Sometimes MacOS locks files and you cannot copy, move, or delete them. Here is how to get rid of this "one or more items can't be changed because they are in use" behaviour.

MacOS can be annoying, at times. In this case I was struggling with a video file that could not be copied, moved, or deleted because MacOS persistet on telling me it “can’t be changed because [it is] in use”; cf. this screenshot of the popup message.

The Continue-Button might suggest that MacOS would perform the action if I clicked it. But after clicking continue, I was asked for my admin-password, the file would seemingly get copied (or moved etc.), and finally, the copied (or moved file etc.) would be deleted.

It took a lot of searching until I, finally, came across the solution in this thread. I did not dig into the gory details of the cause but it has something to do with the so-called extended file attributes. You can see if a file has extended file attributes when you do a ls in terminal. If there is an @ on the right-hand side of the file permissions this file has extended attributes set. As was the case with my video file:

-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 zzz  staff  42164199 Dec 19 18:58 MAH07541.MP4

Using the -l@ flag we can see the extended attributes that are set for the file:

-rwxr-xr-x@ 1 zzz  staff  42164199 Dec 19 18:58 MAH07541.MP4
	com.apple.FinderInfo	      32 

So in my case it’s the com.apple.FinderInfo attribute that was causing the problem. As soon as I deleted the extended attribute using

xattr -d com.apple.FinderInfo MAH07541.MP4

everything was back to normal and the file could be copied, moved, or deleted.

Be careful when you are fiddling with the extended attributes since they can also store resources or essential metadata. A user in the above mentionend thread says that it is “…always safe to delete com.apple.FinderInfo”. Well, that is something you will have to decide on your own.

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