I was trying to delete some old Time Machine backups from my backup drive. I am running into a few issues.

  1. I tried the method outlined in this article of simply moving them to the trash. After I moved old backup folders to the trash, I tried deleting them from the trash, but got the following error:

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  1. I clicked "Get Info" and tried to set permissions for everyone from "Read Only" to "Read and Write." However, when trying to delete the folders I get the same issue.

  2. I tried writing rm -rf '/Volumes/MacBook Pro Backup/.Trashes/501/2020-07-03-051423' in the terminal, but I get permission denied issues for all files in the folder. I am afraid to use sudo in front of the command in case this is not the correct way to delete the backups.

  3. I tried finding the "Put back" option when right clicking the backup folder to put the backups back into the original location, but the option was not there.

  4. I tried dragging and dropping the folders from the trash to the original backup location, but I get the following error:

enter image description here

Is there any way I can restore the old backups or remove them completely, without having to format my TM drive?

1 Answer 1


I fixed this by using tmutil delete.

First, I changed directory into where all the trashed backups were being kept:

cd /Volumes/MacBook\ Pro\ Backup/.Trashes/501

Then, I checked all the files in the directory to make sure I knew what I was deleting. This showed me a list of folders named by date:

sudo ls

Afterwards, I was able to use tmutil delete to delete all the backups:

sudo tmutil delete *

From now on, whenever I want to delete old backups, I will use tmutil delete on the backup folder.

  • Really, the correct way to delete backups is "don't". Time Machine is perfectly capable of managing the backup drive on its own. Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 15:56
  • @MarcWilson Definitely, this would be my ideal scenario, but situations like these sometimes arrive, so I'm not quite sure one can claim that it's "perfectly capable of managing it on it's own" :P
    – Oion Akif
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 20:53

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