Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I use a Time Capsule for backup and now I want the drive to back up data from an extra Mac. But the drive is filled up with old backups from Mac 1. There simply is not enough space available for the backup for Mac 2.

I get this error message when running Time Machine backup:

Time Machine could not complete the backup. This backup is too large for the backup disk. The backup requires 28.68 GB but only 626.2 MB are available.

Time Machine needs work space on the backup disk, in addition to the space required to store backups. Open Time Machine preferences to select a larger backup disk or make the backup smaller by excluding files.

I know Time Machine itself is able to remove old backups when it needs more space. But in this case it does not remove any Mac 1 backups to make space for Mac 2.

Question is, how do I do it manually?

share|improve this question
2  
Given how cheap external drives are, I would be tempted to buy one and use it for your extra machine. I prefer the Elements: amazon.com/Western-Digital-Elements-External-WDBAAU0010HBK-NESN/… –  james.garriss Feb 5 '12 at 11:57
    
@james.garriss good point :) However, i still have to swap drives in my time capsule:) –  Jesper Rønn-Jensen Feb 5 '12 at 15:45
    
Anyone knows if there is a way (without writing a script) to ask TM to only keep 1 backup a month for backup older that 1 year old? –  gamov Sep 27 '12 at 9:13
    
for way more information: pondini.org/TM/C4.html –  Cawas Oct 24 '12 at 1:29
    
Can't you make 2 different partitions on you TM disk and choose a different partition for each mac? –  Rabskatran May 27 '13 at 9:18

7 Answers 7

Be careful with sudo and making sure you pick the correct Mac's files since there is no undo or confirmation of the following command:

sudo tmutil delete /Volumes/drive_name/Backups.backupdb/old_mac_name

The sudo command needs your password (and it won't echo to the screen, so just type it and pause to be sure you're dating the correct files before pressing enter). If you want to be safer, you can pick one snapshot to delete first to be sure the command works as intended. This is nice since it could take hours to clean up some larger backup sets and you want to leave the Mac confident it's deleting the correct information store.

You can use the tmutil tool to delete backups one by one.

sudo tmutil delete /Volumes/drive_name/Backups.backupdb/mac_name/YYYY-MM-DD-hhmmss

Since tmutil was introduced with Lion, this will not work on earlier OS version.

share|improve this answer
2  
Worked like a charm. I had old backups that were huge and disconnected from the original time machine set because of hard drive changes. I couldn't delete them with sudo rm (which is wacky), but this did the trick. Thanks! –  David Pisoni Aug 29 '12 at 1:59
    
I have a problem where my Mac name is the same but when I got a new hard drive it has a new name, and so I have two different directories in each timestamped folder, and I'd like to delete only the backups from my old hard drive, and not the new one. Is this possible? I tried using the path of `/Volumes/volume_name/Backups.backupdb/mac_name/YYYY-MM-DD-hhmmss/old_volume_nam‌​e' with tmutil delete but an error of "Invalid deletion target. (error 64)" Any thoughts on how to delete those backups? –  Mikey P Sep 30 '12 at 19:57
    
# man tmutil No manual entry for tmutil # tmutil -bash: tmutil: command not found So where is this tmutil command? Do I need something newer than Snow Leopard to get it? –  Jan Steinman Nov 1 '12 at 19:38
1  
@JanSteinman It's Lion and newer, sorry. –  bmike Nov 1 '12 at 19:45
1  
@drfrogsplat yes, but when working with old backups it's common for the original mac to be dead. In my case I'm trying to free up space on my backup drive so I can use it to backup a new mac. –  Abhi Beckert Nov 20 '13 at 21:32

The easiest way is to:

  1. Enter time machine (on the Mac whose backup you want to delete)
  2. Go to the point in time you want to delete
  3. Select the icon that looks like a cog in the finder and choose 'Delete Backup' (in Mavericks: Right click in the finder window and choose 'Delete Backup')

This ensures the backup catalog remains accurate and the integrity of your data stays intact.

share|improve this answer
1  
@drfrogsplat is very correct that using the GUI that Apple provides is the best way (works on all versions) to delete a backup and is less prone to error since there are multiple visual feedback (if you look carefully) and a check before you enter your password to be sure you are aware the deletion is permanent. –  bmike Nov 2 '12 at 3:25
    
I dont see a delete backup item on mavericks in the cog menu –  brainray Jan 25 at 12:34
    
@brainray I posted answer for mavericks –  Inder Kumar Rathore Feb 2 at 15:58

bash script:

COMPUTER_NAME=$(/usr/sbin/scutil --get ComputerName)
NBACKUPS=$(/usr/bin/tmutil listbackups |
  /usr/bin/grep "$COMPUTER_NAME" |
  /usr/bin/wc -l)
OLDEST_BACKUP=$(/usr/bin/tmutil listbackups |
  /usr/bin/grep "$COMPUTER_NAME" |
  /usr/bin/head -n1)
LATEST_BACKUP=$(/usr/bin/tmutil latestbackup)
echo Latest backup: $LATEST_BACKUP
if [[ -n "$LATEST_BACKUP" && "$LATEST_BACKUP" != "$OLDEST_BACKUP" ]]
then
 echo -n "$NBACKUPS backups. Delete oldest: ${OLDEST_BACKUP##*/} [y/N]? "
read answer
 case $answer in
  y*)
echo Running: /usr/bin/sudo /usr/bin/tmutil delete "$OLDEST_BACKUP"
/usr/bin/sudo time /usr/bin/tmutil delete "$OLDEST_BACKUP"
;;
*)
 echo No change
 ;;
 esac
 else
 echo "No backup available for deletion"
 fi
share|improve this answer

For Mavericks

  1. Enter time machine
  2. Select the backup
  3. Right click on the backup (on the finder window)
  4. Select 'Delete Backup'

It will ask the password and you are done

share|improve this answer
    
Right click on the backup: where? –  brainray Feb 3 at 14:50
    
You will be shown a finder window right click in the middle of the window and you will be shown a list of options –  Inder Kumar Rathore Feb 3 at 17:28
2  
It's worth noting that Time Machine will not perform the deletions and not ask for your password until you exit Time Machine. And the procedure to exit Time Machine after selecting files and folders for deletion is also not obvious: you have to click cancel in the lower left hand corner. (Apparently, the thing you are "canceling" is restoration of files; deletions are apparently not considered canceled when you do this.) –  mhucka Jun 20 at 17:48

If Time Machine is really only backing up differences, deleting in reverse order is not what you want. Plus given that each delete can take some time, having a script that will delete the next one when the current one completes would be nice.

Following user36971's sample script above, I've written up one that'll delete all backups from the one specified and earlier:

if [ -z "$1" ]
then
    echo "must specify backup id: YYYY-MM-DD-HHMMSS"
    return 1
fi

FOUND_BACKUP=0;
BACKUPS=""
while read line; do
    if [[ "${line}" == *$1* ]]
    then
        FOUND_BACKUP=1;
    fi

    if [ "${FOUND_BACKUP}" == "1" ]
    then
        BACKUPS+="${line}"$'\n'
    fi
done < <(/usr/bin/tmutil listbackups | tail -r)

echo -n "Delete above backups? [y/N]? "
read answer
case $answer in
    y*)
        while read line; do
            if [ -n "${line}" ]
            then
                echo Running: /usr/bin/sudo /usr/bin/tmutil delete "${line}"
                /usr/bin/sudo time /usr/bin/tmutil delete "${line}"
            fi
        done < <(echo "${BACKUPS}")
        ;;
    *)
        echo No change
        ;;
esac

Do note I did not include the computer name check in my script, so if you're sharing one backup drive with multiple computers, you may need to add an additional check.

share|improve this answer
    
TM only backups the delta with each run, but keeps a full copy per run on the backup disk. For files not changed between runs (this means most of them), just a new directory entry is added. This could mean that if you only have small deltas between runs, you may have to delete a lot of backups before you notice a significant increase in free space. –  patrix Sep 9 '13 at 11:19

just open up a terminal,

#sudo tmutil disablelocal

this should free up space without deleting TM backups

share|improve this answer
1  
This will disable local Time Machine snapshots from an internal drive - not what the OP is asking about. –  Scot Feb 20 '13 at 17:45
    
Yes - this only frees space on the Mac boot volume - not on the destination. Useful, but needs to be on a different question IMO. –  bmike Apr 7 '13 at 23:18

Here is step-by-step what I did to delete my old backup

  1. Open Time Machine Disk
  2. Locate and open the folder Backups.backupdb
  3. Go to view by date and choose oldest on top
  4. Select the backup you want to delete
  5. Open Teminal and type sudo rm -rvf
  6. Drag and drop the old folders you want to delete in the Terminal Window
  7. Enter you user password at the prompt

Go take a coffee or watch a movie, when the process is done you may have to repeat it again for some folders that don't want to delete.

When all your old folders are gone, Time Machine needs to update its database. Here is a way to force Time Machine to update.

  1. Enter Time Machine and go to the oldest Backup which is still listed
  2. Select it and click on the little gear and then choose Delete Backup
  3. Enter your password and wait a few minutes
  4. Quit Time Machine interface and come back again. Now you should have your Time Machine listing the correct backup.
share|improve this answer
7  
Do not do this. Time Machine uses a complex linking system. You may break your backups. See pondini.org/TM/Home.html –  Harv Aug 18 '12 at 20:33

protected by Community Feb 3 at 18:29

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.