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I would like to know if I could selectively erase some backups, for example all backups of Folder X in the last 2 weeks, and still be assured the following (future) backups of this Folder X will be correct.

Could it be as simple as mounting the hard disk of the backup, go to the targeted folders and thrashing them ?

The objective is obviously to reclaim space.

I'm on an iMac 2019, Big Sur 11.3.1.

Edit: following some remarks, I looked again in the interface and I found a "delete backup" option, by right-clicking on a file or folder. What is strange is that there are inconsistencies. Sometimes the option disappears. Then comes back. I am quite confused. Maybe, just a temporary bug while TM updates its indexes.

And I'm also a little embarrassed to ask such a stupid question if the option is right under my eye. I've been using TM since 2007 and did not notice this feature.

Did anyone use it successfully ? Currently, I can't test it as I disabled TM while I'm working on my 300 GB library

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  • What actual problem are you trying to fix that this would be an entertained solution? Commented May 11, 2021 at 18:37
  • I have a big photos library (more than 300 GB) that have been backupped several times as I am enriching progressively the pics by metadata to prepare for a software transition. Also I might in the future change the creation dates and names. Last, I would like to keep my old backups (of non pics files), without buying another 2 TB SSD
    – Hugues
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 19:37
  • What version of macOS?
    – Gilby
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 22:52

2 Answers 2

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You can open Finder and select your backup disk. Find the backups in the time range and delete them (shown in the image below). This will delete those backups on disk. This will properly delete the backups - if you inspect system logs you will find it handling these as requests to delete a backup, rather than as requests to delete a folder.

I would recommend doing it one at a time to avoid overwhelming the backup disk.

Deleting a backup will not delete files that were added in that backup from other backups. Each backup can be viewed independently, as a snapshot of your disk at that time.

Select and Delete Backups

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  • I am pretty sure this does not work. See apple.stackexchange.com/questions/404564/…
    – Gilby
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 23:10
  • @Gilby I've done it before (I'm also using APFS backup disk) and it deletes them properly without any issue. Takes a little bit, but it clearly is doing the right thing since it shows an alert saying "Deleting backup" and everything.
    – Ezekiel
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 23:18
  • Great news. That is so much easier than using tmutil that I and others have tried.
    – Gilby
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 5:26
  • Would you know if it's possible to target only specific folders inside the backups ? And how it affects the subsequent backups ? For example, if a file was backupped in 2021-01-18-121051 and the backup deleted, will the file still be present in 2021-03-26. Or will the future backup cycle look for this file and backup it if it exists ?
    – Hugues
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 7:55
  • I edited the question with added remarks.
    – Hugues
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 8:19
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You could try excluding the folder from the backup, then waiting for the next backup, at which time the folder's contents should be deleted from the backup.

Then remove the exclusion.

Thats not quite what you're asking, but will have the same effect of reducing space from multiple copies of that folder.

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