Is your trash emptying slow in Leopard or Snow Leopard?

Hey look it’s a new post! A few days ago I noticed that people were actually reading my previous entry, so I figured my little blog here might actually be useful, and therefore might deserve an update every now and then.

Anyway, my problem now is that I upgraded Leopard to Snow Leopard a few weeks ago, and it’s been great except my trash would take a friggin’ eternity to empty when I was deleting a lot of stuff. I searched around online for solutions in various forum postings about snow leopard to no avial, thinking I was the victim of some random bug that affected nobody else.

As it turns out, the solution is simple. For whatever reason, “Empty trash securely” had become checked in finder preferences during the snow leopard upgrade-install process, which meant that that finder was secure-erasing everything (even when I clicked “empty trash” as opposed to “empty securely”). All I had to do was uncheck it, and voila! Problem solved!

uncheck empty trash securely

The answer to this problem was so easy that I overlooked it at first, so I hope this is helpful to those of you who are also confused by this deceptively-simple issue. No thanks is necessary dear readers (just send money.)

Edit: Updated for the retail version of Snow Leopard. Also, this setting wasn’t like this for me when I did a clean install of the retail Snow Leopard. Perhaps it’s a problem with certain upgrade-installs only?

97 thoughts on “Is your trash emptying slow in Leopard or Snow Leopard?

  1. Thanks for pointing this out! I was getting tired of having to open the terminal every time I wanted to empty the trash in under an hour.

  2. Ah you just made my day….I was felling just like ya, am I the only one??

    Quick dumb fix after all, and I was using the terminal cmds and all…;)

    Thanks once again

  3. Thank You so much! I too had this problem and it took forever to empty out 47,000 items! I quickly got tired of setting the trash to empty over night so i would be empty by morning!
    Thanks a Bunch!

  4. So that solves one problem, namely the interminable delay of a mandatory secure delete each time you empty the trash. But in Leopard, with that same option checked in Finder preferences, the default trash behavior was to empty the normal quick method (by removing file from the drive map, whereby it would remain in place until randomly over-written by new data). Then, if you R clicked on the trash icon (or pressed on the secure delete button within the trash window) the option to secure delete a sensitive file (by overwriting) was available within a second. as it stands now with Snow Leopard, I have to select the secure delete option from the Finder drop down menu, rather than R click on the trash, each time I actually really do want to securely delete a file. Admittedly that’s not often. Nevertheless, it’s a definite step backward.

    Have you or anyone else figured out how to restore the old Leopard functionality via R click on the trash?

    1. I noticed that too. I suppose it is Apple trying to streamline their interface, though I too found the methods in Leopard to be much more convenient.

      It would be nice if Secrets/Superdocker/Onyx, or any of the other system tweaking apps could add “Secure delete” as a contextual menu entry or keyboard shortcut for Snow Leopard users.

  5. Thanks!

    It’s confusing… I knew I’d seen something like that, but could never find the option again in the System Preferences…

    Reading your blog I realized I had to start finder and select preferences there… And lo and behold, the option was there *and* checked (which I certainly never did!) and unchecking it got rid of the absurdly slow trash-emptying!

    Thanks a mil!

  6. The question of interest to me is why does “secure delete” in Snow Leopard tend to find so many files to delete (hundreds or even thousands) when only two or three have been put in the trash? While turning off “secure delete” stops this in Snow Leopard, why is it happening…what files are being deleted? In Leopard, “secure delete” did not do this.

    I’d like to know what Snow Leopard is deleting under “secure delete” that Leopard didn’t?

  7. Sorry, this is no help at all! In Leopard on 4 machines – all with secure trash empty selected as the default – it empties trash very fast. In Snow Leopard, it takes hours sometimes which implies that one of the OSes is broken – either Leopard really wasn’t wiping the files or Snow Leopard uses an overly secure algorithm or is just plain broken.

  8. Thanks very much too, it was becoming a PITA, but I’ve only had Snow Leopard for 2 days. Even for that long it was driving me mad. So you saved some aggravations.

  9. Been editing HD Videos, had plenty to make space. It was driving me nuts too, I never seen it empty so slow. I didn’t upgrade to Snow, but did begin using Time Machine.

    Thanks for the tip! Saved my sanity!

  10. Thanks! I’m not noticed about this, I remember one problem with PathFinder was that, always delete the files in secure mode and is so slowly.

    thanks again

  11. Just to join the chorus of voices letting you know your blog does, indeed, rock. I don’t know why the secure delete is selected by default with this install, but is does, truly, suck. You saved me a lot of hair-pulling. Remember, too, that for every reader who posts a thank you, there are far many more who don’t bother. Rest assured that you are reaching the masses and keep up the great work.

  12. Cheers

    i upgraded to snowleopard and trash is taking forever to empty and VOILA
    your right..
    Well done and cheers for your effort in writing this blog

  13. Cheers

    i upgraded to snow leopard and trash is taking forever to empty and VOILA
    your right..
    Well done and cheers for your effort in writing this blog

  14. Thanks! No clue why they would make this the default option. Next up, I’m gonna try out your trackpad “screw” solution. My trackpad’s been really screwy. The clicking works great in some areas and others not so much. Thanks again!

  15. Thank you so much.
    I spent 2 days emptying the trash which was with a 60gbs of files on it.
    Even all that size, 2 days is insane!!! furthermore it was making a anoying noise

  16. M
    Thanks for that tip – it’s being giving me the poos for months and I never realised you could change it in finder preferences. I can sleep well now.
    Cheers cobber

  17. This has been annoying me for a while. I seriously had an Empty Trash operation going since yesterday, but I turned off the secure setting and it emptied in minutes.

  18. This absolutely works. For some reason before making this change, every-time I would attempt to securely empty my trash there is about 3000 additional items to delete. Following this step eliminated that and helped me securely empty my trash in less than 2 seconds. Thank you so much!

  19. I don’t seem to have a choice. If I use the regular Empty Trash, after the computer checks the files I am told that file blahblahblah.dll is locked and can only be deleted with Secure Empty Trash.

    I have over a million files to be emptied and they are taking over a second each. Do the math.

    Any solutions? Anybody? Anybody?

  20. Thanks a tonnnnn!!! That helped me a lottt….. I was deleting a old folder which had around thousands of files and it was taking huge amt of time…I wasa frustrated with this beahaviour of mac….Thanks to ur solution…….!!!! And thanks to google who let the doors open to this post…… 🙂

  21. Gracias.. Desde Cancun .. vaya que tambien me salvaste.. pense que era cosa de mi Mac y estaba por enviarla a servicio.. y por fin.. con solo desavilitar esa opcion.. Listo… todo esta en orden y te agradesco la ayuda y el tip que a varios les sirvio. vaya que si.. gracias…

  22. Thanks. that helped a lot. as after the installation i had to delete a bunch of files it toked me nearly whole day.

  23. This is the sort of thing the internet was invented for … a bunch of people struggling with a problem … a quick google … and, problem solved! Thanks so much!

  24. Thank you so much this had been bugging me since i just upgraded and i thought it was only happening to me !!!

  25. Thank you very much! Was so tired of using rm – f and then first deleteing all files, and afterwards selecting empty folders to delete.

  26. If you still are following this thread, I’m curious about the much slower speed of rm -Pr * within a folder. I’ve used this approach for years to securely erase the content of a folder, which worked perfectly with Tiger. For example, it would take on the order of an hour to erase 20GB of material on the HD. Since upgrading to Snow Leopard, it takes 5 – 10 times as long. With Tiger, this command over-wrote in three passes. Has it changed to a larger number of passes? Is there any particular reason for that, or a fix for this problem?

    The man for rm still shows three passes.

    MBP 2Ghz, 2GB, 100GB. The original MBP.


  27. There is a good reason for secure delete, especially if you download alot from the internet, after I started using secure delete my memory usage decreased.

    1. To secure delete a specific file just:
      1. Be sure the Trash is already empty. If you’ve got to much already in your trash and you don’t want to secure delete all of it, just make a temporary file on your desktop. Call it something like “TempTrash”, then drag the contents of your trash to your new, “TempTrash” file.
      2. Locate the file you wish to delete in Finder.
      3. Either drag it to the trash OR select the file then press Command-Delete(or rather Command-backspace) It’ll then move to the trash.
      4. Click on “Finder” in the menu bar at the top of your diaplay. A drop-down menu will appear.
      5. Click on “Secure Empty Trash.”
      Voila! It will begin deleting it by writing zeros over the file.

      Once the deletion is complete you may drag your “TempTrash” into the Trash and do a standard “Empty Trash” or just leave it there if you’re so inclined.

  28. I’m not so happy about this solution. It only tells part of the story. As I understand it, secure empty trash writes zeros over the files that have been placed into the trash.

    What I DON’T understand is: WHY is it taking at least 16 hours (and counting) to write one pass of zeros over files which took only 4 hours to copy to another hard drive? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that if it took only 4 hours to write data from one drive to a new drive, then it should only take 4 hours to write zeros over the ones and zeros that originally occupied the first hard drive?

    Is there some esoteric principle that requires more zeros to write over a one because one is greater than zero? This is absolutely absurd!

  29. I have to say, blogs are brilliant. This problem first came to light on this forum July 2009 – it is now 27th Jan 2012 and it helped me this morning.

    Thanks for a great tip – which shouldn’t really have been needed if Apple hadn’t decided to ‘Help’ us by REMOVING the useful facility of individually deleting securely by right clicking a file – which was in Leopard.

  30. yeah this doesnt fix macs poor coding, im trying to delete 35,000 items. secure delete is NOT enabled. it was hitting the 15 minute mark so i got pissed and hit stop to try and delete bigger files individually, but apparently stopping an empty operation takes just as long as you waited to hit stop………………. seriously how fucking hard is it to delete a link in the file system. i understand its 35,000 items but populating this should not take more than 5 minutes. even that is excessive.

    but at least now i found a legitimate bug and reason to start hating on apple. its been “stopping” for 10 minutes now and im afraid to force a shutdown in fear that i will have an invisible large chunk of unrecoverable data floating around my hard drive. because if they couldnt get this essential part of their operating system to work in a timely manner, who knows what the hell is actually going on under the hood. this is why an open source solution is always best. fuck you apple dev team, and have a nice day!

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