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How Do I Delete a Folder From Time Machine Backups?

Thank you for the awesome video from 2018 explaining how to delete a file (and all its backups) from Time Machine (https://macmost.com/how-to-remove-all-copies-of-a-file-from-time-machine.html). I am running a 2013 Mac Pro with Big Sur and it seems that the method explained in the video is no longer supported. There is no option to delete file or folders from within Time Machine any more.

Do you know of another method (short of deleting the entire backup) of purging a file or folder from TM backups?

I wish to delete a folder of files for security. I have deleted them from my Mac Pro, but they still exist in my Time Machine backups.

Thanks for providing a wonder full service.

Geoff

Device: Mac Running Big Sur

App: System Preferences, Something Else
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Geoff Buttsworth

Comments: 20 Responses to “How Do I Delete a Folder From Time Machine Backups?”

    1 year ago

    It works the same way. Remember you have to go back in time before you can use it. And usually "now" and the one step back are the same. So go two steps back in time, at least, and then Control+click on the file or folder and you should have the option to delete it

    Geoff Buttsworth
    1 year ago

    Thank you for such a rapid response. Sadly, I don't see what you see. Control+clicking gives me a menu, but it only gives me options like 'Open', 'Restore', 'Get Info', etc. I have posted a screenshot here: https://imgur.com/48DlBVo

    1 year ago

    Geoff: That's what I see if I haven't "gone back in time" but at looking at the current file. Try going back in time to yesterday first, then Control+click.

    Geoff Buttsworth
    1 year ago

    Gary, thanks for persevering with this. My previous photo was "back in time" but I've gone back further to Oct 21st with no change in the options that Control+Click gives me. Another screenshot (taken today Oct 29) here: https://imgur.com/a/ElMxrot

    1 year ago

    Geoff: I don't know why that option isn't appearing for you. Did you try other files and folders? Is the folder present on your drive currently? If so, that could explain it. The idea would be that you delete the folder on your current drive, and then you are deleting tracing of it from the backup. It wouldn't make sense to delete it from the backup but just have it back up again right away.

    Geoff Buttsworth
    1 year ago

    Gary: The folder was deleted a day and a half ago now. It hasn't been replaced. I have tried several other files too. To check, I got out my M1 MacBook Pro (running Monterey (v 12.0.1) - the Mac Pro is currently running Big Sur, (v 11.6)), deleted a zip file that had been in my Downloads folder for a week, then "went back in time" with the same result - no option to delete the backup of the zip file. https://imgur.com/a/Gncr3Go Very curious!

    1 year ago

    Geoff: Yes, I'm at a loss. I don't know why it isn't working for you. This is not something that Apple removed from macOS because I see it.

    Geoff Buttsworth
    1 year ago

    After further consideration, given the main common factor between my two Macs and their Time Machine backups, I believe the issue could be a permissions thing on my Synology NAS, where the backups are hosted. I'll do some further research - thanks very much for your help. Geoff

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary, my 2019 iMac is at the Apple store for SSD & Memory module replacement. I plan to set up my Mac as new and not to restore from TM. (Advice from them) I use iCloud for my files etc. I was told by Apple support, should I need to restore a file I can drag & drop files from my external hard drives using finder and dragging & dropping the file from there. I know how to access this way but read on an older blog of yours that this method is not advisable as it could corrupt the external drive

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Hi, also I notice that using SSD as external drive will continue to back up when Mac sleeps (setting on for power nap) yet my HDD ext drive will not continue the backup until I log in again. One further ? can having 4 drives (2 SSD's used all the time in rotation, & 2 used twice weekly, only mounted twice weekly) in TM cause my Mac to wake from sleep searching for the drives not connected? I use 4 since my 2 HDD's are old and may fail, hence the 2 SSD's which are connected all the time. Thanks!

    7 months ago

    Kathy: Never used an external SSD to backup (too small, speed not needed) but an HDD should backup when your Mac is sleeping too. Perhaps the drive you are using is sleeping too, when it detects the Mac is asleep. Different drives do different things. Try changing the setting in System Preferences, Energy Saver if nothing else works.
    As for swapping drives, many people do that. It doesn't "look for" the drive or anything like that. It just backs up to the one you have connected.

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Thanks Gary, what about my question about using finder to recover a file from a mounted external drive used with TM as I have been advised by Apple? They suggested I use this method and I wonder if in your experience this could be a problem (ie: corruption of drive).

    7 months ago

    Kathy: Not sure what you mean. If you have the file on the Time Machine drive, then sure, recover it from there.

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary, Sorry, I didn’t explain myself very clearly. I see two ways to recover files from time machine (TM) one by Syst pref-TM-enter TM. The other way I see is while the external drive is mounted, in finder-select the ext drive-select the appropriate date for the backup-users-documents…and recover the file by dragging & dropping to the desktop from there. Is the second method acceptable or could that cause drive corruption? Thanks for everything Gary. I really appreciate your expertise. K

    7 months ago

    Kathy: You should use the first method. Though it is easier to open the drive in Finder and there is a special button that appears at the top of a the Finder window for "Enter Time Machine." Easy to miss. The second method won't corrupt the Time Machine backup though if all you are doing is copying files FROM the drive. Where people mess up there is altering anything on the drive itself, like deleting files and such.

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary, thank you for clearing this up for me. So very much appreciated. I look forward to your videos and wonderful tips. K

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary, one other question if you don’t mind. Once a HDD or SSD (external) are formatted as APFS with no manufacturer software installed on my iMac, is there any ‘software' inside the hard drive that could potentially cause problems ie: Mac waking from sleep &/or kernel panic? I am concerned that when I get my 2019 Mac back with new memory module & SSD that my problem could reappear if it’s ext hard drive related…any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks K

    7 months ago

    Kathy: Technically, a drive could do something like that (wake from sleep). But I doubt it. If there is a problem, just try it with and without the drive to see if the drive is the culprit.

    Kathy
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary, I will do that, thank you. I hope that if the drive turns out to be the culprit that I don’t cause any permanent damage to the Mac. Previously I would get a dialogue that 'Mac shut down because of a problem' on restart, that would not go away unless the Mac was erased & OS reinstalled. Been going through this since Jan. It’s been so discouraging. Engineers (through logs) decided to replace memory & SSD. I’m at a loss🥺

    Mike
    7 months ago

    Follow these steps to delete Time Machine backup:

    1. Connect your external backup drive to your Mac.
    2. Launch or Enter the Time Machine.
    3. Use the timeline on the right of the screen to navigate to the backup date you want to delete.
    4. After selecting the date or file you want to delete, click the ellipsis button in Finder and choose to either Delete Backup or Delete All Backups.
    5. Confirm you want to delete the backup, then enter your Mac administrator’s password.

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