Empty the #$&@! trash already!

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Reader Jim Young has a trash that’s starting to stink up the place. He writes:

I found that I was running out of space on my hard drive so I located some large files and tossed them in the trash. But when I tried to empty the trash I received a warning indicating that the trash couldn’t be emptied because of a –8003 error. I really need to empty the trash but it won’t respond. What can I do?

I wouldn’t bother trying to learn what that specific –8003 error means. The Mac can throw up all kinds of error codes and very few of them make sense (or have much published about them). Instead, just assume something’s mucked up and go from there.

We’ll start with general muckage. Launch Disk Utility (/Applications/Utilities), select your startup drive in the left side of the window, click the First Aid tab, and click Verify Disk. Disk Utility will perform a check of your startup volume looking for any obvious errors. If it finds any errors, boot from another volume (in Lion this can be the Recovery HD partition, in earlier versions of the Mac OS, boot from the latest OS X installer disc). Again, run Disk Utility from this new volume, select your regular startup volume, and click Repair Disk.

With luck, everything will be repaired, you’ll return to your startup drive, and be able to empty the trash. Without that luck, you may have to turn to a sterner utility such as Alsoft’s $100 Disk Warrior.

You say that Disk Utility found no problems yet you still can’t empty the trash. If you like pushing buttons, return to Disk Utility, select your startup volume, choose First Aid, and click the Repair Permissions button. Any luck? I thought not.

If all else fails, try Onyx

If you’re at the end of your rope in a “For cryin’ out loud, Chris, just tell me how to empty the dratted trash already because I’m pretty sure this is a case of a corrupt file” kind of way, okay, here’s the answer. Download a utility that ignores OS X’s objections and takes out the trash like you asked it to. There are a variety of these tools—all of which plaster a nice GUI on Unix commands. The one I prefer is Titanium Software’s Onyx. It’s free and it works. What more could you ask for?

Launch Onyx and allow it to run a couple of tests on your drive. Once those tests come up negative select the Utilities tab, click the Trash tab in the window, and make sure that the Delete option is selected. Click on Execute and Onyx should go where the Mac OS refused to and empty the trash.

Just to be sure that the problem’s root isn’t deeper down in the system, quit Onyx, toss a file you don’t need in the trash, and empty the trash. If it flushes as expected you should be good to go.

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