I've tried to delete the Catalina installer twice - and both instances have become stuck in Trash.

Trying to empty Trash via GUI results in 'operation can't be completed because item is in use` errors. Same thing when I reboot into safe mode and try to empty Trash again.

sudo rm -rf ~filename

gives 'operation not permitted' and then 'directory not empty` errors

ls -laO

show no flags set for the files. So no impediment there.

I've also tried the third-party deletion tool Trash It! on it's most aggressive setting to no success.


This is what the two files look like in Trash. I've never seen those icons before. I'd say it was something installer related but the Big Sur installer deleted without issue. I'm not sure what steps to take next.

2 Answers 2


If you cannot delete it normally, you can either attempt to find what file is keeping it from being deleted or just delete it from macOS Recovery.

To check for an open file that's in the Trash, from Terminal:

lsof | grep '.Trash'

Or macOS Recovery:

From macOS, running normally, open Terminal and execute the following compound command to reboot to macOS Recovery:

sudo nvram "recovery-boot-mode=unused"; sleep 2; sudo reboot

In macOS Recovery, open Terminal from the Utilities menu and run the following commands:

find /Volumes -maxdepth 4 -type d -name '.Trash'

On my system it returned:

/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/me/.Trash
/Volumes/Macintosh HD - Data/Users/me/.Trash

Then change directory to your .Trash directory, either one if two are listed for the target user, delete the .app application bundle, and reboot:

cd '/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/me/.Trash'
rm -r *.app

Or from Terminal in macOS Recovery you can simply run the following compound command and it will delete all .Trash directories and reboot. The .Trash directories will be recreated automatically when logging into your account.

find /Volumes -maxdepth 4 -type d -name '.Trash' -exec rm -r '{}' \; 2>/dev/null; reboot
  • Worked exactly as described. So much time wasted on bad Google answers. Thank you
    – lodeOfCode
    Dec 16, 2020 at 15:51

If you'd like to avoid having to use the macOS Recovery mode, an easy solution is to move the installer to /tmp directory:

sudo mv Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app /tmp

Next, reboot your machine as this makes macOS empty anything under /tmp.

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