I use Time Machine on an external drive to back up my files. The external drive was getting close to be being full so I moved all the backed up file folders to my Recycle Bin (Trash) on my Desktop to permanently delete them. When I go try and empty the trash though it is taking forever because there's so many files in there now. Does anyone know if there is a quicker way around this - a way to delete these files and get them out of the trash without it taking hours or days? Thank you!

  • That was not the correct way to delete backups. It's difficult to remove those files from trash..I've done it but i forgot how.
    – Natsfan
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


If the drive is getting close to be being full, TM will free the space automatically.

You can empty the Trash (delete the files) much faster with Terminal command

rm -rf ~/.Trash/*

However, you will probably corrupt your entire backup by deleting specific TM snapshots (folders with datetime in the name). Learn how TM is actually storing the data on the drive (hint: symlinks).

  • 1
    It's actually hardlinks, not symlinks. Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 22:05
  • Thanks I just tried that and I entered that command in the terminal and it asked if I was sure I wanted to empty the trash and I answered yes and then it said this: zsh: no matches found: /Users/(comp name)/.Trash/*
    – nycmac
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 3:07
  • @nycmac the trashed backups reside in /Volumes/Your Backup Disk/.Trashes/YourUserID/. Deleting them via this method will corrupt your backup drive. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 21:44
  • @At0mic I moved the backup files into my Trash on my desktop, that is where they are now. I understand this was not the way to delete them and it should have been done differently. Do you have any ideas for how I can delete them in an efficient way now that they have been moved into the trash on my desktop? Thank you.
    – nycmac
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 23:32
  • @nycmac There's no "Desktop Trash" only the trash icon in the dock, which is really just a way for finder to automatically put the trashed files into the appropriate trash folder, whether that's your home folder's trash folder or a drive's trash folder. If you delete a file on a different drive, then it goes into the drive's trash folder. Otherwise, it would take a long time to wastefully copy everything to your internal drive's trash folder. When you click on the trash icon, it's not a single folder housing all trashed files, it's a collection of all the trash folders on all drives. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 5:59

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