I was moving a large amount of data to an external drive. The Finder crashed (or appeared to restart) in the middle of the operation.

Now the files appear as "washed out" in the external drive (exFAT), and the move operation doesn't resume. If I try to move again, the Finder tells me that

The selected items can’t all be put into the same location, because at least one of them named “something” is busy.

Why does this happen? What does the washed out appearance mean? Is there a way to resume the move? Is it safe to just delete the washed out items (note that it was a move, not a copy)?

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The "washed out" items are basically just placeholders that the files were meant to be copied into. Those files aren't anything until the copy finishes and the real files are there. You can safely delete them and start over.

Step one, I would just reboot. This makes sure any copy operations are ended and you know it's safe to delete the placeholders once you've rebooted.

Sometimes Finder gets upset about you trying to delete its placeholders because it thinks they are still in use (busy). If this happens, open Terminal and use

sudo rm -rf /path/to/file/

Replace /path/to/file/ with the actual path, obviously.

That command will allow you to delete ANYTHING, even stuff your Mac needs to run, so make SURE you point it at the right files. They will be gone after this command runs, ignoring all warnings and restrictions. ...but that's fine for these placeholders; you just want them gone so you can try again.

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  • 2
    This is not always the right answer, because sometimes the user may be merging one folder onto another, existing folder when Finder crashes. This then means that there really ARE some files in the destination already, and shouldn't be deleted. – Eptin Oct 31 '13 at 20:05

When finder copies a file it appears to use a magic file creation date to indicate busy


I just used

SetFile -d '2016/02/04 12:00:00' myfile

And the folder/file was no longer busy

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Deleting finder preferences and then restart worked for me:

cd /Users/chandan.bansal/Library/Preferences
rm -rf com.apple.finder.plist
rm -rf com.apple.finder.plist.lockfile
rm -rf com.apple.sidebarlists.plist
rm -rf com.apple.sidebarlists.plist.lockfile

Then restart your system.

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If you have a washed out folder thats busy in the finder, do the following:

  1. Rename it

    sudo mv Folder Folder2
  2. Make a new folder

    mkdir Folder
  3. Move all contents

    sudo mv Folder2/* Folder/

And you're set.

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