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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups Apps
This is a something that Apple has hidden away, leaving some Mac users out there to go through all sorts of lengths to remove items from their Time Machine backups.

The solution is really easy, though.

Open time Machine. Go to the top level -- the first window; the one with your hard drive. Navigate to the backup you want to delete and use the Actions menu (gear icon) in the Finder's toolbar. It has an option to delete the backup. Also, when using the Actions menu, with a file or folder selected, there is an option to delete all instances of the file/folder from all backups.
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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups | 19 comments | Create New Account
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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: glgray on Nov 14, '07 08:08:37AM

This is a very nice tip since I have a 3GB disk image that gets updated a couple of times per week and I was becoming concerned that it was eating up Time Machine space at an enormous rate.

Thank you.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: Anonymous on Nov 14, '07 08:15:27AM

If Spaces is assigned to the F7 key, what then happens to the default action of that key (switching between mirrored and split screens when connected to an external display)? I'd test this but I don't have a screen readily available to me at the moment.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: Brajeshwar on Nov 14, '07 08:38:10AM

That's right, there are quite a good reason behind you would definitely want to delete some files permanantly. ;-)

---
Regards
Brajeshwar



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: lar3ry on Nov 14, '07 10:23:47AM
Aside from some of the more nefarious things a White House staffer may want to remove, there are some pretty good reasons to remove all instances of a file/files:
  • A file has moved (via "copy" and "delete"). It would be rather great if TM could detect via file size + checksum that a file has moved, and simply maintain a pointer to the moved file to prevent the same contents taking up twice as much (or more) backup space. Great, but a lot of extra work. [smile]
  • A file is simply "append-only" like a system log file (such a file should be excluded from TM backups, but you may not realize it before you've started).
  • I, for one, don't want my web cookies or security details backed up indiscriminately. I'd prefer to say when and where such sensitive data will be stored. For a corporate user, there could be many more sensitive things that should not be backed up just because they're there.
  • A file is ALREADY a backup of something from somewhere else (like my bi-weekly backup of my GMail messages). Why have TM backup a backup?
This isn't meant to be exhaustive, but illuminative...

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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: zebrum on Nov 15, '07 10:53:05AM

excellent hint, I would have never found that option myself since I always use right click instead of the gears button. I just deleted a big folder I only added to the ignore list after a few days of backups, it worked perfectly, cool!



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: DanFrakes on Nov 15, '07 09:15:19PM

One thing to note here is that the toolbar of the desired Finder window must be showing before you switch to Time Machine view, since Time Machine doesn't let you toggle Finder-window toolbars.

---
Dan Frakes / Senior Editor, Macworld / Senior Reviews Editor, Playlist



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: davipt on Nov 18, '07 03:34:20AM

1. Can someone please clarity if the "Delete Backup" option deletes the selected files, or the whole backup set? It's not clear anywhere.

2. In my case, both for "delete backup" and "delete all for file x" pops up a authentication dialogue. Unfortunately it's impossible to focus on any field, and thus impossible to put the password. It's only possible to press ok (and thus "invalid password") or cancel (and thus cancel the deletion of the backup).

3. What is it with the nice window and the impossibility of task switching?

Time machine looks nice, but perfectly worthless IMHO



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: aqsalter on Nov 18, '07 04:27:12PM

I doesn't seem to delete all backups, just the currently highlighted one, which makes it pretty useless in my opinion.
It should also be available via right click, not just gears icon.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: aqsalter on Nov 18, '07 05:38:01PM

Re: my previous comment...

Delete from all backups seems to work, it just takes a long time and there is no indication when it starts/finishes.

I did a "delete all" a while back, and nothing happened. Now it has been deleted from all backups... Yay?



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authentication issue
Authored by: ekerkhoff on Nov 27, '07 08:46:10PM

I had the same problem. Repairing the disk permissions on the boot volume fixed it.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: Jason Bourne on Nov 26, '08 07:59:16AM

I got that password prompt too and finally figured out how to enter the password. While this prompt is open in the Time Machine, click on the close icon (the red one) in the title of the topmost Finder window. This will close time machine but leave the prompt on the screen. You will be able to enter the password and delete operation will continue. Do not use Time Machine's "CANCEL" button, it will cancel deletion! Close Finder in the Time Machine, that's all :)



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: UberFu on Nov 21, '07 10:35:57AM

Yeah_ Thank you_ I usually have the ToolBar Folder View turned OFF [hide toolbar] for the most part_

And would have never guessed at that_

And I just gained access to a Drive given to me specifically for Backup purposes - since the Techs here - are confused when dealing with Macs_ So us Mac folk - demanded an upgrade to Leopard for this reason [Time Machine]_

To address a couple of the above posts - there is an option to DELETE BACKUP -- whihc deletes a Single Instance of a selection_ There is also an option to DELETE ALL BACKUPS OF "... which in turn will delete ALL Instances of a selection_


My inquiry into this whole thing: If I travel back to a previous Time Marker [ acouple of hours ago - yesterday] and I Delete ALL BACKUPS OF -- am I correct in assuming that this will ONLY Delete the Backups and NOT the files in the Present [so to speak] ??

As if I exirt Time Machine and am looking at the Desktop/Finder_



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: asmeurer on Nov 16, '08 10:52:37AM

Thanks for this hint. I forgot to turn off Time Machine after doing an Archive and Install. It ended up backing up the Previous Systems folder, which was about a hundred gigs of duplicate data, especially considering that stuff was already on my Time Machine backup.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: rastarman on Nov 25, '08 08:44:31AM

I have the toolbar showing; am running the latest update of Leopard including Security update 2008-7. I don't get "Delete Backup" or "Delete all instances of X." I get the standard "Move to Trash," with no additional options for multiple instances. Any ideas?

---
Woman are all looking for a man exactly like me . . . only not me.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: jkwalsh3 on Dec 08, '08 10:59:07AM

I found that following these instructions resulted in ALL of my backups being deleted. Perhaps there's a bug or unclear wording in Time Machine.
After starting Time Machine, and selecting the oldest backup folder, the Gears menu displayed "Delete All Backups of ‘2008-01-13-205847′". When I choose to continue, Time Machine displayed the dialog ‘Delete All Backups of ‘2008-01-13-205847′ with a progress bar, and removed EVERY backup on the system. The dialog always showed the January 13 date, but I could see outside of Time Machine that all backup folders were being removed one by one. Eventually every backup was deleted, except for the most recent.
We did some additional experimentation (on a different machine) and navigate to a sub-folder such as "Downloads" within a particular backup. When we choose "Delete Al Backups of ‘Dowloads'", Time Machine delete all Downloads folders from EVERY backup. This was the behavior that we expected, based on the message.
We found that it is safest to delete an old backup from Finder (outside of Time Machine), drag the folder to the Trash, and empty the Trash. When we went back into Time Machine after deleting the backup, the backup was no longer available as expected.

This behavior was noted with Leopard 10.5.5.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: Archiblog on Jun 25, '09 08:30:04AM

Thank you!

I just followed your instructions and it worked perfectly.

It would have taken me a while to discover how to delete an object from Time Machine without this hint.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: dkulp on Jan 14, '10 07:43:00AM

This is a very old thread, but I just want to interject that this is a bad hint! There is nothing special about the gear option when selecting time machine backup files. Notice that the same gear option is offered when choosing any file in any finder window when Time Machine is active. Time Machine is just too stupid to keep you from acting on its own backup files while in Time Machine.

Deleting the selected backup file from within Time Machine's Finder is almost certainly no different than deleting it from the normal Finder. And doing so could corrupt your backup archives since most backups are incremental.



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How to delete objects from Time Machine backups via Terminal
Authored by: porg on May 19, '10 11:20:01AM

Thanks that someone showed how to do this from within TimeMachine!
Meanwhile there is an official Apple Help article on the topic:
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.6/en/26863.html

As I don't know the structure of TimeMachine backups well enough -- is it really only plain filesystem based or some additional index/check files? -- I do not dare to delete items from it by other (external) methods, to afraid to corrupt the structure.

If someone nevertheless wants to use the Terminal to achieve this, use the instructions below, AT YOUR OWN RISK.

COMMAND:
rm /Volumes/YourTimeMachineVolume/Backups.backupdb/YourComputerName/*/path/to/object/

Explanation:
The asterisk "*" catches all possible folder-names, thus applies to all date-folders, which by the way use the format "YYYY-MM-DD-hhmmss".
"rm" deletes files only, and only if you have the permission to do so. Alternately you can use:
"rm -r" Delete files and folders, and only if you own them.
"sudo rm" Delete files only as the super user.
"sudo rm -r" Delete files and folders as the super user.

Be sure to escape every single whitespace in the filepath with a backslash! Surrounding your complete path with quotation marks will fail, as this will prevent shell globbing, meaning that the asterisk character in your filepath is considered literally and not treated as a wildcard character.

Example for a path with correctly escaped whitespaces:
sudo rm -r /Volumes/My\ Time\ Machine/Backups.backupdb/My\ Computer/*/path/to/dir/

REAL WORLD EXAMPLE:
rm -r /Volumes/sno-tm/Backups.backupdb/snmbp/*/sno/Users/sn/test/1/

My computer is called "snmbp", "sn" being my name initials, "mbp" abbreviating "Mac Book Pro".
My system drive is "sno".
My time machine backup is on a volume named "sno-tm".
In my home directory "/Users/sn/" I want to delete the folder "/test/1/" and all its contents, hence the "-r" (recursive) option.
I am using "rm -r" as I only want to delete files/folders, for which I have the permissions, and that is to be expected within my home directory.



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10.5: How to delete objects from Time Machine backups
Authored by: VEP on Mar 11, '13 03:24:41PM

HI guys! I have a problem, I can't seem to delete the Back up on my Time machine, the actual problem am having is that am getting an error message "unable to complete backup. An error occurred while creating the backup folder." Then I read in the instruction manual that one of the things to do is to erase the last back up and start a new back up, but I try and try to that and they won't erase, am not sure what am doing wrong, and there is sooo many different people asking questions above that I don't understand if am missing one of the steps, can some one explain it again for dummies, sorry! I have been trying for days and still no luck. I think I really don't understand Macs!



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