Delete Time Machine backups

4 mins read

Time Machine is a highly potent and useful tool available to Mac users. It can effortlessly create system backups that can be a lifesaver in a myriad of different situations. It can assist users in addressing a serious macOS issue by restoring to a previous point in time, recovering from a malware attack, restoring past data, or simply retrieving files that were mistakenly deleted. However, backups created by Time Machine consume space on the drive, and to free up space, users may need to efficiently delete them.

Removing Time Machine Backups via the Application

  1. Connect the backup drive to your Mac.
  2. Launch Time Machine from the Finder menu bar.
  3. Navigate to the point in time from which you wish to start deleting backups.
  4. Once you’ve identified the backup you want to delete, right-click on the Finder window or click on the gear icon in the Finder window’s toolbar.
  5. From the available options, select “Delete all backups of…”
  6. Enter your administrator account credentials.

Deleting Time Machine Backups via Terminal

Although Terminal may appear intimidating at first glance, it remains one of the most powerful tools on a Mac. Terminal can often perform the same tasks in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.

  1. Go to the Applications folder, then “Utilities,” and launch Terminal.
  2. Type the tmutil command in the Terminal window to view a list of all backups sorted by date.
  3. Now, to delete a specific backup you’ve chosen, type sudo tmutil delete followed by the path of the selected backup displayed in the list. An example of such a path is /Volumes/TimeMachine/Backups.backupdb/MacintoshHD/YYYY-MM-DD-HHMMSS/
  4. Press the Enter key on your keyboard to delete the selected backup.

Getting Rid of Time Machine Snapshots

If Time Machine is unable to reach the dedicated backup drive, it resorts to creating a snapshot. The created snapshot is saved on the startup drive and is set to be automatically deleted the next time Time Machine establishes a connection with the backup drive or after a specific period has passed. Additionally, the snapshot should not be created if there is less than 20% free space on the drive. However, sometimes the system may not function correctly, causing the snapshot to remain on the drive and occupy unnecessary space. Users can delete them using the same tmutil command in Terminal.

  1. Launch Terminal.
  2. Type tmutil listlocalsnapshots / and press Enter.
  3. You will see a list of snapshots.
  4. To delete a chosen snapshot, type sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshots followed by the specific date. An example could be “sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshots 2021-07-15-002015
  5. If you see a message confirming the deletion of the local snapshot “2021-07-15-002015,” it means the snapshot has been successfully removed.

Users may also want to prevent their Macs from creating snapshots. To do this, type the sudo tmutil disablelocal command in Terminal and press Enter on the keyboard.

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