Cannot Empty Your Mac’s Trash? Here is the Fix

Your deleted files go straight to your Mac’s Trash, taking up your device’s storage space. So, it’s always a good idea to empty your Trash on your Mac, which will permanently remove these files. 

However, many Mac users face a problem where they cannot empty their Mac’s Trash. If you are one of those users affected by the problem, do not worry. This guide will show you how to fix the most common problems that prevents you from emptying your Mac’s Trash. 

First, Why You Cannot Empty Your Mac’s Trash

You cannot empty the Trash on your Mac for several reasons. Below are the most common problems you should know about:

  • Your file is currently in use
  • Your file is locked or corrupted during the removal process
  • Your Mac’s disk is full
  • System Integrity Protection is preventing you from emptying your Mac’s Trash
  • So, How to Fix Common Problems that Prevent you from emptying your Mac’s Trash

So, How to Fix Problems that Prevent You From Emptying Mac’s Trash

There are many workarounds for fixing the problem that prevents you from emptying your Trash. Here are all the possible fixes.

Method 1: Use “Get Info” Setting

If one of your files is locked or corrupted, head over to Trash> select the file > click the file > choose Get Info from the drop-down menu. From here, make sure you check the box next to the Locked option. 

Method 2: Force Quit the File In Use

If you get a prompt saying that a file in the Trash is currently in use, you can try performing a force quit. To do it,

  • Choose Force Quit from the Apple menu in the corner of your screen
  • Select the app you want to quit from the Force Quit menu.
  • Hit Force Quit.


  • Launch Trash > Cmd + Space > type Terminal > Return
  • From here, type Isof and hit the Space key (do not push the Return key).
  • Drag a the file or app you want to delete from your Mac’s Trash
  • Hit Return. And you should see a list of all files and apps that are currently in use. 
  • Close or force quit that app

Method 3: Deal with “File without Permissions”

If your files are read-only or require admin permission to launch, you cannot remove them. However, you can change the file’s Sharing & Permission settings. Here is how to do it.

  • Control click the file in the Trash and select Get Info
  • Hit the arrow button next to the Sharing & Permission tab.
  • Now, change the Privilege to Read & Write

Method 4: Disable System Integrity Protection

System Integrity Protection, a security feature on Mac, may prevent you from emptying your Trash. In this case, try disabling it to see if the problem is dealt with. 

  • Put your Mac into Recovery mode
  • Restart your Mac and press Command + R before the Apple logo shows up
  • While in Recovery mode, open the Terminal and head to Utilities > Terminal
  • Enter csrutil status and press Return. If the SIP is turned on, enter csrutil disable into the Terminal > Return
  • Close Terminal and restart your Mac.
  • Now, try emptying your Trash

Method 5: Force Empty Trash

If none of the above methods work, then try to force empty your Mac’s Trash. Here are the steps

  • Open Finder from the menu bar and select Empty Trash
  • Choose Empty Trash from the pop up menu

Alternatively, you can use Terminal to force empty Trash on Mac. Here are the steps:

    • Open Terminal on your Mac and then type sudo rm and hit Space
    • Go back to Trash and drag the file you want to remove > hit Return
    • Provide your Mac’s admin password.

    That’s how you fix common issues that prevent you from emptying your Mac’s Trash. 

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