2 Easy Ways to Delete Time Machine Backups

/ Posted by Shirley Howard to Mac / Follow @Shirley Howard

Time machine is an incredible useful Mac OS's feature that can help you to keep your personal files, settings and documents of your Mac safely backed up to an external disk. But when you have too many old backups residing on your disk, you will need to delete them to make space for new backup. If you have any confusion about how to delete old backups from time machine, then this article is the best help for you. You will get 2 easiest ways to delete time machine backups from here and a step by step guideline on how to execute this whole thing easily.

Part 1: How to Delete Old Backups via Time Machine

Here is how to delete time machine backups via Time Machine:

  • 1. Connect the backup Time Machine drive with your Mac.
  • 2. Now click on the "Time Machine" icon from the "Menu" bar.
  • 3. Now scroll and choose any of the backup you want to delete to free up space.
  • 4. Finally you need to click on the gear icon from the menu bar and then select "Delete Backup".
  • time machine delete backup

Part 2: How to Delete Time Machine Backups via Finder (and the Trash)

Here is how to delete time machine backups via Finder (and the Trash):

  • 1. Connect your Time Machine drive to your Mac, open Finder and select "Time Machine" from the left panel.
  • 2. You will find dated back up folders in the Backups.backupdb folder. Now you need to right click on the folder you wanted to delete and then click on "Move to Trash".
  • finder delete backup
  • 3. Now you need to right click on the Trash icon in the Dock and then click "Empty Trash".
  • 4. After some time your trash will also be empty.

Extra Tip: Can't Delete Time Machine Backups from Trash?

If you kept asking before that, how do I delete old backups from time machine? Then your confusions are already resolved in the 1st and 2nd part of this article. But if you can't delete Time Machine backups from Trash then you can follow these below methods:

  • 1. A simple restart or reboot may fix this issue. If a restart doesn't solve this, you can also force delete the backups from Trash. You can easily go to the Finder menu and select "Secure Empty Trash".
  • 2. If you are getting an error like – "The operation could not be completed because the item is locked." Then the first thing you need to do is check the files or folders. If it has a weird name like a name with symbols or special characters, then rename it and then try to delete it. Also if this doesn't work, then you can check if the file is locked or not, from the "Get Info" option. If it's locked, then uncheck that option and then try emptying the Trash again.
  • 3. You can also use third party apps/software to delete time machine backups from Trash. There are a lot of good quality third party apps out there to do this task for you in a very short time! Third party apps might just be a good solution to your problem.
  • 4. You can also try repairing your disk, restart your Mac and then try deleting files from the Trash.
  • 5. Terminal tricks can be the last resort for you if any of the previous tips doesn't work. This is a very dangerous process if you don't follow steps properly. All of your data could be erased from the memory so it's better if you can keep a backup of your data.

    From the "Applications" then "Utilities" option, launch Terminal. Now type this command - sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash/

    can't delete time machine backup

    It temporarily takes advantage of the Root user (the "sudo" part) and deletes the data in your own user account's Trash directory. Now Press "Enter" to execute it. You will be prompted for your administrator password, so type it and press "Enter". The cursor may not move and none of the characters you type will be shown. When the job is done, type "exit" (minus the quotes) and press Enter before exiting Terminal.

Time Machine is a very useful and advanced feature from Apple to help you keep the backup of your important files, settings and documents. Though it automatically deletes old backup files from its memory to keep new backup, but sometimes your Mac may show you a warning that there is not enough space in the backup drive anymore. So you may need to manually delete Time machine backups from your Mac.

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