Force Empty Trash with Terminal in macOS

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Use Terminal to force empty Trash Trash


Every once in a while, your fingers may itch to buy a 2006 polycarbonate MacBook on eBay. After you get it, you find it hard to resist the urge to upgrade it to OS X Snow Leopard. You start researching how to create a bootable USB disk with the installation image. Somehow, you fail to empty the Trash on your main computer in the process and get a message that says “snow-leopard-install_2021112 is in use”.



If that’s you, don’t start pulling your hair out yet. With a little sudo magic in the Terminal, you’ll be able to force empty Trash.


Here’s how you can force empty the trash with the Terminal. Note you’ll need an admin account to be able to do it.


  1. First, open up the Terminal app in the Launchpad or Spotlight. Alternatively, you can ask Siri to open it for you.
  2. In the Terminal, type in “sudo rm -R “. Note there is a space behind “-R”.
  3. Open up the Trash, select all the files and folders that are giving you trouble, and drag them into the Terminal.
  4. Hit Enter on the keyboard, type in your password, and hit Enter again.
  5. The Trash should now be empty.

Force empty Trash in Terminal


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