Can’t Empty Trash on Your Mac? Here’s the Fix to Resolve it and Clear the Trash

You will be unable to empty trash on your Mac if the files are locked or being used. There are different fixes to solve this, you should check the list of fixes here.

When you delete any files or folders on your Mac, they aren’t permanently removed. They find their place in the Trash bin, which needs additional clicks to delete them permanently. Sometimes if any file is locked or being used by another app, then it won’t be deleted. Hence, you can’t delete any file on your Mac.

We have listed down some of the fixes that should help you empty Trash on your Mac. The last fix is the ultimate one, and I would recommend you to go step-by-step so that you don’t delete something important and then left with a malfunctioning app. Let me walk along with you through the guide!

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Can't Empty Trash on Mac

Can’t Empty Trash on Mac

Check if the file is in use by any app

If you get an error about “File in Use”, then try closing the app that is using the file (in case you know the app). Alternatively, you can also close all the running apps to make sure that the file is no more being used by any of the apps. Now try to empty trash, if it still doesn’t clear the dump, keep reading.

Force Empty Trash in Mac OS X When File is Locked or in Use

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In case you are getting a Locked file error, then press and hold the Option key, go to Finder → Empty Trash. This should have surely helped you in clearing Trash. The Option key signals macOS to bypass the locked files. Anyways, even if this didn’t work out for you, keep reading for more fixes.

Use third-party utilities

There are many third-party utility apps to forcibly empty the Trash folder. If you have them installed, give it a try. I would personally not recommend downloading and using them. That’s because they ultimately flash Terminal commands to delete Trash files, which we have given below, so have a look.

Empty Trash on Mac Using Terminal

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This is the ultimate step you should take, only if all of the above have failed. As these commands will delete locked files without alerting you anything. Make sure you do exactly as it is written below.

Step #1. Open Terminal on your Mac.

Open Terminal on Mac

Step #2. Now type, sudo rm –R followed by space. Leaving a space is mandatory, so do not miss that step. And yes, DO NOT HIT RETURN AFTER YOU ENTER THE COMMAND.

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Empty Trash in Mac Using Terminal

Step #4. It’s now time to open the Trash folder from the Dock.

Step #5. Select all the files and folders from the Trash folder, drag and drop them into Terminal window. Doing this will add the path of each file and folder to the “Remove” command we entered at Step #3.

Step #6. Now you can hit Return and then enter your administrator password to continue the operation.

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The deleting process will begin and might take a couple of minutes, depending on the size of files and folders you are deleting.

Try out this trick as well, if nothing seems to be working for you.

Step #1. First off, turn off your Mac. Then, you need to hold down command+R when starting your computer. Keep holding the keys until Apple logo appears on the screen.

Your Mac will enter into recovery mode.

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Step #2. In the top menu bar, you have to click on utilities. In the drop down, you need to click on terminal. Next, it will open up a terminal in order to run a command.

Step #3. Next, you will have to type in the command cs0util disable and press return.

Then after, you have to click on the Apple on the top left and click restart.

Step #4. Next up, empty your trash as usual.

Wrap up

Assuming you have been able to empty the trash on your Mac. As these solutions have worked for many users, I’m expecting they have clicked for you as well. It would be really nice if you share your feedback and let us know whether you have found success using these fixes.

You might want to catch up with these troubleshooting guides as well:

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Dhvanesh Adhiya
Dhvanesh Adhiya is the founder and editor-in-chief who takes care of audio, visual, and textual contents uploaded on He is passionate about wonderful apps that change the way your iPhone interacts in your life.
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