Is it just delete all the folders in the Time Machine drive ?

I am about to leave my current company and want to follow the policy to wipe everything related to IP (e.g., code)

Time Machine was enabled in the past for faster backup locally than some cloud providers.

  • There are quite litteraly thousands of files, often per-folder. Deleting the files that way can be slow. If there's nothing else on the drive I would format it. Quicker, less annoying. Commented May 16, 2020 at 20:23
  • Are you trying to maintain some of the backup files and erase some or can the entire drive be written off?
    – bmike
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 21:01
  • 1
    @bmike I used it in the past for local backup because it's obvious much faster. And I am happy to wipe it. I do want to keep several personal legal documents (in PDF)
    – samxiao
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 21:07
  • You are totally in luck. This is the best scenario for you and for your employer. Easy to wipe and confirm. I’ll link to a lot of items, but tldr, copy off and then erase the drive.
    – bmike
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 21:25
  • @xbeta If you want the quick way of selectively deleting content in TimeMachine, I believe your only option is to enter your TimeMachine backup, find the content you wish to delete, then right click the content and select "Delete All Backups Of ...".
    – Anil
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


In the case where you can copy off any non-work related items, it’s thousands to millions of times faster to copy off any data that should remain and then partition and erase the drive entirely.

Lots of technical info below is why an erase is easier and options if you have to surgically remove some data and it’s worth the pain to learn and perform the surgery. It is possible to do.

Automating deleting all instances of one file is a very difficult process as would even be copying off all versions of one file if it changes often. Let alone finding files that were backed up and now deleted.

Deleting a single backup instance is reasonably easy to automate but takes a long time since each file is hard linked to other identical copies and chaining these files together and keeping track of how many copies of each file was backed up has lots of overhead and save operations to the filesystem.

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    Next time don't put company op on your machine. If they require ip ask them to provide the machine. Similarly don't put your data on a company machine as they are allowed to read all that.
    – mmmmmm
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 21:19
  • @user151019 I find a more nuanced policy is needed these days. On occasion you can afford one computer for unclassified data, another for classified data as we did in the military, but people just don’t work that way even in the 70s through the 90s this was a pain. This is a people problem that technology can’t solve but we can take reasonable efforts to destroy data properly when we no longer should have access to it. I like to segment high risk data and not be so black and white when I design systems and policies to balance cost and reasonable expectations for people.
    – bmike
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 21:24
  • Also, this seems more like OP used a personal drive to be sure they were covered and didn’t lose work. Pretty good thinking and that’s someone I would consider a pro being conscientious about data backup and now to learn how to erase things properly.
    – bmike
    Commented May 16, 2020 at 21:29

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