“file can’t be deleted” error

How to overcome a “file can’t be deleted” error in OS X

When managing files and folders in the Finder, you will undoubtedly need to trash a few here and

there; however, when you drag files to the trash you may run into an error where OS X refuses to move them and claims “The item can’t be moved to the Trash because it can’t be deleted,” which is a pretty vague description of the problem at hand, and essentially offers no useful solution.

 “file can’t be deleted” error

In general, when you do not have permission to remove an item, OS X will indicate this with a permissions-related warning. Alternatively, if the trash structure is damaged, you may run into an issue where OS X will delete items immediately without first placing them in the trash, in which case you may need to rebuild your trash folder structure. However, this current problem is neither of these, but the fix is easy.

If you find yourself encountering this specific error, then the solution is to re-launch your Mac’s Finder, which can be done in several ways.

  1. Reboot your Mac — the most hands-off approach
  2. Log out of your account and log back in — another relatively hands-off approach
  3. Force-quit the Finder — the quickest approach

This last option can be done by pressing Option-Command-Escape (or choosing Force Quit from the Apple menu) and then choosing the Finder from the Force-Quit window and clicking the Relaunch button. Alternatively, you can hold the Option key and right-click the OS X Dock to reveal a “Relaunch” option. Finally, if you are savvy with the OS X Terminal, you can run the following command to re-launch the Finder:

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