Have you encountered the issue The operation can’t be completed because the item is in use”? Sometimes your Mac gets hyper-apprehensive if you attempt any action that would corrupt the software in use. This prevents emptying the Trash folder and permanent deletion of certain files. You can override the error quickly and easily but you have to know its root.

This guide exhaustively explores proven solutions to these issues. It sheds light on how to check locked or active files in the background process. We’ll also dissect disk-related issues and how to fix it. For advanced Mac users, we’ll walk you through Terminal to nuke the Trash contents.

Trash Can


Part 1: How to Empty the Trash with Files in Use

Causes of the Warning

Mostly, Trash won’t empty if you have files still under use. Another app or background process might be using files. A pop-up will appear as follows “The operation can’t be completed because the item is in use”. This means you’ll have to close these files before you can remove permanently.

Often, infected files hide their location and you may not know where it’s open. In these cases, it may not appear in the background processes. To clear up doubts, reboot your Mac and then try emptying the file again. If it was in the background processes, you should successfully delete the file now.

Still stuck? You may have a startup or login item using the file. To briefly prevent errant items from launching automatically, reboot in safe mode by latching on the Shift key while the machine starts up. Then offload the Trash and start up your Mac normally.

A Spruced-up Mac

A cluttered computer not only diminishes productivity but also leads to cognitive stress. Mac Cleaner neatens up your desktop for a better work ambiance. Emptying Trash maintains a neat and uncluttered Mac. It frees up disk space and optimizes performance. It’s a multi-tool to spring-clean your machine. It spruces up your Mac to keep it in mint condition. So if you want to rev up your computer, give Mac Cleaner a try.Junk Files Main

Even better, iMyMac Cleaner boasts an uninstaller. This feature sifts through the entire system to wipe out remnants of stubborn software. This removes all pieces of data attached to the app if you uninstall it. It comes in handy for hard-to-remove software and regular cleanup.

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If You Can’t Delete the File because of Unknown Reasons

  1. Start up from Mac Recovery by latching on Command-R while your machine boots.
  2. Once the Mac Utilities window pops up, click Disk Utility and hit Continue.
  3. In Disk Utility, choose the disk that has the file that you wish to delete. Repair the disk with the First Aid feature in the Disk Utility.
  4. Close Disk Utility, then reboot your computer and unload the Trash.

Part 2: Fixing Issue 'The Operation Can’t Be Completed Because The Item Is In Use'

How to Force the Trash to Nuke

Force-empty Trash if you want to delete a locked file by pressing the Option key. Latch on Option and click on the Empty button. By pressing Option, you will override any locks on data. It comes in handy when Mac forbids unlocking files.

Alternatively, invoke a Terminal Command to force-empty Trash. This bypasses ay locks on your items and deletes files which may be in use. It also circumvents any errors that thwart emptying.

To permanently delete files, follow the steps below:

  • Hold Cmd + Space to launch Spotlight.
  • Enter Terminal and hold Return to open it.
  • Fill in sudo rm –R and hit the Space. This is the path to force-nuke files.
  • Go to Trash and yank the files you want to remove to the Terminal window.
  • Hold down Return.
  • Type your administrator password to authenticate the command. This doesn’t hide as you type it because it’s a security step.
  • Hit Return to authorize and launch the command.

Use Terminal to Check Locked Files

  • Open the Trash folder.
  • Hold down Cmd + Space to open Spotlight.
  • Enter Terminal and hold Return.
  • Enter Isof and hit Space. This command gives you a glimpse of a list of files in use in the background processes.
  • Open Trash and yank the file you want to force-delete to the Terminal.
  • Hit Return to launch the command.

Empty Trash Mac

Part 3: Other Ways to Force-Delete the Trash with Files in Use

#1 Locked Files

For locked files, go to Trash and free them up by doing the following:

  1. Click on Trash.
  2. Right-click the target file.
  3. Select Get Info.
  4. Select the Locked checkbox.
  5. This should unlock the file and make it amenable.
  6. Alternatively, click the Empty key or right-click the file and select Delete Immediately.

#2 Delete Immediately

For El Capitan, you can use immediately delete to annihilate a file contained in your Trash. Choose the file, press the Option key, click the file and then hit Delete Immediately to discard the file. It lets you skip many steps.

Delete Immediately only comes up in the Trash app. So click it and click the files you want to purge. Confirm the files have petered out.

#3 Unauthorized Actions

Often, a user may not have the authority to remove a file. Occasionally, this is a necessary evil. You need an Administrator to discard the file or get Read & Write permissions from Sharing & Permissions. If you cannot resolve the issue, we recommend you talk to Apple or an authorized Service Provider.

Conclusion
Sometimes, you can’t empty the Trash while a file or application is in use or other reasons. One of the methods highlighted above should get the file-trash stubbornness if you get hit by this error. As noted above, you can resort to a Mac dedicated tool like iMyMac Cleaner to remove unwanted apps along with their remnants. It’s pretty helpful for errant files or apps that won’t just go away.

We hope you applied the tips in this article to trace the evasive file and successfully removed it. Please get in touch if you have any queries using comments below!