How To Remove All Copies Of a File From Time Machine

If you want to permanently delete files from your Mac and your Time Machine backups, you must use a special function in Time Machine to remove all of the versions of that file. After deleting the current file on your drive, you need to Enter Time Machine, look back to a time where that file existed, and then select the file to delete it from all backups.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: How To Remove All Copies Of a File From Time Machine.

So let's say you're in a situation where you want to delete a file but not just the file itself.But all the backups of that file. For instance say I have a file here and maybe somebody gave me their credit card information because they wanted me to help them with an online purchase. Now it's a few days later and I realize, you know what, I should get rid of that file. So I do.

I select it and drag it to the trash and I empty the trash. Now it's gone. But wait a minute. My backups. I've got Time Machine backups running so I have copies of that file in Time Machine. Multiple ones going back a couple days possibly. So I want to make sure that file is really gone and off of my backups as well.

Well, here's how you do that. You want enter Time Machine and you want do it normally like you're going to restore that file. So that file is now missing from this Doc's folder. I want to restore it or at least go in that same direction. I've got that folder open. Now when I go to Time Machine and enter Time Machine it's going to show me that folder. You see how things look today. You can see here it says today, right now.

Now I want to go back in time. So I'm going to go one back in time, another back, and keep going back until I find that file. Actually it was there, there it is, just not in the same position. But that's the file there. Test.txt. That's the one I want to get rid of. So what do I do now?

Well, there are several different ways to access some special functions of Time Machine. One is to Control click on it and you get them here. Another is with that selected you click the little gear icon here and you can see them. I can click, for instance, Delete Backup, and it will delete that one backup of the file. So on this specific date, you can see this says today at an earlier time, and I can get rid of that one backup.

But in this case I want to delete all backups of that file. So I'll delete all the backups, and it will ask me if I'm sure I want to do this, and then it will have me authenticate as well. Now it's gone. It's deleted that backup and all the backups of that same file. So the file is now completely gone. I can cancel now and get out of Time Machine. I don't have a copy of that currently on my drive and I don't have a copy of that file on my Time Machine drive either.

Comments: 6 Responses to “How To Remove All Copies Of a File From Time Machine”

    Marsha Avery
    10 months ago

    I had photos duplicate tons of pictures. Does this procedure work to elimate duplicate photos?

    10 months ago

    Marsha: No, this has nothing to do with duplicate photos. This is about backups. To deal with duplicate photos you’d need to first figure out why that is happening (so as not to repeat the problem) and then work to remove the duplicates. Doing so depends on whether you are talking about picture files, your Photos app, something else, etc.

    John Carter
    10 months ago

    Let’s say you get an email from someone that carried a virus in an attachment. If you delete the email using this method well it also delete the attachment let’s say you get an email from someone that carried a virus in an attachment. If you delete the email using this method, then will it also delete the attachment that will be in a different folder?

    10 months ago

    John: I’m confused about that you are asking. So you get some malware as an attachment to an email. First, that would almost be impossible unless you were using old ISP email or an unsecured Corp server or something. But you wouldn’t save the file, right? And deleting an email is within mail and related to your email server, not usually your files.
    Bottom line is just delete the email and move on. This technique here doesn’t apply.

    Dr Ashish Jain
    10 months ago

    There is no time machine Icon on my menu ….how do I get this ?

    10 months ago

    Ashish: System Preferences, Time Machine. Check the box Show Time Machine In Menu Bar.

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