Can’t Empty the Trash on Your Mac? Here’s How to Fix It

When you delete a file in Mac, it is moved to Trash, where it is stored until you empty it. The Trash on your Mac acts just like a dustbin. It gives you an option to recover files and documents you deleted. However, there will be times when the trash on your Mac gets stuck while trying to delete all the files, or it just refuses to delete some files. This guide will show how you can fix the problem where you can’t empty the Trash on your Mac.

Depending on the file you are trying to delete, there can be multiple reasons why your Mac cannot delete all the files from Trash. Check out some possible fixes for the problem below.

Can’t Empty the Trash on Your Mac? Here’s How to Fix It

Can't Empty the Trash on Your Mac? Here's How to Fix It

1] Restart MacBook and Try Again

Click on the Apple icon on the top-right of the menu, and then click Restart. The files may be locked for a reason, and a restart should solve the problem. Once you are back, right-click on the Trash icon followed by the Empty Trash option.

2] Empty in Safe Mode

Safe Mode in Mac makes sure not to load any third-party apps and services which could lock the files in Trash from being deleted. So, if you cannot delete files in Trash, boot your Mac in Safe Mode and try deleting the files from there. Below is how you can boot your Mac in Safe mode.

  • Click on the Apple icon on the top-right, and then click on Restart.
  • Hold down the Shift key during startup.
  • When you see the Apple logo, release the Shift key.
  • You should now see Safe Boot text on the top left of the screen
  • Empty Trash and restart your Mac.

3] Force Empty Trash Using Terminal

Empty Trash using Terminal on Mac

The Terminal is a powerful tool on your Mac that can let you do numerous things beyond your imagination. You can forcefully use the “sudo rm” command to delete all files stuck in your Mac’s trash.

  • Press Command + Spacebar to bring up Spotlight.
  • Type Terminal and press Enter to launch when it appears.
  • Open Trash or Bin Window to see the list of files.
  • Then type Sudo rm and drag and drop one of the files into the terminal.
  • This will paste the exact path of the file in the trash.
  • Press the Enter key, and you will be prompted for the password.
  • Once verified, it will forcefully remove the file.

4] Use the Option Key

The option key in Mac comes in hand to reveal hidden menu options. If you have been using Mac for some time, you already know its usage when it comes to forcing it to quit any running application.

Hold the Option + Shift key and then double click to bring up the menu for Trash. Choose Empty Trash, and the files should be gone. It is handy when you cannot find the menu no matter how many times you right-click on it.

5] Fix Disk Permission on MacBook

Fix Disk Permission on Mac

MacBook offers a Disk Utility tool that one can use to manage and fix issues around Disk. It is possible that you cannot delete the file because of disk permission issues. The best way to fix this is to run the First Aid Tool.

  • Use Command key + Spacebar to open Spotlight.
  • Type Disk Utility and click to launch when it appears
  • Select the disk or partition on which macOS is installed
  • Click on the First Aid utility on the top left.
  • It will then prompt that the volume be checked for errors, and repairs will be made if necessary.
  • Click on the Run button and let the process complete
  • Once it’s done,  try to empty the trash.

6] Use a Third-Party App

Third Part App to Clean Trash on Mac

There are a lot of apps that can help you fix the problem, and one such is CleanMyMac. It keeps an eye on the Trash, and if it exceeds the configured limit, it prompts and then deletes the file.

Once you install the software, switch to the Trash Bins section. It will then scan and empty all the bins, including mail and photo library trash, at once. It will also avoid any Finder errors, which restricts removing the trash.

Another included feature is Shredder. If you cannot delete a file directly or through the Trash, then use this feature to erase the file securely.

7] Bypass Trash

Bypass Trash MacBook

One of the best ways, though a bit risky, to delete the files without getting the Trash in between is to use Command + Option + Delete to delete with confirmation. However, you will have no option to recover the file.

So drag and drop the files from Trash to Desktop, and then use the above-mentioned shortcut to delete the files.


I hope the post was easy to follow, and you can now fix the problem that did not allow you to empty the Trash on your Mac.


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