How to Delete “Time Machine” Backups

Time machine backups are fantastic forms of compressed backups for your Macintosh device. Similar to System Restore on Windows but with more detail. If you run backups diligently the old backup files will build up and take an extremely high amount of space on your external or network drives. Trying to delete these backups directly in Finder can result in them being permanently stuck in your Trash bin with no way to delete them. We will explain how to do this method, but we will first show how we advise deleting these backups for minimal issues.

Method 1: Deleting Backups from Time Machine

Step 1: Click on the ”Time Machine” icon on the ”Menu” bar and browse the backups inside to find the one you want to delete.

Step 2: Select one or several of the old files in the backup that you wish to delete. Click the gear icon in the menu bar to reveal a drop-down menu. Select the ”Delete Backup Of” and that will safely delete all of the backups.

This is our most recommended method for deleting Time Machine backups.

Method 2:

Step 1: Launch ”Finder” and choose the location that includes your ”Time Machine” backups.

Step 2: Navigate to the ”Backups.backupdb” folder to locate the old files, by default they sort from oldest to newest.

Step 3: Select the one you want to delete and use the ”command + click” to produce a pop-up menu (use two-finger tap on laptops).

Step 4: Select the option ”Move to Trash” to delete the files contained.

Step 5: Hover over the ”Trash Bin” icon on your Dock, and perform the same ”command + click” to bring a menu up and select the ”Empty Trash option”.

Follow the resolution below if this method makes it so your trash bin can not be emptied and we advise following our Method 1 for your device going forward.

Resolution 1:

Step 1: Open Trash and select the ”Secure Empty Trash” this option can be found in Finder as well.

Step 2: Some users might get the ”The operation could not be completed because the item is in use. Or, you could receive the ”The operation could not be completed because the item is locked” error codes.

•Locked file fix: Changing the file name in the trash or using the ”Get info” option to see if any are locked can resolve this.

“The operation could not be completed because the item is in use” Fix:

Step 1: Use the ”command + space” function on your keyboard to launch the search on your Macintosh

Step 2: Type the word ”Terminal” into the bar and select ”” from the search results to start the Terminal application.

Step 3: Type ”Sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash/” removing the quotes and hit the ”Enter” key.

Step 4: Type in your Administrator password, it will not update as you type visually. Press enter when you finish. This will run the prior command to clear the trash.

•Note: If this command is displaying an error that the ”Operation not permitted”, it is because the Terminal requires Full Disk Access to perform this action. Below are the steps to add it to full disk access.

Step 1: Click the Apple icon in the top left of your screen.

Step 2: Select the ”System Preferences” option

Step 3: Open ”Security & Privacy” option

Step 4: Select the ”Privacy” tab, scroll down and select ”Full Disk Access”

Step 5: Press the lock icon in the bottom left of the window on the screen. Enter your Administrator username & password, then press ”OK”

Step 6: Select the checkbox next to the image and text saying ”Terminal”

If you have any issues past this point or need additional help then consider HelpCloud Technician by-the-hour.