For some reason, emptying the Trash in OS X has always been a slow process, especially if you have a lot of files in there. I filled a huge folder with over 10,000 items and it took me a whopping 30 minutes to throw it away!
There is nothing you can do about it, since this is how the operating system works, but if you know how to use the Terminal and are not afraid of it, you can speed up the process.
The first thing you can do is make sure you don’t delete your Trash securely. This is an option in OS X that will completely overwrite the data that was stored where these deleted files were.
Essentially, it ensures that no data can be recovered once it is deleted. Most people won’t want this unless they store top-secret information that they would not want anyone to see even after the data is deleted.
Go to Finder, then click Preferences and then click Advanced.
Make sure the Safely empty trash bin is not checked. If you checked this for any reason, it would take much longer to empty the trash. If this box is not checked and emptying the Trash is still slow, you can empty the Trash using Terminal.
Note. The Safe Empty Trash option has been removed from OS X El Capitan and likely all future versions of OS X.
Empty Trash using Terminal
Open Terminal by going to Applications, Utilities and Terminal and enter the following command:
rm -rf ~ / .Trash / *
Make sure you type exactly as shown above, without extra spaces or anything else. Using this command incorrectly can delete files and folders that you did not intend to delete.
Emptying the trash can using the Terminal is significantly faster than the traditional method of using the graphical interface. In most cases, it probably isn’t worth going into Terminal, but if you have a huge amount of data you’ve just deleted it might be worth the extra effort to save time.
Please note that using this command in the terminal does not delete the trash from external hard drives or other partitions, but only local files on your Mac.
If this command does not work for you and the recycle bin is not emptied, you may have to run the command as sudo. To do this, just add sudo in front:
sudo rm -rf ~ / .Trash / *
When you use the sudo command, you will need to enter the password for the account in order for the task to complete. Therefore, if the trash cannot be deleted or you get an error when you try to empty the trash, you can try this method to fix the problem.
This is it! If you have problems / issues emptying the Trash in OS X Lion or have any other thoughts, write a comment here and let us know! Enjoy!