Mac OS X Finder Error 36: What does this error means and how to fix it? [Troubleshooting]

One of the common errors Mac users have encountered while attempting to move or copy files from one location to another is the error 36. The error has been seen in prior versions of Mac OS platforms and likewise in newer versions. Some users were prompted with the same error code while trying to back up files by copying a particular folder or group of files from one drive to another. When this error shows up, you’ll see a message that reads:

The Finder can’t complete the operation because some data in ‘filename’ can’t be read or written. (Error code -36),” or something like that.

Other Mac users have also encountered an Error Code 36 while copying files to their USB drivers. Usually in this case, users are allowed to copy a single file but wouldn’t be able to drag a folder at once.

What does Mac OS X error code 36 means and what’s causing it?

The Error Code 36 is tagged among other I/O (input/output) errors that usually occur when attempting to copy files that are corrupted. It usually happens when certain folders from the FAT16 or FAT32 volumes that are compatible with Windows are transferred to a Mac computer and then back. FAT16 and FAT32 are Windows file systems that utilize a file allocation table (FAT) that allows files to be identified by a name consisting of characters and character extension. The file allocation table refers to an index assigned to list the content of the disk so as to record the location of every file stored on it.

Aside from corrupt files, several occurrences of Finder Error 36 in Mac OS X computers have also been linked to some malwares or computer virus.

How to fix Finder error 36 on Mac?

The solutions may vary depending on that actual cause of the problem. For example, if the error is triggered by some malware/virus, then using a malware and anti-virus removal tool might be the best option to fix it. Highlighted below are a few recommended methods to deal with and get rid of the Finder error 36 on Mac OS devices.

You can fix the Finder Error Code 36 in Mac manually or automatically. Mac experts however recommend opting for manual solutions when dealing with this Mac error. Because implementing a manual solution requires time and effort but offers a more promising result.

In order to get started, you have to create a new folder, copy that folder to the desktop and the move it back to the drive. If you see the Error Code 36 when doing so, it means that there are some problems on your Mac device that needs to be resolved.

So here’s what you can do to try to fix the error by then:

Step 1. Check and verify permissions and sharing options.

Permission settings are used to determine who can access and alter files on the computer. Permission settings can be changed by accessing the bottom of the Info Window for a file, folder, or disk in the Finder. For example, if you want other users who log in to your Mac to be able to connect to it for file sharing, then you can change permission settings for a folder to allow other users to do so. You can set which users can view which files. For security reasons, it is recommended to set permissions with certain limitations like allowing other users to view but prevent them from changing files in a folder.

In the case where Error 36 occurs, it’s possible that Permission and Sharing Options have been set to impose limits on specific file transfers. For example, simultaneous transfer of multiple files is not allowed that’s why you’re prompted with the Finder Error 36 while attempting to do so. In this case, you can head over to the Permissions and Sharing Options and make sure that your account is set to have access to the files you are attempting to copy. You can set the permission to Everyone for every user to view it.

For starters, here’s how to assign permissions to users or groups on your Mac:

  • Select a disk, file or folder you want to share with other users.
  • Choose File, and then Get Info. You should then see the Sharing & Permissions information.
  • Click the disclosure triangle if the information in Sharing & Permissions is not visible.
  • You may need to click the Lock icon to unlock it and then enter an administrator name and password.
  • In the Name column, click a user group then select a privilege setting from the pop-up menu. Among the options include Read & Write, Read Only, Write Only, and No Access.

Now go ahead and start configuring and set permissions according to your preferences.

Step 2. Check and ensure the external media connection is stable.

The Error code 36 can also appear if there’s a problem within the external media, including unstable connection. This involves checking of the external drives and make sure everything is properly connected and has no physical damage.

Step 3. Try to copy files in Safe Mode.

To rule out the possibility of a corrupt file triggering the Finder Error 36 to occur, you can also try to copy files in Safe Mode. You can just drag your files without using the Finder.

Step 4. Use the Terminal Window to run dot_clean command.

If none of these worked, then you should move on to the next possible solution(s). Here are your other options:

    • Navigate to Applications-> Utilities-> Terminal. Doing so will launch or open the Terminal app on your Mac.


  • In the terminal window, enter or type in dot_clean or dot_clean /Path/To/The/Problematic/Directory/.


  • Drag the desired folder to the terminal window. To see the path for a directory, select it in the Finder by going to File-> Get Info (Command-I). Or you can just click (command-click) on the name in the top center of a Finder window to view its path.
  • Click Enter or hit the Return key to run dot_clean command. After that, the hidden dot-underscore (._) files will be deleted and you should be able to copy files without being prompted with the Finder Error 36 by then.

If none of the aforesaid solutions is able to fix the Finder Error 36 and that you’re still unable to copy files from or to your Mac computer, then you should now consider using third-party applications designed for fixing input/output file transfer errors in Mac. The most reliable way to deal with Error code 36 is to look for reputable programs to check or diagnose your Mac OS X device. These applications are set to deal with registries and fix different errors affecting various Macs. Otherwise, contact Apple Support for other options, recommendations or further troubleshooting assistance.

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2 thoughts on “Mac OS X Finder Error 36: What does this error means and how to fix it? [Troubleshooting]”

  1. This is a nice article but are you seriously advising people to use MacKeeper???? This makes this entire article questionable… Just Google MacKeeper and you’ll find out why.

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