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Time Machine (external hard drive) backed up some files in my Trash folder and I'd like them removed from my backup. I know how to normally remove backed up files from within Time Machine (right click a file and choose Delete Backup), but that method is not working for ~/Trash and ~/.trash in the backups.

How do I removed backed up files from the Trash in Time Machine?

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    What's that method that you mention and does not work? – Thecafremo May 30 '14 at 10:31
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    Thecafremo - Perhaps @CyberSkull alludes to the inability in Time Machine to manipulate the invisible Trash folders because the Finder UI is the only mechanism available to the user. – IconDaemon May 30 '14 at 11:29
  • I told the Finder to show hidden items, but it only shows the restore command for hidden items, delete is not listed. – CyberSkull May 30 '14 at 21:41
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Time Machine shouldn't be backing up the trash folder(s) under normal circumstances.

In any case, you might want to use Terminal command tmutil delete command to delete the offending files.

tmutil delete /Volumes/DISK/Backups.backupdb/HOST/DATE/Macintosh HD/.Trashes
  • I forgot tmutil even existed. It does report that my trash folder is excluded, though it also is undeniably also backed up. – CyberSkull May 30 '14 at 23:11
  • So ... does tmutil delete the erroneous Trash folder? Inquiring minds want to know. – IconDaemon May 30 '14 at 23:54
  • For the ultimate resolution to the problem, see my post. I'm still marking this as the "most correct" answer, as it provides a great deal of utility. – CyberSkull May 31 '14 at 2:20
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Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but Time Machine does not backup the Trash folder by default. Did you modify the exclusions property list to include these folders?

  • Whoever downvoted, an explanation as to why would be useful. Otherwise, it's just pure ignorance. – njboot May 30 '14 at 15:00
  • I'll up vote almost any relevant link to pondini on Time Machine, so +1 for me. – bmike May 30 '14 at 15:30
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    @bmike Thanks - that 74K reputation carries a lot of weight with it :). RIP James Pond - the definitive TM expert in my book. – njboot May 30 '14 at 16:09
  • @bmike not too get too off topic, are you over at Apple Support Communities as well? – njboot May 30 '14 at 16:10
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    I did answer a ton of questions on Apple's Discussions before this site spun up and before I worked for Apple. It looks like they've made it much better and often really good content is discovered / uncovered there over here, but I find it much more useful here due to community editing and the standards about not hijacking Q&A. – bmike May 30 '14 at 20:47
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The fix to the problem is… it fixed itself. Really. Between posting this problem and trying a solution I had disconnected my backup drive and put my laptop to sleep.

When I reconnected the backup drive later to try @icondaemon's solution, it turned out then that I couldn't find the files in the backup. I was very thorough in checking. Moreover, the Finder/Time Machine was now letting me delete backups of dot files and hidden flag files.

So I'm happy now that it's taken care of, but a bit tired and confused since there is no obvious solution.

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