3 Reasons You Can’t Empty the Trash on Your Mac (and How to Fix Them)
Mac is one of the most sought-after personal computers in the world. As of November 2022, Mac was the second most used computer worldwide after Windows. Over 16% of people are reported using Macs across the globe. Without a doubt, this percentage will keep increasing by the day. There are different ways to keep a Macbook in tip-top shape. One such way is by emptying the trash folder.
When you empty the trash on your computer, unwanted files are eliminated, creating enough space on your computer storage drive. This will protect the Mac storage disk from emergency damage, consequently prolonging the lifespan of your computer. However, if you can’t empty trash on your Mac, and you’re wondering what could be responsible for that, don’t fret! Several reasons could be responsible for your inability to empty trash on your MacBook. It could be due to a file in use or a locked file. It could also occur from a lack of space on the storage disk.
Let’s look at these three top reasons, one after the other.
Files are in Use
No matter how you try, you won’t be able to trash files that are still in use. So, before clicking on the “empty trash button”, ensure you check if folders are still in operation. If it is a document, you want to empty it, and close it before opening the trash folder. If you don’t know how to close or open documents on Mac, many online resources can help with that.
Usually, you will get an error message showing “file is in use”. Once you get the message, you must go back and close the document before you can be allowed to empty the trash. However, if you still can’t empty the trash when you’ve closed the file in question, you may need to check if the folder is in use elsewhere. Sometimes, the file in question may be used by:
- Another app on your Mac
- The background operational system
- Startup or Login item
If it is used by another app or by the background operational system, you can force quit the file. For force quitting, just press Option + Cmd + Esc. If it is the startup or login item, try booting your Mac in a safe mode. Activating a safe mode varies from Mac to Mac. For instance, if you’re using an Intel-based Mac, you can activate a safe mode by following the guide below:
- Shut down the Mac
- Again, put on the Mac and hold the Shift button immediately to activate the safe mode
- Once the safe mode is activated, open trash and click the empty button.
Once you’ve done this, the folder will be trashed successfully if the startup item uses the file in concern.
File is Locked or You Don’t Have Permission to Trash it
It is impossible to trash a file that is locked. So, to trash this file, you must first know how to open files on your MacBook and unlock the file in question. To unlock the file, follow the procedure below.
- First, open the trash folder
- Right-click the file you want to trash
- Select “get info.”
- You will see the lockbox. Then, unmark the lockbox.
- Once the lockbox is unmarked, you can permanently delete the folder.
Also, you may not be able to trash a file if you don’t have permission. To fix this, you must first change the privilege to read and write by following the steps below.
- Open the trash folder
- Control-click the file
- Select get info
- Click the lock box and input the admin account
- Change the privilege to read and write the file
Disk Storage is Full or Needs Repair
Storage space is not only needed for storing data but also helps your Mac to function correctly. Once the storage disk is full, you can’t practically do anything on your device. So, you need to free up space on your storage disk before you can empty the trash folder.
But how do you now free up space on the hard disk if there is not enough space on your computer to empty the trash folder? There are many ways to do this. First, you can use shortcuts on your keyboard.
You can do this by first selecting the files to delete. Then, press the Option + Command + Delete keys. This will automatically and permanently delete files. You can repeat the process several times till there is enough space on your hard disk. You can also free up space on your Mac using the safe mode method mentioned above.
You may also find it difficult to empty the trash folder if there are errors on the Mac startup disk. To fix this issue, you must use the disk utility first aid. This function allows you to fix some errors on the hard disk. Below are the steps involved in using the utility first aid.
- Press Command + Space key to activate the spotlight search box
- Input disk utility and press return to launch it
- Select the startup disk containing the file you want to trash
- Click first aid, and select “run” to finish the process.
We’ve stated the three main reasons you can’t empty trash on your Mac device and how to fix them. However, if you have tried all the methods mentioned above and still can’t empty the trash folder, you can try installing software like CleanMyMac X or the Shredder tool. These software products will perfectly remove trash without any hitch.
You can also try to force empty trash using the terminal. To do this, find and select the terminal from the search spotlight—type “sudo rm” plus space. Then, open the trash folder, and drag and drop the file in question in the terminal window. Next, press return and enter your password. Again, press return to empty the trash finally.