Deleting old time machine backups?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by happle, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. happle macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2010
    im buying a new top of the line 15" macbook pro within the next two weeks but i have a couple concerns regarding time machine.

    1. how do i delete old backups to free up space without deleting any files that are on my computer now and the latest backup? for some reason i have a feeling deleting old backups will delete files that are on my most recent backup.

    2. once i delete all my old backups and have just one current one, will i be able to copy all of my applications over without a problem, or should i just reinstall everything from scratch? im kind of thinking i might just copy my music, videos, photos, samples, etc over but do a fresh install of all apps, so that everything starts fresh.

    thanks for the input. and sorry for all my threads lately, i just like to have all my **** together before i get the new mbp so i dont make any mistakes.
  2. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    I don't think it's necessary to free up space on your backup disc before you migrate. It should only copy the current content over to your new machine.

    You can delete the whole backup disc and just do a new backup. That's the easiest way to get rid of all the "history".

    PS: Did you buy a laptop cooler? (sorry!)
  3. DockMac macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2008
    to delete old backups:

    1) If you don't have it in the dock already, drag the Time Machine App from the Applications folder into the Dock.
    2) Right Click on the Time Machine App in the Dock.
    3) Choose "Browse Other Time Machine Disks" and choose your backup.
    4) You should now be in Time Machine.
    5) Go all the way back to the oldest backup.
    6) Click on your computer in the Sidebar
    7) Click on the "Gear" icon in the finder window, select "Delete Backup"
    8) Wait, wait, wait. It takes sometime to delete.
    9) Repeat with each of the older backups.

    WARNING: Do not delete old backups through the regular Finder Window. Do it through Time Machine.
  4. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    You can accomplish the same thing by turning off Time Machine then going to the Finder and deleting the sparse bundle file I have indicated (for my Macbook in this example) then turning Time Machine back on. Doing it this way from the Finder won't hurt a thing.

  5. Badrottie Suspended


    May 8, 2011
    Los Angeles
    And can I delete Time Machine backup when I had Snow Leopard 10.6.8 during backup and now I have Lion 10.7.2 ™ still back up as well.
  6. iThinkergoiMac macrumors 68030

    Jan 20, 2010
    How is this necessary to deleting old backups? There's no need to insert your personal preference into steps to accomplish a certain task.
  7. DockMac macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2008
    This is not a personal preference. AFAIK, it's the only way to get this done. If you know of another way to access the Dock Menu of Time Machine, I am all ears/eyes.

    You can't access the menu from the Menu Bar Time Machine Icon. You can't access the menu from the Application itself in the App folder.

    The ONLY way to reach the "Browse Other Time Machine Disks" is through the Dock Menu. The ONLY way to acces the Dock Menu is to have Time Machine in the Dock. The ONLY way to get Time Machine in the Dock is to drag it there, if you don't already have it there.

    (Granted you can do some terminal and plist stuff, but that goes beyond the scope of the OP. Granted, if the OP only has one TM backup on the HD, they can just go straight into Time Machine.)
  8. iThinkergoiMac macrumors 68030

    Jan 20, 2010
    My bad, I definitely read those steps but I somehow missed the part about the Dock menu.
  9. happle thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2010
    it is necessary to free up space when my backup drive has only 4gb left and i plan on putting more stuff on it...
  10. DockMac macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2008
    if you are continuing a backup, i don't think there is a need to delete the old stuff. TM should delete the old stuff automatically.

    if you are using the disk for something else, then you may need to manually delete.

    TM will let you know if you are out of disk space to backup. if this is the case, you will need to delete backups as mentioned above.
  11. xchaotic macrumors member

    Jan 14, 2008
    I was just goin to say - if it's current machine, then you'd just enter the Time Machine, right?
  12. Komodo9 macrumors newbie

    Jun 28, 2012
    Click on the Time Machine icon in the status bar at the top of your screen.

    Hold down Alt/Opt on your keyboard.

  13. MacCatz macrumors newbie

    Aug 20, 2012
    But what if....

    Thank you for the very informative instructions.

    Now I hope you can help me with my blunder...

    BEFORE I read how to properly delete backups, I deleted backups using finder. Now they are forever stuck in my TRASH and I am unable to remove them from the TRASH no matter what method I try (even secure empty).

    Now, if I undock my backup drive, the items in the TRASH disappear. Therefore, they are still "linked" to my external backup drive, but I cannot delete them or move them back to the drive in order to delete them properly.

  14. okbyus macrumors newbie


    Apr 25, 2017
    Hi, I did exactly what I wasn't supposed to. So....I looked at this solution to delete the backup files that are now in the Trash, but I am NOT confident I can do this without screwing something up really badly. Is there an easier/safer method for non-geeks?

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