Mac Tutorials

Trash Won't Empty on Mac

If Trash won’t empty on Mac, you’re often using a file or folder that you recently added to this section. However, the problem is also sometimes due to issues with your computer, such as programs not responding. Fixing the issue is normally as simple as shutting down any apps interfering with your Trash.


When you can’t empty your Trash, your device will have needless additional space consumed. As a result, you may encounter performance issues with your computer—and your productivity could also suffer. I’ll provide you with the essential steps tofix this problem. Without further ado, let’s learn how to empty a Bin on Mac if your previous efforts have failed.


Before we start


In case of manually deleting files from your Mac, you still need to remove them from the Trash. While you can wait 30 days for these to be permanently deleted, those programs still take up space on your device until then.


MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup tool is a viable alternative to decluttering your Mac manually. You’ll free up more storage and find redundant files to delete more easily. You can even clear out your Trash folder from the same app!


Here’s how to use the Safe Cleanup tool:

  1. Download MacKeeper.
  2. Go to Cleaning > Safe Cleanup.
  3. Click on Start Scan.
  4. Tick the boxes next to everything you’d like to delete after the scan has been completed.
  5. Tap Clean Junk Files.
  6. When the pop-up window appears, select Empty Trash to clear out your Trash folder.

Why you can’t empty Trash on Mac

If your Mac can’t empty Trash, you can attribute the problem to several factors:

  • You’re still using a program: If you’re using an app, file, or folder, you can’t delete it until you’ve closed what’s open.
  • One or more apps on your Mac are not responding: Sometimes, you may encounter problems where your computer stops working as it should. When your device isn’t responding, you won’t be able to empty your Trash.
  • Your disk might need repairing: On older Macs, problems with your disk can stop you from using the Trash folder correctly.
  • Privacy settings: Sometimes, files, apps, and folders are locked. When this happens, you may be unable to empty your Trash and delete these.

How to fix empty Trash not working on Mac

The easiest way to solve the Mac Trash not emptying issue is to close all running programs. You can do this by manually closing all of your open apps and browsers, and it’s also possible to force quit if that doesn’t work by going to Apple logo > Force Quit and selecting each app.


Here’s a complete list of the ways to fix empty Trash not working on Mac:

  1. Restart your Mac
  2. Try to remove Trash on Mac in Safe Mode
  3. Empty Trash using Terminal
  4. Use the Option key on your Mac to empty the Trash
  5. Check if your disk needs repairing
  6. Get permission to empty the Trash on a Mac
  7. Use the “Delete Immediately” option on a Mac
  8. Delete files in use on a Mac
  9. Offload files to another drive if the disk is full
  10. Empty Trash using the Mac Cleaner app

I’ll now outline the steps for each solution so that you can follow along.

1. Restart your Mac

When looking at how to delete files on Mac, restarting your computer is a good place to start. This action stops all running programs, allowing you to quickly empty the Trash. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Apple logo > Restart.
  2. Click on Restart when you see the pop-up window.
  3. Wait for your computer to turn off and on again before entering your login details and trying to remove your Trash once more.
If you're unable to empty Trash on Mac, begin by restarting your Mac. Go to Apple logo > System Settings to commence the process.
Step 1. Apple logo > Restart
After pressing Restart, a pop-up window will appear and ask you to confirm your decision. Select Restart again when that happens.
Step 2. Select Restart

If you need to erase temporary files instead of permanent ones, learn all about how to delete temp files in Mac.

2. Try to remove Trash on Mac in Safe Mode

Turn your Mac off by these steps:

  1. Go to Apple logo > Shut Down and confirm you want to commence.
  2. Switch your Mac back on via the standby button.
  3. Press and hold the Shift key after tapping the power on button.
  4. Go to Trash and select Empty Trash.
When you encounter Mac trash not emptying, try shutting down your Mac by going to Apple logo > Shut Down. Then, use Safe Mode
Step 1. Apple logo > Shut Down
You can still access your Trash folder in Safe Mode. After holding the Option key at startup, go to Trash > Empty to delete files
Step 2. Safe Mode > Trash > Empty

Note from our experts: 


If you’re unable to empty your Trash because some apps are in use, you might see an Error code 43 appear. Should that happen, read our guide on what is error code 43 on Mac.

Sometimes, you'll see Error code -43 appear. You can't delete the required files on your device until you fix this problem.

3. Empty Trash using Terminal

Use these steps to empty Trash via Terminal:

  1. Open Spotlight on your Mac and type Terminal before opening the app.
  2. When Terminal opens, write sudo rm, drag and drop your files, and hit Enter.
  3. Type the same password that you use to log into your Mac and press Enter again.
If you want to fix empty Trash not working on Mac, you may need to use Terminal. Go to Spotlight and type Terminal to begin
Step 1. Spotlight > Terminal
You'll then need to type sudo rm in Terminal, before dragging and dropping your files. Then, hit the Enter key to continue the process
Step 2. Type sudo rm and drag the files you want to delete
You'll see
Step 3. Enter your password when Password appears

4. Use the Option key on your Mac to empty the Trash

Sometimes, you can empty your Trash by following the standard deletion steps but also holding Option on your keyboard. If you’re unable to delete locked programs, this could be a viable solution to empty Trash not working on Mac:

  1. Go to the Trash folder on your Mac
  2. Click on Empty while also pressing option. The app will close after deleting your files.

5. Check if your disk needs repairing

If you’ve had your Mac for a while, you may encounter problems with your device’s disk. These issues could stop you from performing basic tasks like emptying the Trash folder. Fortunately, you can check if your Mac disk needs repairing:

  1. Open Spotlight and search for Disk Utility before opening the app.
  2. Click on First Aid for your Mac’s startup disk.
  3. Select Run when the pop-up window appears.
  4. Your Mac will then seek to repair any issues that it detects. Select Done when the process has been completed.
If you're still unable to empty Trash on Mac, you may have a problem with your disk. Opening Disk Utility will allow you to verify.
Step 1. Spotlight > Disk Utility
You'll find a First Aid button in the top toolbar when in Disk Utility. Click on this to check for possible existing problems.
Step 2. Select First Aid
When the pop-up window appears, select Run. Your Mac will then look for possible issues and strive to fix them after identifying.
Step 3. Click on Run

6. Get permission to empty the trash on a Mac

Sometimes, you may need to change permission settings on your Mac:

  1. Find the file(s) you want to delete and press control + trackpad to highlight them.
  2. Select Get Info.
  3. Click on the padlock icon at the bottom of the window.
  4. Confirm to unlock the document. Enter your password or use Touch ID to complete the process.
The next step if Mac can't empty Trash is to try unlocking files that can't be deleted. Go to the Bin and select Get Info
Step 1. Control + trackpad > Get Info
A padlock icon will appear at the bottom of the screen. Click on this to edit permissions and privacy so that you can delete
Step 2. Select the Padlock icon
When you're asked to enter your password or use Touch ID, pick your preferred option. You can then delete the file in Trash.
Step 3. Use Touch ID or password to delete your file

7. Use the “Delete Immediately” option on a Mac

Try the Delete Immediately function for individual folders if removing the trash files altogether fails:

  1. Go to the file in your Trash and select it using control + trackpad.
  2. When you see the dropdown menu, select Delete Immediately.
Should you still be unable to empty Trash on Mac, go to the file you want to delete. Then, click on the Delete Immediately button.
Trash > control + trackpad > Delete Immediately

8. Delete files in use on a Mac

Having files in use will often interfere with you emptying the Trash on your Mac. Delete the ones you’re using:

  1. Close the app, file, or folder you’re using.
  2. Turn login items off by going to System Settings > Login Items > - icon.
  3. Switch your Mac off and on.
  4. Try to delete the file you want to remove again.
If you can't empty Trash on Mac, you may need to close programs and turn off Login Items. Go to System Settings > Login Items and tap the - icon
System Settings > Login Items > - icon

9. Mac can’t empty Trash because the disk is full

Perhaps the most illogical reason why you can’t empty the Trash on your Mac is because the disk is full. When this happens, you need to move some of the content on your device elsewhere to free up space. One way to do that is by switching some programs to an external hard drive:

  1. Plug an external hard drive into your computer’s USB slot
  2. Drag and drop files and folders to your external HDD.

10. Empty Trash using the Mac Cleaner app

MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup tool is one of the most efficient ways to empty the Trash on your Mac. You’ll not only remove necessary files and more space but also detect content that you may not have otherwise noticed.


Here’s how to empty Trash with MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup:

  1. Open MacKeeper and go to Cleaning > Safe Cleanup > Start Scan.
  2. Wait for MacKeeper to scan your Mac.
  3. Tick the Trash folder and everything else you want to get rid of.
  4. Click on Clean Junk Files.
  5. A pop-up window will appear asking if you want to clear out the Trash folder. Select Empty Trash when that appears.
To safely remove files on your Mac, open MacKeeper and go to Safe Cleanup. Here, you can start a scan and look for removable files
Step 1. Safe Cleanup > Start Scan
Next, you'll need to clear out the junk files that appear. Go to Clean Junk Files when the scan has completed on your Mac
Step 2. Select Clean Junk Files and tick the box next to Trash
After ticking every box that you want to get rid of, select Clean Junk Files. Then, tap Empty Trash on the pop-up window
Step 3. Empty Trash

Unable to empty Trash on Mac? Check our tips again

You’ve got several possible solutions for emptying the Trash folder on your Mac, and they normally don’t take too much time to implement. For example, you can restart your device and clear harder-to-delete files by holding the Option key while emptying your Bin.


It’s also possible to change permissions for files that you’re locked from removing. And if you’d like a more effective solution, MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup will help you free up even more space.

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