Q&A: Deleting without Trash

Q My iMac has two external hard drives, one of which is maintained as a backup by running Carbon Copy Cloner at each startup. When I put an item into the Trash, it only offers to delete it immediately, warning “Are you sure you want to delete “untitled folder”? This item will be deleted immediately. You can’t undo this action.” This does not happen on my MacBook, though. Why is this?

A Normally, when you drag a file or folder to the Trash, the Finder moves the item to a hidden folder named Trash, and stores it there until you empty the Trash. However, for it to do this, it must have write access to the respective Trash folder for that volume.

If you try to trash items that are on a server or shared volume to which you have limited access, and the Finder cannot access that volume’s Trash folder, there is no option but to delete the item immediately, which is what happens after you are shown this warning. So you need to work out why, when logged in as your normal user identity, the Finder does not have write access to each volume’s hidden Trash folder.

First run Disk Utility and repair permissions on each volume affected by this, to set permissions in accordance with system expectations. Then check the owner of each folder affected, and the top-level volume, using the Finder’s Get Info command. Ensure that you are owner. Of course if you cannot be the owner, with write permissions, there is nothing to be done, and items cannot pass through the safety net provided by the Trash mechanism.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 27 issue 13, 2011.