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

Any deleted files on Mac would be moved to Trash folder, the user can then decide whether to restore the deleted files or erase them permanently. While emptying the Trash, you might have come across a few files that would not get deleted. This could be because the files might be in use with other application, corrupted file or various other reasons. No matter what the reason is, below are few ways which will help you on emptying the Trash. By following the steps mention in the article below, you will be able to empty trash on MacDifferent Ways to Empty Trash Bin on Your Mac

Method 1: 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. In such cases, try closing all the running apps running in the back ground. 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, move to the next method.

Method 2: Restart Mac on Safe Mode

The file that you are trying to delete might be in use by another application, making it difficult for you to empty Trash. Reboot the Mac in Safe Mode and clear Trash as shown below

  • Reboot your Mac, press and hold the Shift key, as you do so you will find Apple logo appear on the screen
  • Once the login screen appears release the shift key and login to the computer
  • After booting into the Safe Mode, open Trash and then click on Empty

Method 3: 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 Mac ‘Force Empty’ feature to bypass all the locked files and removes every other item 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 restore 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 on any macOS like Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, etc.

Method 4: Repair the disk before emptying the Trash

If you are unable to empty Trash on Mac, there can be possibility of corruption on the disk that might be preventing the deletion. Try the below steps to repair the disk and then delete the files.

    • Restart Mac and hold Command+R as the system starts
    • In the macOS Utilities window select Disk Utility and click on Continue
    • Select the disk from which the files need to be deleted and then click on First Aid to start the repair process
    • After completion of the repair process restart your Mac and empty the Trash

Method 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 22nd, 2020 by John Harris

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