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[Solved] Can't Empty Trash Mac

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Jan 15, 2024 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

"I have been trying to delete the files from my Mac but I can't empty trash on Mac. How can I fix it, please help?"

Normally, it is easy for the users to empty the trash can. Many users have reported that they tried to delete the files from the Mac Trash Can but experienced some issues. There is a number of reasons why you cannot empty trash on Mac.

When you delete a file on Mac, it gets transferred to the Trash. And ultimately, you will need to delete the files from Trash too to free up some space. But you can get some errors while doing so. So, here we are going to resolve this problem. We will learn what to do when Mac trash is not emptying. But at first, we need to learn a few things too.

Part 1. Reasons for "Mac Trash Won't Empty":

There are few reasons why Trash Can is not emptying on Mac. Usually, emptying the trash is immediate and uncomplicated. But occasionally some problems arise and there are two main reasons for that.

Part 2. How to Empty Trash on Mac that Won't Delete

As you know the main problems that arise while you are trying to empty the Trash can in Mac. But the solutions are pretty easy. In case the trash doesn't allow you to delete files, you can simply follow easy steps to fix that.

1. When Files in Use - Restart Mac or Enter into Safe Mode

If you cannot empty the trash Mac file as it is in use by some other application, you can either restart the Mac or enter into the safe mode. To do that, you will need to follow the steps below:

  1. Quit the application running while you were trying to empty up the Trash.
  2. If that doesn't work, there might be some app running in the background processes using that file. Restart the Mac and then empty the Trash.


  3. If that also doesn't work, then you might have some login item or startup item using that file. Ultimately, you'll have to start up your Mac in the safe mode by holding down the Shift key. Then try emptying the Trash and restart your Mac in the usual way.

2. Files Locked - Unlock Files

In case your Mac trash won't empty because the files are locked, you can easily correct this issue and unlock them by following the steps below:

  1. Open the Trash and right-click on the file that you want to delete.
  2. Click on the Info option and click the Locked checkbox. This will unlock the file and you can now delete the files easily by clicking on the empty button.


You can also right-click the file and click on Delete Immediately to delete the file permanently.

3. Delete Files From External Hard Drive - Disk Utility

If you can figure out why Mac is unable to empty trash, then you can try using Disk Utility. This feature is used to perform all disk-related tasks on Mac including creation, conversion, compression, and encryption too. So, this will allow you to make some changes and repair the drive so that you can delete the files.

  1. Startup from macOS recovery by clicking the Command + R key while you start up Mac.
  2. When the macOS utility window appears, select the Disk Utility and click on the Continue button.
  3. In the Disk Utility, choose the disk that contains the file that you want to delete and then use the First Aid feature to repair that Disk.


  4. Now exit the utility and restart your Mac. Again try emptying the trash and hopefully, this time the trash files will be deleted.

4. System Integrity Protection

One another reason why Mac can't empty trash might be its System Integrity Protection. It puts a limit on the features and tasks that the root account can't perform. It is a security feature so that no even the Root user can modify or delete a file. But if it is preventing you from deleting files on Mac, then you can bypass or modify it. You only need to disable the SIP feature by following the steps below:

  1. The SIP setting is stored in NVRAM on each individual Mac. So, you'll need to access it from the recovery environment. Boot your Mac into the Recovery Mode and open a terminal window.


  2. Type the command as- csrutil status and hit the enter button. You will see whether the SIP feature is enabled or not.
  3. Now type the command- csrutil disable and tap the Enter key. This will disable the System Integrity Protection and you will be able to delete the files from Mac trash or anywhere else.


You will need to restart your Mac first so that the setting will take effect. You can further enable or disable the setting as per your requirement.

5. Empty Trash on Mac with Terminal

If you are proficient in using the Terminal, you will be able to delete the files by using it. This is a very typical method so that it must be used as an ultimate solution. You can use this method when all the above methods have failed to delete the files. So, this is how you empty the trash Mac using the terminal. The terminal command will force the Trash to delete the files. The Terminal command is like a failsafe method. It will also bypass all the errors that are preventing Trash from emptying.

  1. Press the CMD + Space to open Spotlight. Type terminal and press the Return option to launch it.


  2. Type the command as sudo rm-R and press the Space key to force delete the files.


  3. Now, go to the Trash and select all the files that you want to delete. Drag those files into the Terminal window and again press the Return option.


  4. Enter the Mac admin password to authorize the command and hit Return to confirm. Finally, run the command and this will immediately delete the files that you dragged into the Terminal window.

At last, you will have a bit cleaner system. But make sure that you don't do anything wrong otherwise you will end up with a bigger problem on your hands. Using the terminal method will erase all data on your Mac. But you can always recover files after emptying trash on Mac. So, it will be better that you look for an effective recovery tool for Mac online to get your deleted files back.

Part 3. How to Recover Files After Emptying Trash on Mac

It often happens when people are trying out Terminal to delete the files from trash, something wrong happens. Even though you were unable to empty the trash Mac, using terminal can be very tricky. So, if you end up deleting your system data, then you should know about a tool that can recover all kinds of data even if it was deleted. You can rely on Recoverit Data Recovery on Mac software. This is one of the most popular data recovery tools available to users.

Several features of the software are listed below:

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How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac

1. Run the App And Select a Location

Run the App And Select a Location: Launch the app on the system and you will see the existing drives in the interface. Specify a location and then click on the Start Button.


2. Scan the Disk

Scan the Disk: The software will scan the disk and display the results on the screen sorted according to their format. If the normal scan didn't work out, then you can try Deep Scan to search for the lost or deleted files.


3. Preview and Recover the Files

Enter the Mac admin password to authorize the command and hit Return to confirm. Finally, run the command and this will immediately delete the files that you dragged into the Terminal window.


Using Recoverit Data Recovery software is very helpful if you accidentally lost or emptied your trash. The software won't let you suffer due to the loss of your files as it can effectively recover them in a matter of seconds.

Video Tutorial on Mac File Recovery


As you can see, few little problems can lead to major issues. So, you better make sure that you find the right solution. We have provided you all the possible solutions to empty the Mac Trash. And in case you somehow end up erasing your Mac data, we have also provided info on how to recover deleted files Mac after empty trash. So, the next something like this happens to your closed ones, make sure that you recommend these solutions and Recoverit to them.

Recoverit author

Sue Wayne

staff Editor

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