I have a slightly flaky old disk which was once used with Time Machine on an old Mac. Since Time Machine is no longer part of my workflow, I'd like to just access this disk like any other HDD. Currently, when I try to delete files I receive the message "The operation can’t be completed because backup items can’t be modified."

Edit: I tried using tmutil associatedisk, but I don't see any old versions when I "Enter Time Machine".

  • What version of macOS are you using? Also, I'm not clear from your question what you're actually trying to do. You first state that you're trying to delete things, but later worried that you might overwrite items. Are you trying to restore anything from the backup? Is the Time Machine backup the only thing on the disk? – tubedogg Oct 13 '16 at 16:55
  • Version 10.11.6. I have slowly copied most backup files from my old disk. What I'd like to do now is re-home them on my new machine, and as I do so, delete files from the old disk so that I can see what is left and start to diff the backups. It's difficult enough to use the disk because it is slow and I'm concerned about breaking it, but this is made worse by not being able to manipulate files in Terminal. – Ben Parsons Oct 13 '16 at 17:04

There is a command named bypass that should allow you do remove Time Machine related files. This command should precede the rm command.

The path to the bypass command is given below.


An example is given below.

/System/Library/Extensions/TMSafetyNet.kext/Contents/Helpers/bypass rm -f /path/to/file/name

There also a service written by a third party that allows you do execute the bypass/rm commands from the Finder application. If interested, I could provide a link.

  • Fantastic, this is exactly what I needed. Seems I still need to "sudo rm", in case anyone else finds this. – Ben Parsons Oct 14 '16 at 14:58
  • @Ben: Actually, feel free to edit my answer correct any mistakes I may have made. – David Anderson Oct 14 '16 at 15:13
  • sure - actually I don't know if it's a mistake, or something unique about the permissions situation I have, anyway bypass is just what I wanted so thanks! – Ben Parsons Oct 14 '16 at 15:21

I would just Partition/Erase the disk.

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