How to fix: Unable to empty the trash on a Mac

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Last Updated: Sep 23, 2020

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If you are unable to empty the trash on your Mac, no matter what you try, don’t worry, there is an easy and bulletproof solution.

Causes of a corrupted trash

There are a variety of reasons that could render macOS unable to empty the trash. In my case, I had to forcefully delete Time Machine snapshots that somehow corrupted the Trash. As result, my Mac refused to permanently delete four subdirectories, each containing Crashplan.app with a size of 0 bytes.

Failed attempts to empty the trash

I tried the following steps to remove those items from the Trash:

  • sudo rm -Rf ~/.Trash/*
  • Securely Empty Trash
  • Reboot MacBook
  • Boot into Safe Mode and empty Trash
  • Boot into Recovery Console (CMD + R), open Terminal and use rm -Rf
  • Download CleanMyMac 2
  • Manually change file permissions
  • Restore files from Trash

None of the steps above helped, I was still unable to empty the Trash and I was getting frustrated. I even talked to a Joint Venture Genius who, at first, couldn’t offer any solution either. But then he consulted with a colleague and recommended for me to try a utility called Trash It!

The solution: Trash It!

After downloading Trash It! you have to right-click on the application and select Open. Just double clicking it won’t work, because the app wasn’t digitally signed and for security reasons, macOS won’t let you open unsigned applications by default.

Update: The download page of the tool is offline and it might not be available anymore.

How to fix: Unable to empty the trash on a Mac
Right-click and select Open

Once opened, select “Really Stuck“, enter your admin password and let the tool do its job.

How to fix: Unable to empty the trash on a Mac
Trash It!

How to fix: Unable to empty the trash on a Mac

macOS is a rock-solid operating system and usually doesn’t prevent you from emptying the trash. In fact, over the past few years, I only ran into such an issue once and I was glad I had Trash It! It is one of those tools you almost never need but still want in your digital tool belt.

1 thought on “How to fix: Unable to empty the trash on a Mac”

  1. I wonder what their app is doing behind the scenes. Perphaps a low-level disk wipe of the entire block allocated to the Trash?

    Reply

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