How to Empty the Trash on Your Mac: A Complete Guide

The Trash on your Mac helps keep your computer organized by holding onto files that you no longer need or want. However, these deleted files can still take up valuable storage space. If you’re wondering how to empty the Trash on your Mac, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Emptying Trash Regularly
  3. How to Empty the Trash
  4. How to Empty Trash Securely
  5. Troubleshooting: What to Do When You Can’t Empty the Trash
  6. FAQ’s
  7. Related Articles


When you delete files, documents, or applications from your Mac, they aren’t immediately removed from your hard drive. Instead, they’re moved to the Trash, where they stay until you empty it. This guide will help you learn how to regularly empty your Trash to free up storage space.

Emptying Trash Regularly

Regularly emptying your Trash can help keep your Mac running smoothly and can prevent it from running out of storage space. A good rule of thumb is to empty your Trash once a week, although you might need to do it more frequently if you often delete large files or if your Mac has a small amount of storage.

How to Empty the Trash

Follow these steps to empty the Trash on your Mac:

  1. Find the Trash icon in the Dock. It’s usually at the far right or far left.
  2. Right-click on the Trash icon.
  3. Select “Empty Trash.”

And that’s it! Your Trash has now been emptied, and the files that were inside are permanently deleted.

How to Empty Trash Securely

If you’re deleting sensitive files, you might want to use the Secure Empty Trash feature. This deletes the files and then overwrites the space they took up on your hard drive, making it much harder for anyone to recover them. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the Finder menu at the top of the screen.
  2. Select “Preferences.”
  3. Click on the “Advanced” tab.
  4. Check the box next to “Empty Trash securely.”

Please note that securely emptying the Trash takes longer than regular emptying, especially for large files or many files.

Troubleshooting: What to Do When You Can’t Empty the Trash

Sometimes, you might encounter a problem when trying to empty your Trash. If this happens, there are a few things you can try:

  1. Restart your Mac: Sometimes, a simple restart can fix the problem. After restarting, try emptying the Trash again.
  2. Use Safe Mode: Restart your Mac and immediately hold down the Shift key until you see the Apple logo. This starts your Mac in Safe Mode, which might allow you to empty the Trash.
  3. Use Terminal: This should be a last resort, as using Terminal incorrectly can cause serious problems. If you’re comfortable with it, you can use Terminal to force the Trash to empty.


Q: How do I empty the Trash on my Mac?
A: Right-click on the Trash icon in the Dock and select “Empty Trash” to clear all the contents in the Trash.

Q: Why can’t I empty the Trash on my Mac?
A: There might be an app running that’s using a file in the Trash, or the file might be locked. Try restarting your Mac or emptying the Trash in Safe Mode.

Q: What does “Empty Trash Securely” mean?
A: When you empty the Trash securely, the files you delete are overwritten with random data, making them much harder to recover.