Okay, so somehow a computer I'm helping to manage has got a total of three .inprogress backups on its Time Machine drive that it doesn't seem to be able to tidy up; it's creating new backups without any issue, it just gets stuck on the finishing stage, presumably trying to get rid of the in progress files.

On Lion or later I would just use tmutil delete to get rid of this safely, however Snow Leopard doesn't have this.

I don't want to use the bypass utility with the rm command as I believe that will destroy the contents of hard-linked folders, resulting in other backups becoming incomplete if they had links to the same folder(s).

Is it safe to delete a Time Machine backup using Snow Leopard's Finder, or is there some other alternative I could try? Will tmutil's delete command run if I transfer tmutil from a Mountain Lion machine? I know it won't be able to trigger backups etc. since backupd won't support it, but can the delete command still work on Snow Leopard?

  • 1
    You're right about rm, by the way.
    – nschum
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 10:24

1 Answer 1


After trying various techniques the only solution I've found is to connect the Time Machine volume to a machine with a newer version of OS X and run tmutil from the command line, I believe any version from Lion onwards should have this. The command to run is as follows:

tmutil delete '/Volumes/<time_machine_volume>/Backups.backupdb/<computer_name>/<backup>'

Replacing the parts in angle brackets with the correct values or, if you have the backup visible in the Finder, simply type the tmutil delete part in the Terminal then drag the folder onto the Terminal window to enter the path automatically.

Once this has completed, you can simply eject the volume and reconnect it to the Snow Leopard machine, which should just pick up where it left off (though it may re-index the drive during the next backup). This is okay to do so long as you don't do anything else with the drive that could introduce any incompatibilities with Snow Leopard (such as backing up with the Lion onwards machine onto that drive).

I can't help but think that there should be a way to do this by taking advantage of in inodes to locate the parts of the backup that actually need to be removed (i.e - any folder or file where the inode number doesn't match the corresponding entry, if it exists, in the previous backup). I've used this before to quickly print a list of changes between two Time Machine backups, but there's still no way that I know of to delete the other (hard linked) directories.

  • You should flag this as the solution so this question can be closed. ;)
    – CyberSkull
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 11:35
  • Okay then, I've tried to give a better description of the "fix'. As I mention, I still can't help but think there should be a way to do this, but I can't figure out a way to simply unlink a hard-linked folder, otherwise a find command that compares inode numbers could probably do this.
    – Haravikk
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 13:19
  • 1
    You should only manipulate through tmutil. There are database/index files that get updated when you delete an item (or backup) as well.
    – CyberSkull
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:06

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