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Saturday, April 13, 2024

How to Delete Files on Mac that Won’t Delete?

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What do you do with a file that has served its purpose on your Mac? Be it a screenshot you don’t need or a music file you don’t wish to listen to any longer, there must be files that you wish to delete from your Mac. But what if such files don’t get deleted even after trying out every way possible? You may think that something is wrong with your Mac, but is it really the case? Well, worry no more. In this post, we’ll discuss why some files behave like this and how you can permanently delete them from your Mac.

It’s a known fact that clearing your hard drives and other storage devices can improve their performance and longevity. Removing duplicate files, unwanted heavy attachments, pictures, audios, videos, as well as outdated, unused applications is an easy way to clear disk space on your Mac. Experts recommend every Mac user should clean up their disk from time to time to keep it running smoothly.

Now, as a Mac user, you’d definitely be aware of shortcuts to permanently delete files, such as Option + Command + Delete buttons. But have you ever come across a few files on your Mac that are so stubborn that they won’t delete even after using the shortcut keys or the traditional right-click and delete method? Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence! 

If you’ve faced this issue and refuted it for lack of a solution, you’ve finally landed at the right post. Here, we’re about to discuss how to fix this problem for good. But before we jump into deleting these stubborn files, let’s take a look at some reasons why you fail to delete certain files with the usual methods.

Reasons why some files won’t delete on Mac

Most of the time, you can’t delete some files on your Mac due to the internal security measures applied by macOS to prevent you from deleting sensitive or important data. 

Here are some additional reasons why you can’t delete some files:

  • The file that you wish to delete may be in use somewhere. The OS prevents you from deleting files in use since it can lead to fatal system errors or even bricking of your Mac.
  • A proprietary application might have locked the file. If you’re using an application that locks files and folders from changes or deletion, you won’t be able to delete this file.
  • The file that you wish to delete may have already been deleted, but there might be an undelete-able “ghost” file or ghost icon representing a shortcut to that file on your hard drive. 
  • System bugs might be restricting you from deleting certain files and folders.

Irrespective of the reasons, coming across files that won’t be deleted on Mac can indeed be annoying. Thankfully, fixes like the ones discussed in the next section can help you learn how to delete files from Mac.

How to delete files on Mac that won’t delete?

Now let’s see what we can do to get rid of undeletable files once and for all.

Method 1: Use Finder

You can delete stubborn files using the built-in Finder app by following these steps:

  1. Navigate to the top-right corner of the home screen.
  2. Click on the Finder menu and click on Empty Trash option to delete the files permanently.
  3. You can also delete these files by right-clicking on the Trash icon on the dock, and then selecting the Empty Trash option.

If you encounter an error that says “file can’t be deleted”, do the following to fix it:

  1. Re-launch the Finder app by clicking simultaneously on Command + Shift + Escape and selecting Relaunch in the menu that pops up.
  2. Force quit the Finder app by clicking on the Apple logo, and then from the drop-down menu, click on “Force Quit Finder”.

Method 2: Force quit apps

As discussed before, some applications might hinder you from deleting some files on your Mac. There might also be scenarios where some files might be in use by some other applications. For such situations, follow these steps to delete the undeletable files:

To force quit the running apps from dock:

  1. On your dock, right-click on the application that is using the file.
  2. In the menu that appears, click on Force Quit.

To force quit multiple apps:

  1. Using the Apple menu, click on the logo on the top-left.
  2. From the drop-down menu, select ‘Force Quit’.
  3. On the next menu showing available apps, select the app you would want to quit, and click on the Force Quit button.

After you quit these applications, try deleting the files or folder. If force quitting all programs doesn’t work for you, you can try restarting your Mac and deleting the files again.

Method 3: Use BitRaser File Eraser to delete stubborn files

If the manual tricks mentioned above don’t work for you, try a professional file eraser software, Stellar BitRaser File Eraser. BitRaser File Eraser is a proprietary software from Stellar Data Recovery that helps you completely wipe files from your Mac laptops, desktops, and external storage devices. With this tool in tow, you can securely and quickly erase multiple files, folders, system and application traces, unused space, internet activities, etc., including the files that won’t delete on Mac. Let’s see how this software can be used to erase undeletable files from Mac.

Before installation:

To ensure BitRaser File Eraser works as expected on your Mac, the machine should have the following minimum configuration:

  • macOS X 10.9 or later
  • Intel G4 or above
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 200 MB of free hard drive space

Steps to install:

  1. Head over to the product page for BitRaser File Eraser on Stellar’s official website, and click on the button that says ‘Free for 30 days’
  2. Fill in your name and email on the pop-up form and click the ‘Register Now’ button. 
  3. Once you do the needful, you will receive an email with a confirmation link. Click on the link to activate your free trial.
  4. Immediately after your software trial has been activated, you will receive another email with the software download link and an activation key.
  5. Now you need to unpack the file named BitRaserforFile.dmg.zip, then decompress it, and double-click to mount the volume BitRaserforFile
  6. Now double-click the BitRaserforFile volume to open the BitRaser application window.
  7. Drag the BitRaser application to the Applications folder and double-click to launch the software.
  8. You will see a prompt to activate the product. Enter the activation key you received via email earlier and click on the Activate button. The software will then communicate with the license server to verify the authenticity of the key and complete the activation. 
  9. You will then see a message on your software screen which says, “BitRaser for File activated successfully”. Click on Okay to proceed.
  10. This will display the License Agreement for the software. Accept it to proceed.

Working with the software:

  1. From the software’s home screen, select what you wish to erase from your Mac. You can use the “Search and Erase” toggle button to search for multiple files or folders by their names and erase them. After making your selections, click on Next.
  1. In the next window, you will see a list of all volumes on your Mac on the left panel along with a list of all files/folders in each volume on the right. Select the files to be deleted by picking a volume from the left and individual files from the right.
  1. Click on the gear icon from the menu bar on the top to select your preferences. In the window that pops up, select the Erasing algorithm for secure deletion and click on the ‘Erase’ button. When prompted, click on ‘Confirm Erase.

Once the erasure process completes, you will get a success message on the screen. You must mandatorily restart your Mac to ensure it functions smoothly after the procedure has completed.


Surely, trying to delete stubborn files can be annoying, and that’s why we hope these tips that we offered can help you fix this issue. There are usually some common reasons why some files become undelete-able on Mac. Though a few simple tweaks can work to solve this issue, if they don’t work, a simple tool like BitRaser File Eraser can be really handy for deleting your stubborn files on the go. 


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