FAQs on How to Empty Trash on Mac (Best for New Users)

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Summary: This blog answers 8 frequently asked questions (FAQs) with regard to Trash on Mac, starting from its location, usage, issues, emptying the trash and trash data recovery methods.


How to empty trash on Mac?

A routine macOS user would know how to empty Trash on Mac, but, users who have recently moved from Windows to macOS may find it counterintuitive. They may face challenges with basic tasks like how to send files to Trash and how to empty the Trash on Mac.

Trash is a storage area on Mac where records of all the deleted files are present. Knowing the Trash well is important for avoiding inadvertent data loss.

Q1 Where is Trash located on Mac?

Trash is located on the Dock of your macOS Desktop. No matter whether your Mac is running on macOS Mojave or an OS X, you will always find the Trash at that exact location.

Q2. How to put files in Trash?

Select the files that you need to delete. Drag and drop the selected files on to the Trash icon present on the Dock to delete them. Alternatively, right-click the selected files and click Move to Trash. Otherwise, use Command + Delete key to put the selected files in Trash.

move to trash

Q3. How to put back files from Trash?

Go to Edit > Undo option or press Command + Z keys immediately after you have moved your files to Trash Otherwise, open Trash and select a file or multiple files from it, right click the selected item(s), and from the context menu choose the Put Back option. This will restore the deleted files/folders from the Trash back to its original location.

put back from trash

Q4. How to empty Trash on Mac?

Follow the below solution, to resolve the most searched & asked question i.e. ‘how to empty Mac trash’.

Right-click the Trash icon located on the Dock and select Empty Trash.

empty trash

When prompted, choose Empty Trash again.

empty trash message

Alternatively, select the files, right-click, and choose Delete Immediately. Otherwise, press Shift + Command + Delete keys to empty the trash.

If you do not want any confirmation dialog, then press Option + Shift + Command + Delete keys.

CAUTION: If you have emptied the Trash accidentally, then you will not get a second chance to Put Back those files—No built-in modules can recover your deleted files on Mac.

Q5. How to restore empty Trash?

Use Time Machine to restore Trash. The steps are as follows:

  1. From the menu bar, click Time Machine > Enter Time Machine
  2. Click the up arrow to navigate to the time before emptying of Trash
  3. Locate Trash from the backup Finder window
  4. Select the trashed files and click Restore to recover the Trash on the current Finder

If Time Machine backup disk is not created or updated, then use a data recovery Mac software such as Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac to select start-up disk, scan the disk, and recover files present in the Trash.

But before that, you need to disable system integrity protection (SIP) on macOS Mojave startup disk. To disable SIP, follow these steps:

  1. Restart your Mac and directly hold down Command + R keys to boot into Recovery Mode
  2. From the top menu bar, go to Utilities > Terminal
  3. On the Terminal, type csrutil enable
  4. Restart your Mac

Watch the video tutorial to understand how you can get back your accidentally emptied Trash files.

Note: Once the data recovery process is complete, disable the SIP by typing csrutil disable on the above steps.

Q6. Can’t empty Trash?

Sometimes, when you try to empty your Trash, Trash won’t empty. First off, try restarting your Mac and then empty Trash. If the restart does not help, then empty the Trash from the Terminal, use the following command:

sudo rm –rf ~/.Trash/

Enter the admin password when prompted.

Q7. Can’t delete files?

At times, you cannot delete files from Trash; this is because they may be locked. To unlock a file, right click on it and select “Get Info.” Uncheck the locked option and repeat the process for other locked files in the Trash. Now, select all the non-essential files from the Trash and delete them.

Sometimes, files get corrupt therefore cannot be deleted. So, repair your Mac storage drive by using Disk Utility before deleting the undeletable files. To repair disk, go through the following steps:

  1. In the Disk Utility, select the drive from the sidebar and click First Aid
  2. Click the Repair button and after the repair is done
  3. After the repair disk is complete, restart Mac then delete files

Q8. How to empty Trash on an external hard drive on Mac?

Connect the external hard drive, then empty the Trash icon present on the Dock to delete all the files in the .Trashes folders (including the external hard drive .Trash folder).

In case you have accidentally lost Trash data from your external storage drive, deploy Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac. Select the external drive, scan it rigorously, and recover all your lost trashed data including documents, email, videos, audio, and photos with ease.

Watch the video to recover deleted Trash files from Mac external storage drive.

NOTE: Your external hard drive saves records of the deleted files on the .Trash folder, which is hidden. Press Shift + Command + Period keys to view hidden files. The same key combination can be used to unhide those files.


The blog solves some of the frequently asked questions on macOS. For instance, how to empty trash on Mac, Further, the knowhow of the macOS Trash can help you to be prepared on how to use your Trash logically. We hope that new macOS users would appreciate the importance of Trash, and find it helpful to know its location on Mac, how to use it, and the ways to resolve Trash related issues.

Combined with Time Machine and a Mac data recovery software, you can safeguard yourself from any data loss situations.

Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac, one of the best data recovery software available online, can help you to recover any kind of logical data loss context including the recovery of data from empty Trash.

The Mac trash recovery software is available to you for a free trial at your convenience.

free download

Advisory: Act promptly after facing permanent data loss from the Trash. Do not overwrite the trash since chances of recovering overwritten files are next to impossible.

Read More: How to Recover Overwritten Files from Mac?

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