[Solved] Catalina installer cannot be deleted from trash on macOS Big Sur

If you have placed a macOS installer in the trash of the Mac operating system and it cannot be deleted, you will find the right solution here. In addition to a few simple solutions, the last way - which should definitely work - is via booting in recovery mode. But don't worry, you won't lose any data. If, for example, the Catalina installer cannot be deleted from the trash under macOS Big Sur, then try the following tips and tricks;)

Cannot delete Catalina installer in the trash on macOS Big Sur. Here you will find tips, tricks and instructions in case a file cannot be deleted on the Mac. Maybe it's system integrity protection;)

Cannot delete Catalina installer in the trash on macOS Big Sur. Here you will find tips, tricks and instructions in case a file cannot be deleted on the Mac. Maybe it's system integrity protection;)

Deleting installers on macOS: tips and tricks 

If the problem is just a temporary bug, the following tips can help. If you get stuck with this, try the instructions under the next subheading. But here are the less extensive tricks:

  • Restart: Shut down the Mac completely and turn it on again. Does the erase work now?
  • Drag the installer to a new folder on the hard drive or to another hard drive and remove it from there
  • Safe Mode: Start Mac by holding down the Shift key, boot in safe mode and then try to delete the installer.
  • Remove installer with app help: Maybe you can AppCleaner, CleanMyMac X or Trash It! help with emptying the virtual recycle bin?
  • Terminal command: sudo rm -r + "file" - does this command help (with file name or file dragged into the window)?

Switch off SIS or SIP: Delete installer by deactivating system integrity protection

System integrity protection is not a new feature of macOS 11 Big Sur, but has been active on the Apple Mac since OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The security technology prevents system files and other protected content from being changed unlawfully. Originally developed as protection against malware, in some cases the SIP (System Integrity Protection) can prevent users from changing data, files and folders. Can't delete the Catalina installer from the trash on macOS Big Sur? That can be because of the SIP!

If you want to deactivate the Mac System Integrity Protection in order to delete an installer under macOS, the best thing to do is to activate it again after the cleanup. Otherwise you will make your Apple computer more vulnerable. After this hint you can start - this is how it works:

  1. Switch off Apple Mac and when switched on cmd + R for recovery mode keep pressed down
  2. Select the terminal in the "macOS Utilities" window
  3. The command csrutil disable and confirm with Enter to deactivate SIP
  4. Restart the Mac (without holding any keys) and delete the installer
  5. Start the Mac again in Recovery Mode, select Terminal and the command enable csrutil to activate SIP

System Integrity Protection (Support document) the error shown may also appear in other versions of Apple's Mac operating system. Since it has been part of the system since OS X El Capitan (2015), other installers in other macOS versions may not be able to be removed without the above steps. This can apply equally to Sierra (2016), High Sierra (2017), Mojave (2018), Catalina (2019) and Big Sur (2020). Do you have any questions, hints, tips or tricks on the subject? Leave your experiences as a comment;)

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2 comments

  1. Dirk says:

    Hi John,

    Unfortunately, the method with the SIP shutdown does not always work. I kept getting a message saying that I did not have the permissions to delete the XXX file.

    In the end, the solution was to boot the Mac in recovery mode, mount the data drive via the hard drive utility and then after infinite ls commands (to find the right path) use the terminal to download the file using "sudo rm -r ... "to kill for good.

    I found the instructions somewhere on Stack Overflow - but unfortunately I can't find them anymore.

    It's annoying when you have to do such pull-ups just to delete a file from your own user directory. Moving to the trash was still possible, but then it was over.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Simon! Thanks for the hint. Yes, it really is cheese. Apple should fix something like that with the upcoming versions.

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