What to Do when You cannot Empty the Trash


When you try to uninstall an app by trashing it from the Applications folder, you may come across the message saying that the Trash won’t empty. Typically if any file is locked or in use, then it cannot be deleted in the trash bin. So how can you empty the Trash in that case?

Here are a few solutions you can try to fix the issue of emptying Trash on macOS. If you are prompted that the item is in use, try the options below to see if any of them could work.

Solution 1. Quit the app that you were using with the file. To do so, Right click on the app icon in the Dock and choose Quit option. Or you can open up the app, and choose [app name] > Quit [app name]. After the app disappears in the Dock, you can try to empty the Trash again.

Solution 2. Press and hold the Option key, then head to the Finder menu and choose Empty Trash. Your Mac will bypass the locked files and clear the Trash. Not work? Continue trying.

Solution 3. If the first option fails, the background process of the app may be running and using the file you want to delete. In that case, restart your Mac, and then empty the Trash as it reboots. Besides, you can also detect the related background process via Activity Monitor, and (force) quit it before emptying the Trash, on condition that you know which app process is involved.

Solution 4. If the second option still fails, the reason may be the startup item or login item that is suing the file. To temporarily prevent such items from automatically launching, you can start up your Mac in safe mode. To do so, you need to hold down the Shift key while your Mac reboots, then you can empty the Trash to get rid of the file, and restart your Mac normally.

In most cases the issue of emptying Trash can be fixed by aforementioned solutions. Still fail again and again? Well, there is a Terminal trick that could force the Trash to empty.


Solution 5. Launch Terminal via Spotlight or through /Applications/Utilities folder, then enter the following command into the Terminal window: sudo rm -R. Now open the Trash, select the file which you fail to delete, then drag and drop it into the Terminal window. After move the item in the windows, hit Enter key, type in your admin password when prompted in the Terminal window, and hit Enter again. As the command is executed, the file you selected will disappear in the Trash. Note that there should be a space after the sudo rm -R command. To empty your Trash, just drag all items in the Trash into the window.

Have you successfully deleted stubborn items on your Trash? Which solution works for your case? We will be glad to see your comment or suggestion about this post.


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