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Is there a way to remove some of the absurdly old back ups from my time machine so I can continue using the disk that is now too full?

Or is this even the best idea?

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I'm not sure you need to delete old backups (although maybe it depends on what you mean by saying the the disk is "too full"). Time Machine is designed to fill up the drive with backups and then start deleting old backups once it is full.

This Apple support page says:

Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups until your backup drive is full.

Time Machine may prompt you when the disk is full to say that it is starting to clear down old backups but this is really to inform you that old data is being deleted rather than an error.

According to the page linked above, it is also possible to delete all the backups of a particular file or files from the Time Machine interface by right-clicking on them and choosing "Delete All Backups of..." from the context menu. This information is in the section right at the end of the page.

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mine has just stopped backing up, citing 'not enough space' as the issue. – Mild Fuzz May 4 '11 at 10:22
Oh. Ok. Have you looked in the logs in the Console application to find out a bit more information? Does it say anything useful? Open up Console (in /Applications/Utilities) and search for 'backup'. How big are the drives you have? – Mike Meyers May 4 '11 at 10:44
backup drive - 500gb, main drive - 450gb (it has a partition that is not backed up) – Mild Fuzz May 4 '11 at 10:53

You could just search your time machine disk for the files which take up the most space using a tool like DaisyDisk for example. If you don't need this files any more, you may remove this files from the backup using the time machine utility. Just right-click and "Delete all backups of..."

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