How to Empty Trash on Mac | 2022 Ultimate Guide

Deleting a file on Mac is never risky, and any deleted files will reside on Mac Trash. Any deleted files on Mac would be moved to the 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 applications, corrupted files or various other reasons. No matter what the reason is, below are a few ways which will help you in emptying the Trash. By following the steps mentioned in the article below, you will learn how to empty Trash on Mac
How to Empty Trash on Mac

How to Empty Trash on Mac?

  1. Check If the File is Still in Use
  2. Restart the Mac OS
  3. Restart Mac on Safe Mode
  4. Empty the Locked Files
  5. Repair the disk before emptying the Trash
  6. Use the Option key to empty the Trash
  7. Bypassing the Bin
  8. Empty Trash Bin on Mac Using Terminal

Why can't I empty the Trash on Mac?

  1. Application in Use - When any application is actively using the file, you will be unable to delete it.
  2. Corruption of the file - Due to corruption or virus intrusion, the macOS might not allow the user to delete or empty the Trash on Mac
  3. File is locked - When the user has locked the file with password protect feature, you will be unable to delete the Trash on Mac

Nevertheless, by following the methods below you will effortlessly be able to delete the desired Trash on your macOS

During the process of emptying the Trash on Mac, if you have accidentally deleted or lost your important data from your macOS, you will need a reliable data recovery utility like Remo Recover Mac to easily recover them! However, data loss is unpredictable scenario, with the help of Remo Recover Mac your data can restored to the original location deletion

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How Do I Manually Empty Trash on Mac?

There are situations where one feels there is a need to empty Trash on Mac. This may be because one needs to get rid of unwanted files or maybe if his Mac Trash is full. Whatever may be the reason one can follow the below mentioned steps to empty his Trash on Mac with ease.

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 background. 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.

Restart Mac OS which can't empty Trash

The reason why Trash won't empty on your Mac may be due to which something that has been deleted but the file still has pending action intact. It can be some file or part of the application. To fix it, you need to terminate every active process on your Mac. A simple restart of your Mac operating system should help you out.

  1. Go to the Apple icon in the top menu.
  2. Click on Restart to reboot your Mac.
  3. This way, it will force close any apps that are still running. Now try to empty the Trash.

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

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

Note: There are situations when you are unable to open trash on Mac or you feel there is a need to uninstall or delete applications from Mac. One can refer to these articles by clicking on the above mentioned link. 

Empty the Locked 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 professional software like Remo Recover Mac. The software scans and retrieves back all your files from Mac Trash on any macOS like Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, etc.

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.

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

Use the Option key to empty the Trash

In case you can’t open the Trash to delete all that’s inside, there is a way to do it from the Dock. Using the Option key, you can initiate options and clear the Trash without opening the folder.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Find the Trash icon in Dock.
  2. Hold the Option key (or Option-Shift) and double-click the Trash icon.
  3. Click Empty Bin.
  4. Confirm when the pop-up window appears.
  5. Hope that did help to empty the Trash. If not, let’s move on to the next solutions.

Remove files bypassing Trash

Command + Option + Delete keys. By pressing CMD+Option+Delete keys you will permanently deleted the files bypassing the recycle bin.

Caution: there’s no way back! Use Command + Option + Delete if you want to completely remove a file. It won't go to Trash, so you won't be able to restore it later.

Empty Trash Bin on Mac Using Terminal

Use this method only when all the above-mentioned fixes fail. 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 the below-mentioned steps.

    1. Open Terminal on your Mac.
    2. Now type this command followed by a space and DO NOT PRESS ENTER AFTERWARD.
    3. sudo rm –R 
    4. Please note that the command will not work if you don’t add space after R.
    5. Control-click Trash from the Doc.
    6. Select all the files in the Trash Bin
    7. Drag and Drop the files into the Terminal window. This will create the path to each file to remove the command which you entered earlier.
    8. Now press Enter.
    9. Enter your Admin password to continue the process. The password you enter will not be visible. It appears as if nothing has changed.
    10. Now press Enter again.

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

Using the methods mentioned above you can permanently empty your Trash on Mac. But what if you unintentionally delete important files from Mac Trash? Do you know that you can easily recover deleted files from Trash using a professional data recovery tool that can help you to retrieve accidentally deleted files from Mac.

Remo Mac data recovery tool is one such tool that comes in handy when you try to retrieve accidentally deleted files. This tool helps you to recover lost or accidentally deleted files like photos, videos, .doc or .docx, etc., in just a few simple clicks. Download the software now!!

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Now that you know how to empty your Trash on Mac from the locked files and folders which wouldn’t have been 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 recovering files from Trash or otherwise, you can refer to the above-mentioned link.

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John Harris

With a decade of experience in data recovery, John Harris, Senior Editor at Remo Software, is your go-to specialist. His focus includes partition management, Windows solutions, and data troubleshooting, delivering insightful content that serves both users and search engines.

John's expertise shines through in illuminating blog posts, untangling data loss intricacies across diverse storage platforms. His mastery extends from file systems to SD cards, USBs, and external drives on Mac and Windows.

Recognized by cpomagazine, everythingusb, and more, John Harris is your trusted data recovery guide. You can also find his articles featured on, computertechreviews.

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  1. Thanks a lot. This is so correct and elaborate. Was able to delete 80000 files in a minute for which i was struggling for last 02 days

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