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I bought an external drive several months ago but I haven't used it heavily until now. I discovered today that I forgot to exclude it from Time Machine, and so when I started adding tons of files to it today Time Machine complained that it didn't have enough space to back up.

I excluded the external drive, and it still won't backup. When I look in the Backup.backupdb file, I can see the folder for the external drive, but I can't remove it.

How can I recover that space so it can back up my main drive again?

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I got an answer from an on-line friend.

The procedure varies with different versions of macOS but it should be something like this:

There's a little gear icon you can have visible in Finder windows. You need this. So if you have customised the toolbar to remove it, put it back in. You also need the Time Machine icon in your menu bar, and to connect your backup drive if it's not already connected.

Open a Finder window and pilot your way to a view which shows the volume you want to remove.

Use the Time Machine menu bar icon --> Enter Time Machine

In that Finder Window highlight the volume / files you want to remove.

From the gear icon at the top of that window choose "Delete all backups"

I did that and now instead of 294.41GB available on my TimeMachine drive, I have 3.74TB.

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  • This doesn't seem to be an option on Big Sur
    – Cai
    Jan 14 at 6:19

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