During its "Cleanup" phase, Time Machine has recently been deleting backups from several months ago—even though these aren't the oldest backups, and my backup drive isn't full.

My backups go back to January 2012, yet just today, Time Machine deleted backups from May 21, June 11, July 2, and July 23 (all in 2012). And plus, my Time Machine drive still has 200 GB free.

Why's it doing this? Shouldn't it just either delete my backups from January 2012 first (if it needs the space), or just delete the expired backups in the past 24 hours or 30 days (based on its normal rules)?

1 Answer 1


According to Apple, Time Machine keeps backups

  • hourly for the current 24 hours
  • daily for the last month
  • weekly copy until the disk is full

You may be noticing the system deleting "extraneous days", pruning the weeks' worth of daily backups down to the weekly copy.

As long as you can still view the weekly copies in Time Machine, they are still there.

  • As I said, these were many months ago, so they shouldn't be pruned at all. The backups from the dates I mentioned no longer exist. They existed a few days ago, but they are gone now. I know that Time Machine deleted them because I looked in Console.app and saw it delete these backups, which it says contained about 5 GB of data each.
    – Gary
    Nov 6, 2012 at 20:05

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