Fixed: Unable to Delete APFS Volume on Catalina

Apple Disk Utility
Quick Fix

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Apple File System or APFS has long replaced HFS+ as the default file system for Macs running macOS 10.13 or later. This advanced file system features strong encryption, rapid directory sizing, shared space, snapshots, and superior system functionality. So if you have macOS 10.13 later on your Mac, then your hard drive is most likely formatted as APFS.

Additionally, APFS allows dynamic allocation of disk space within a container. You can add multiple volumes in a single AFPS container, either for saving files or running a different operating system. Yes, this is possible because an AFPS volume can have a different file system if necessary. This allows users to be more creative in using additional volumes on their Macs.

If you no longer need a specific volume, you can easily delete it using the built-in Disk Utility app on your Mac. Deleting a volume should take just a few steps, and can be quickly accomplished in a matter of minutes. As long as you have a backup of your files, you can easily delete volumes on macOS.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for some Mac users. Several Mac users have reported that they cannot delete APFS volume on Catalina. For some reason, deleting the APFS volume results in an error or does not progress at all. In some cases, the Disk Utility freezes during the deletion process.

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For example, several users have created a separate volume on their Mac to test out the public beta of the newest macOS version, Big Sur. However, since the new version is still very buggy and unstable, a number of users want to delete that partition and wait until Big Sur becomes stable before upgrading. But when they try to delete the partition, some users found that they are unable to delete APFS volume on Catalina.

This has given no small amount of frustration to the affected users who wanted to reclaim the volume or those who are trying to troubleshoot a faulty hard drive. If you’re one of those unable to delete APFS volume on Catalina, then this article should help you sort out this issue.

Why You Cannot Delete APFS Volume on Catalina

A common reason for the inability to delete an APFS volume on Catalina is potential volume or partition corruption. The drive might contain a bad sector that prevents you from wiping that volume or you have a malware infection that stops you from making any changes to drive, much less erasing it.

You should also consider the health of your drive. If you’ve been using the drive for several years now, it is possible that it is already failing. One of the symptoms of poor disk health is when it becomes read-only, which means you won’t be able to make changes or delete volumes on it.

Before You Delete APFS Volume on Catalina

To prevent errors when deleting a volume on Catalina or another macOS version, it is important to do some basic housekeeping and preparatory steps. Here are some preparatory steps to avoid issues or regrets when wiping a volume or partition:

  1. Back up your data. Don’t forget this part because deleting your volume means deleting everything on that volume. All your files, apps, and settings will be gone the moment the deletion is completed. You can use Mac’s built-in Time Machine backup system to save your data. You can choose to back up to another partition or an external drive, though it is probably safer to use a different drive for your backup in this case.
  2. Clean your Mac by removing unwanted apps and files, especially junk files, to avoid any interference during the deletion process. Consider using the tool ‘Mac repair app‘ to efficiently delete all junk files in a single click. This would also make the backup process a lot easier since you won’t have to copy duplicate and unwanted files.
  3. Run a scan. Check for any presence of malware by running a scan using your antivirus program, then delete all threats completely from your Mac. Make sure that all components of the malware are rooted out to prevent it from interfering with the process.

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How to Delete APFS Volume on Catalina

The easiest way to delete an APFS volume is to use the Disk Utility app on your Mac. Remember that deleting a volume means that all the data on that volume will also be permanent erased and you will never be able to get it back. The volume will also be removed from the container and the space allocated to it will be re-allocated to the partition.

To delete a volume, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Disk Utility app by clicking on the Finder menu > Go > Utilities.
  2. In the Disk Utility window, you’ll see all the partitions and volumes on your drive.
  3. If the physical drive is hidden, click View > Show All Devices.
  4. Choose the APFS volume you want to delete from the sidebar.
  5. Click on the Delete Volume button from the toolbar.
  6. Click Delete > Done.

If you want to erase a volume instead (all the data will be easier but the empty volume will remain in the container), follow the steps below:

  1. Open Disk Utility app by clicking on the Finder menu > Go > Utilities.
  2. If the physical drive is hidden, click View > Show All Devices.
  3. Choose the APFS volume you want to erase from the sidebar.
  4. Click the Erase button.
  5. Type in a new name for the volume.
  6. Click on the Format dropdown, then choose APFS.
  7. If you prefer to encrypt the volume, you can choose either APFS (Encrypted) or APFS (Case-sensitive, Encrypted).
  8. Click Erase > Done.

Deleting APFS Volume via Terminal

To delete a volume or partition on your Mac using commands, follow the instructions here:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences and open the Disk Utility tool.
  2. On the left menu, you should see the APFS volume or container for your Mac.
  3. Choose that APFS volume or container, then right-click on it.
  4. Click Eject.
  5. Once the volume has been ejected, you can now delete it.
  6. Launch Terminal and type in diskutil list, then hit Enter.
  7. Note down the identifier for the volume or container you want to delete.
  8. After copying the identifier, type in this command in the Terminal window: diskutil apfs deleteContainer <identifier>

If you’re deleting a volume from an internal drive, you need to boot your Mac in Recovery mode and access Disk Utility from there.

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Bruno
2 years ago

It worked, Jesse! Thanks!

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