How to force empty trash on Mac?

by Linas Kiguolis - -
12

Question

Issue: How to force empty trash on Mac?

Hello. I have recently encountered a problem with my Mac. While trying to empty the trash, I receive an error saying that the file is in use and can't empty Trash on Mac. How to solve this problem? Thanks!

Solved Answer

Trying to move the file into the Trash doesn't permanently delete it. Unless you decide to empty Trash and get rid of the unnecessary data for good. However, we have received multiple reports stating that some people cannot complete this task on their Mac computers.

There might be several reasons why you can't empty Trash on Mac:

  • The item might be still in use;
  • The file may be locked;
  • The filename might contain a unique character which indicates the importance of the item and Mac refuses to delete it.

Whatever the reason it is, note that at some point you will need to empty your Trash as you will need free space for other programs that are necessary. Likewise, you should not only identify why you can't empty Trash on MacOS[1] but also fix the problem. 

Can't empty trash on Mac

Below you will find methods how to force empty Trash on Mac which are designed to eliminate all different factors that might cause this error to appear. However, please, be attentive during the procedure as some of the techniques include altering settings that might harm your operating system.

Ways to force empty Trash on Mac computer

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The given methods are only effective if your operating system is not infected with various potentially unwanted programs (PUPs)[2] or even malware[3]. Thus, experts highly advise you to scan your computer files with a professional security software before heading to the guidelines. Our top choice is Reimage

Method 1. Can't empty Trash because the Item is still in use

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  1. You must quit all applications that are using the file you are trying to delete;
  2. Try to empty the Trash;
  3. If that doesn't work, there is a substantial risk that some background processes are still active. So, restart your
  4. computer and then empty the Trash;
  5. If it is the item that starts automatically every time you turn on your computer, you can temporarily stop it. You should
  6. start up in Safe Mode by holding the shift key while the Mac loads;
  7. Try to empty the Trash and restart your PC regularly.

Method 2. Empty Trash cannot be completed because the item is locked

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  1. If you can't empty Trash on Mac, because the file is locked, you should hold down the Option key;
    Empty trash with locked items
  2. Then empty Trash as now the locked files will be overridden. 

Method 3. Use Terminal to force empty Trash on Mac

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  1. Open Terminal;
    Use terminal to force empty trash on Mac
  2. Enter the following command WITHOUT hitting enter afterward:
    1. sudo rm -R 
  3. Double-click on the Trash icon;
  4. Once it is opened, select all files and drag them to the Terminal window;
    Drag items to Terminal window
  5. Press enter and submit the Administrator password;
  6. Hit enter.

NOTE: If the command didn't work, make sure that there is a space after R. Otherwise, this method will be ineffective. 

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About the author

Linas Kiguolis
Linas Kiguolis - IT professional

Linas Kiguolis is a qualified IT expert that loves sharing his excellent knowledge about problems in Windows and Mac operating systems. Linas’ insights often help other team members find quick solutions for visitors of UGetFix site.

Contact Linas Kiguolis
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