Some Mac users wonder, “Do I actually need to clean my Mac’s trash can by myself?” That is a good question. For starters, the importance of emptying Trash on any operating system is obvious if you want your computer to run fast. Mac OS X owners are acquainted with the fact they have to do it manually and regularly not to let the junk slow down the system. However, there is some news for those who switched to the latest macOS Sierra or High Sierra. These people do not need to Empty Trash on their own or even with the help of keyboard shortcut. Apple took care of several improved features such as iCloud Drive and Optimize Storage. These options solved many issues with the stuck system in a single shot. Another novelty, which seems less meaningful but yet adorable, is a new setting, which allows auto-emptying Trash.

Do you believe that activating this setting is the cleverest solution? Maybe, it is. But you still have to know how to do the things manually. Let’s say, you have accidentally emptied the Trash. Another case is when the opportunity to wipe the Trash on your own is locked, and the system decides when and what to delete without your permission. In both situations, the user is risking losing his files, both useless and still necessary! Those could be anything like saved mail with the important payment details or some photos from a digital camera that were moved to the Trash by accident. Another situation is when the Trash cans (there is more than one on Mac) simply stop running and reject to remove useless email junk, videos, images, and other files you use no more.

How to Secure Empty Trash on Mac: Let It Flow Automatically!

So, when you drag-and-drop items to Trash on Mac OS X, these files remain in the system for a while until you delete them by emptying every Trash bin. The fact that there are multiple bins on every Mac makes it a bit confusing. The most important mission is to eliminate the files forever securely.

An ‘Empty Trash’ command is something you cannot cancel, so one should be really careful when applying it. Thus, think twice before making this option automatic. The article discusses several methods to wipe the Trash, and the first one is the automatic option available on macOS Sierra and High Sierra.

To activate a built-in feature to delete files from the Trash every month automatically, you should first upgrade to Sierra or High Sierra. After that:

  1. Launch Finder.
  2. Move to Finder
  3. Wait for the Finder Preferences window to pop up. There, you will see a box titled “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days.” Tick it – and you’re done.

That is enough to make your system automatically erase all the items stored in the Trash every month. The occupied space will be freed up without disturbing the user.

How to Securely Delete Files: 2 Time-Tested and Trusted Approaches

Two basic ways to erase everything saved in Trash exist on Mac OS X.

  1. Doing it with the mouse/touchpad right-click.
  2. Doing it with the help of the Finder menu.

Look at each of these methods closely to decide which one suits you better.

  1. When the Right-Click Is Enough

It is simple to access secure file deletion on Mac OS X. Just:

  • Press Command along with the Right-Click and apply this action to your Trash can.
  • Choose “Secure Empty Trash.”

Important! Keep holding the “Command” key when right-clicking the Trash icon in the Dock. Otherwise, you will not see the Secure feature.

  1. Let Your Mac’s Finder Help!

It looks like Mac’s Finder has almost everything a user needs. “Secure Empty” is also hiding there, waiting for your commands. This option works similarly to as it overwrote the deleted data.

  • Discover the Finder icon in the Dock. Click it to launch the utility. Finder menu will show up.
  • Select “Secure Empty Trash.”

Mind that a secure method takes a bit longer, but it is highly recommended in case you wish to avoid any risks. Those are risks associated with the overwriting process. The duration of the process depends on the number of files in the system.

By this time, you might have a question like, “What is the difference between a regular Empty Trash and a secure one?” Some files contain more important information than others. Those could be the user’s payment details or private life issues. If you want to make sure no one will regain access to the removed files, it is better to spend a bit more time on secure removal. This way, a Mac owner can be sure his financial statements, personal diaries, credit card info, and any other details are gone forever.

Somebody Help! Can’t Empty Trash on My Mac!

Some users complain that they cannot use the Empty Trash option on their Macs. Apple forums discuss the situations when the system just will not wipe the Trash. It is really irritating when you are unable to delete the useless items once and forever. In case there is no good reason to explain this problem, the user may wonder what he should do when the Trash won’t empty. First, it is important to understand why you are not able to Empty Trash? Perhaps, at least one of the tossed away items is still a file in use. There are several other reasons. Do not panic and read more about them below.

“The File Is in Use”

In case the error message reports this problem, one of the files put to Trash is really being in use. It would be enough just to stop the last application that accessed that item. Of course, the user should know what the file/app is. Try to Empty Trash once more. In some situations, the mistake like that is spurious. For instance, a certain application may send a report regarding the file being used after the user sent it as an attachment. In fact, the file may not be currently in use, but the app will see it as one. Thus, it would help to stop the application, Empty Trash, and re-launch the app again.

“The file is locked”

If the bug notification reports about the file being locked, try another method. Hold down Option and select Finder > Empty Trash. The Option key commands OS X to override locked files.

How to Force Empty Trash on Mac

No command is working. No keyboard shortcut helps. Have you tried to solve the typical situations like ‘file in use’ and ‘locked file’? Do you still find it impossible to Empty Trash? It may seem that you will never delete the files from your Trash on Mac OS X. Both older versions like El Capitan and newer operating systems like Sierra might benefit from Force Empty Trash, but it is not always secure. You might need the help of your Terminal or third-party apps. So, here is how to Empty Trash or get rid of any item stored in the Trash can.

First, discover how to do it with the help of a native utility called Terminal. Here, a Mac owner can issue any commands, and emptying trash is just one of them. Follow these instructions:

  • Go to Applications
  • Launch Terminal.
  • Enter cd ~/.Trash and push Return.
  • Enter sudo rm –R followed by a space.
  • Select the Trash icon in the Dock to launch a window with the information regarding all items stored in the Trash.
  • Pick everything you see and move to the Terminal window. This way, the user places the paths of all those items into the rm
  • Next, push Return and type the admin’s password.

Watch the Trash icon coming back to the empty condition. Now, there is a Command Line that you can apply to Force Secure Delete just anything you want.

Mind that the –f flag stands for the force deletion to srm. It is a rather dangerous trick, so do it only as a last resort. The presence of secure removal makes sure that the eliminated item is never recoverable. Type this caution:

srm -rf /file/to/destroy/from/everything

A beginner or average user should not play with such commands. Experts recommend that only experienced users work with the command line.

You may also ask about the locked or owned files that have to be eliminated. To get rid of such items, apply prefix sudo to the –rf flag variation of srm. It will activate the superuser opportunities. As a result, the system will overwrite any ownership issues or file locking. It is equally safe and threatening because of the superuser access. Enter this caution to activate this option:

sudo srm -rf /path/to/something/to/obliterate/from/existence/

Unexperienced users might want to try third-party software to guarantee security and ease of the process. In case you need to safely remove whatever you want from your Mac, from information stored on the startup disk to the external drive, you should better choose one of the available secure deletion applications offered by the third-party developers.