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How to fix a problem with trash (dustbin) icon in Mac OS X shown always empty

If your dock's trash icon (dustbin icon) always shows as empty, regardless how much is inside, you are in the right place. Just try the below and this should resolve the problem. It has been tested on Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) and Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks).

You can of course remove the entire Dock Preferences but that means you have to set it up from the scratch.
Instead, you can try the below:

Option I

Before you start, make sure your trash is NOT empty. If it is, just create new folder on your desktop and move it to the trash.

Start the Terminal application (Applications -> Utilities -> and run the below command:

defaults read trash-full

It should return value '1’ (but you get '0' I guess). If that's the case run the command below:

defaults write trash-full -bool TRUE

and then the below one to check the trash-full value again:

defaults read trash-full

you should now get '1' correctly.

Empty the trash now and put something into it. The icon should change to the full. Empty trash and check the icon again.

I hope everything is ok now. If not, this might be an issue with the permissions of the Trash. To fix this just finish the steps from Option II.

Option II

To fix the problem with permissions use Disk Utility to restore permissions to the folders across the computer.

Start Disk Utility application (Applications -> Utilities -> Disk

Select the disk your Mac OS is installed onto (usally named Macintosh HD) and under First Aid tab press Repair Disk Permissions

Document version: 1.0

Last modified on:


Glenn Russ
10 May 2014, 17:57
I had that problem too. Very annoying.
But it works now!
Thanx a lot!
23 Jun 2014, 07:09
Simple solution and works great :)
29 Aug 2014, 11:34
Works great. Thanks.
15 Sep 2014, 13:08
Worked perfectly with Mavericks 10.9.4, thanks so much!
02 Oct 2014, 12:01
Repairing permissions didn't work for me. This did:

Open finder - from the 'Go' menu select computer/macintosh HD/system/library/coreservices/ (right click and show package contents) /contents/resources

double click on the file trashfull.png
16 Oct 2014, 16:52
Awesome, the commands fixed trash icon on my Mac!
15 Dec 2014, 19:28
For me, I just "Relaunch" the Finder in the Force Quit dialog.
19 Dec 2014, 17:43
I did something that you'd never think would solve the problem, but for some reason it did.

I opened up the trash, did a Cmd-A to select all, then a Cmd-I to find out how (collectively) big all of these files were and when my Mac tried to access the files to see their size, they disappeared.
I have no idea why that was the thing that worked, but my Trash is empty and the paper in my trash icon is gone.

Just thought I'd share this because I know there are others out there that have tried everything as well. I'm not promising this will work for you, but what have you got to lose, right?
27 Jan 2015, 09:54
Thank you for this information. This worked on Mavericks 10.9.5.

One item to note, individuals making changes in terminal should log out, and log back in to the OS to ensure changes take. I realize the Mac OS is a flavor of Linux and fundamental MS Windows rules do not always apply, but it does not hurt.

Kind regards.
22 Nov 2015, 14:41
you're the best, thankyou!!! very easy to follow, problem fixed. Thanks again!!
05 Apr 2016, 06:53
RR's advice worked for me! Relaunch the finder in force quit dialogue
18 Apr 2017, 17:55
Still helping people like me today, thanks.
21 Apr 2017, 05:20
You're all very welcome.
Glad to hear it is still useful ;-)
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