For some reason, emptying the trash in OS X has always been a slow process, especially if you have a lot of files there. I tanked a huge folder that had over 10,000 items in it and it took a whopping 30 minutes to trash it!

There isn’t too much you can do about this since it’s the way the operating system works, but if you know how to use Terminal and aren’t afraid of it, then you can speed up the process.

The first thing you can do is to make sure you are not securely deleting your trash. This is an option in OS X that will completely overwrite the data that was stored where those deleted files were.

Basically, it makes sure that no data can be recovered once it has been deleted. Most people would not want this unless they are storing super sensitive information that they would not want anyone to be able to see even after the data has been deleted.

empty trash os x lion

Go to Finder, then click on Preferences and then click on Advanced.

securely delete trash

Make sure Empty Trash Securely is not checked. If you had that checked for any reason, it would take a lot longer to empty the trash. If this option wasn’t checked and emptying the trash is still slow, you can empty the trash using Terminal.

Note: The Empty Trash Securely option has been removed from OS X El Capitan and probably all future versions of OS X. 

Empty Trash using Terminal

Open Terminal by going to Applications, Utilities and Terminal and type in the following command:

rm -rf ~/.Trash/*

Make sure you type it exactly as it appears above with no extra spaces or anything else. Using this command incorrectly can lead to deletion of files and folders you did not intend to delete.

delete trash terminal

Emptying the trash using the Terminal is significantly faster than the traditional method of using the GUI. Most of the time it’s probably not worth going into the Terminal, but if you have a huge amount of data that you just deleted, it might be worth the extra effort to save some time.

Note that using this command in the terminal does not delete the trash that is from external hard drives or other partitions, just the local files on your Mac.

If this command is not working for you and the trash is not being emptied, you might have to run the command as sudo. To do that, just add sudo to the front:

sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash/*

When you use the sudo command, you’ll need to enter the password for the account in order for the task to complete. So if the trash won’t delete or you get an error message when trying to empty the trash, you can try this method to fix the issue.

sudo command

That’s it! If you are having issues/problems with emptying the trash in OS X Lion or other thoughts, please post a comment here and let us know! Enjoy!