Have you ever tried dragging a file to the Trash on your Mac only to get an error message? The file may be in use, locked, or you may not have permission to edit it. Here, we will cover all the ways you can delete files on your Mac that will not be deleted and will not be moved to Trash.
“File in Use” Error
You cannot delete a file when it is being used by an application! If your Mac displays a “file in use” error, you need to find out which application contains the file and close that application.
If you only have a handful of applications open, you can simply scroll through the various application windows. Alternatively, you can see a list of all active applications in the “Force Quit” window, as shown below:
1. Click on the “Apple” logo in the menu bar of your Mac. You can find this in the upper left corner of your computer screen.
2. Select “Force Quit.”
You can now check all the applications that are running on your Mac.
If you discover an application that might be causing a “file in use” error, you can exit that application as usual. Alternatively, you can select the application in the “Force Quit” pop-up window and then click the “Force Quit” button.
Note that if you choose the latter, you will lose any work that you have not saved in the application.
After closing the application in question, try again to delete the file. It should go away without a hitch now!
2. The File Is Locked
When a file is locked, you cannot make changes to that file. This also includes removal.
You must unlock this file before deleting it:
1. Ctrl+ click the file you’d like to unlock.
2. Select “Get Info.”
3. Click to expand the “General” section.
4. Find the “Locked” checkbox and deselect it.
Alternatively, you can unlock a file using your Mac’s Terminal.
1. Open the Terminal (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal) and type the following command:
When the file unlocks, you can go ahead and delete the file, as you normally would.
3. You Don’t Have Permission to Edit the File
Sometimes you may hit the “Delete” key only to encounter a “You don’t have permission to edit this file” message.
Thankfully, you can give yourself permission:
1. Ctrl+ click the file in question.
2. Select “Get Info.”
3. Click to expand the “Sharing & Permissions” section. You’ll see a list of all the user accounts registered with your Mac.
4. To give yourself permission to edit this file, click the little padlock icon.
5. When prompted, enter your username and password.
6. Find your username in the list, click the accompanying set of arrows, then select “Read & Write.”
You should now have permission to edit this file, including dragging it to the Bin!
4. Using Third-Party Apps
If all else fails, you may have some success using third-party applications to delete files that cannot be deleted on your Mac.
One that you may want to try is Cleaner One, which is an easy way to delete files. you want to get rid of your Mac.
Alternatively, you can consider WeClean Pro instead. Apart from deleting files that are not deleted, you can also use this application to delete anything that is taking up unnecessary space on your computer.
5. None of the Above Fixes Work? Try Force Delete
If all else fails, you can force the file to be removed using a Terminal command. However, keep in mind that forceelete does not send the file to the trash, but instead deletes the file in question permanently and immediately. If you find that you have made a terrible mistake, there is no way to get the file back.
This technique can also delete files that you normally couldn’t delete, and sometimes Apple has a very good reason to protect certain files! Forcedelete is a useful technique but should be used with caution.
To force delete a file, open Terminal on your Mac. You can do this by clicking on the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your toolbar before embedding “terminal” in the search bar and clicking on “terminal.app”.
When you’ve opened your Mac’s Terminal, type the following command:
Taking Out the Trash
You managed to send a file to the trash, but now it gets stuck and won’t go away?
If you get an error every time you try to empty the container, there are a few tricks you can try.
1. Close all applications
An application may be using one of your Mac’s container files.
You can work around this problem by selecting the “Apple” logo from your Mac’s menu bar, choosing “Force Quit … “and then closing the corresponding application.
If you’re not sure which application is interfering with the Empty Trash command, you can always restart your Mac, which will close all applications.
When your Mac restarts, be sure to empty the Trash before starting any applications.
2. Make sure all files are unlocked
If a file is locked in the Trash, this may prevent you from emptying it properly.
If there are only a few files in the container, you may be able to manually review each of those files by Ctrl + clicking each file and then selecting Get Info. Also If you discover a locked file, you can follow the steps listed earlier in this article to unlock it.
3. Force-delete stubborn files
If you suspect that a particular file is preventing you from emptying the container, you can forcibly remove it while in it:
1. Open the container on your Mac.
2. Ctrl + click the file you think is there causing the problem.
3. Choose Delete immediately.
Empty and repeat for any other files that you think may affect your ability to empty the Trash.
A Side-Note on Securely Emptying Your Mac’s Bin
Apple used to have a feature that allowed you to “safely” empty your computer’s trash. However, the company removed it, which means that you will now have to use third-party software.
One of the most popular options for securely erasing files on Mac is the Permanent Eraser,, which does exactly what it says: it permanently erases files without a trace.
As an alternative to Permanent Eraser, you may prefer Mac Optimizer Pro Data Shredder. While you have to pay for a full version, you can also try the free version to get what you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it safe to force quit apps on your Mac?
Yes sir. However, you may lose progress on any work that you have not saved.
2. Can I access a file after deleting it from my Mac?
Not from your computer, no. To access a file after it has been deleted, you must access it from another location where you saved it, such as a hard drive or a cloud system.
3. Does deleting a file mean that I delete everything in it?
Yes. Once you have deleted a file, everything in it will be deleted. This is also the case if you delete a folder with multiple files.
Now that you have learned how to delete Mac files that were not deleted initially, it is also a good idea to delete an autosaved version of the file to free up space. You should also find and remove duplicate files on your Mac. Speaking of searching for files, you can determine the location of any file by looking at its file path.