sometimes, the files may be locked hence, you are unable to empty the Trash bin. Hold down the Option key then go to Finder, then empty Trash. This should definitely help you in cleaning the Trash as the Option key invokes OS X ‘Force Empty’ feature to bypass all the locked files and removes every other items residing in your Trash.

Note: Files deleted from Trash using this method cannot be restored again. So be careful about what files you are removing. In case, you want to restores files deleted from Trash on Mac, you can use a reliable third-party software like Remo Recover Mac. The software scans and retrieves back all your files from Mac Trash.

#4 Use Third Party Tools

There are several third party utilities available which can be used to empty the Trash forcibly. But then, these utilities use Terminal command to do the job, which is my last and the ultimate step in the list to empty the Trash. So, it is not recommended to use such tools, just follow the commands given below.

#5 Empty Trash Bin on Mac Using Terminal

Use this method only when all the above-mentioned fixes fail. As this process will delete all the locked files without any alert message. So be careful with the command and do exactly what is given below:

sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash/*

This was used earlier, but it  does not work on Sierra or El Capitan. If your OS X is 10.10 or above, follow below mentioned steps.

Step 1: Open Terminal on your Mac.

Step 2: Now type this command followed by a space and DO NOT PRESS ENTER AFTERWARD.

“sudo rm –R ”

Please note that the command will not work if you don’t add space after R.

Step 3: Control-click Trash from the Dock.

Step 4: Select all the files in the Trash Bin

Step 5: Drag and Drop the files into Terminal window. This will create the path to each file to remove command which you entered earlier.

Step 6: Now press Enter.

Step 7: Enter your Admin password to continue the process. The password you enter will not be visible. It appears as if nothing has changed.

Step 8: Now press Enter again.

The deleting process will start and take couple of minutes or more depending on the files size.


Now you have your Trash emptied of the stubborn files and folders which wouldn’t have deleted just like that. And remember files deleted using Terminal will not be restored and be extra cautious while selecting the files from Trash. If you need any help in restoring files from Trash or otherwise, you can refer the above-mentioned link.

5 Ways to Empty Trash on Mac That Won’t Delete was last modified: June 2nd, 2017 by John Harris

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