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  1. #1
    Question Deleting Time Machine backups
    I have a 2016 13 inch MBP running Mojave with everything up to date. Use Time Machine to back up to an external HD. The HD is getting full so I went into it with Finder to delete some folders. I discovered it has two folders, one for Mac the current one replaced EMSMacBook Pro and EMSMacbook Pro 1. The folders within these folders do not overlap. I can delete a folder to the trash, but it takes a long time to empty the trash basket. When I first got the new computer I tried dumping a bunch of folders in the trash and it clogged up the system. It took a while to straighten things out. Is there a better way to get rid of that older set of back ups. If I open Time Machine, it opens only on the current folder.

    EMS

  2. #2
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    MacInWin's Avatar
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    You do not really want to muck with TM files through finder. Although they look like files, what is actually in TM backups are hard links to files. These links are linked to each other, so if you delete a link in the middle, the chain is broken and the entire backup is compromised and unusable. So, do NOT, repeat, NOT, use Finder to prune your backups.

    Now, if I understand what you are saying, you have a backups.backupdb folder on the backup drive in which there are two sub-folders. One is named EMSMacbook Pro and one named EMSMacBook Pro 1. I don't know exactly what you mean by "these folders do not overlap," but I'm going to assume that you mean that the subfolders inside those two subfolders don't have similar names, which are the dates of the backup. Is that a correct statement of what you see? What, exactly, do you mean by, "If I open Time Machine, it opens only on the current folder?" What is the "current folder?"

    If you open System Preferences, Time Machine where does it going to as the backup drive? Do you know for certain which of the two folders with the computer name is the current one?

    I'm asking all these questions because of the way TM works. It's NOT a straightforward backup and if you muck with it, you can easily lose the entire backup history and have to start all over.

    The reason it takes a very long time to delete anything using Finder is because they are NOT normal files, but links, and Finder has extra homework to do to do the deletion. The links expand as Finder follows down the links to the previous version and eventually to the actual file. One "file" you see can have thousands of links. I once tried deletion of a TM backup I no longer needed and what looked like a couple of hundred files expanded to well over a million during the process. Took forever.
    Jake

  3. #3
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    Slydude's Avatar
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    @Mr. Tut Have you changed the name of the computer recently? Or perhaps changed the name during a reinstall? That would explain why the folders have such similar names.

    Check the sharing pane in System Preferences to figure out the name your computer has now.


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  4. #4
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    MacInWin's Avatar
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    Sly, I was thinking he had restarted TM, initialized it to the same drive and that's how he got <<name>> and <<name 1>> folders. But thinking about it, wouldn't the second start with <<name 2>>? Now I'm confused at the two...
    Jake

  5. #5
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    Slydude's Avatar
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    Good question Jake. Its been a while since I did that and I don't remember how TM handles that situation. That's certainly an easier explanation than changing the machine's name -- which isn't difficult but most people would remember doing.
    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
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  6. #6
    Thanks for the help, particularly Jake. I understand it better now. It appears to me that the first folder, which goes back 2017, was from my old MBP. The second fold is for the new MBP and is active with current backups. Until recently, these have been properly pruned to make space, and current are dated from Jan. 2019, which is fine. I seems to me, what I need to do is delete the first folder with backups from the old computer, but that is what I am not sure how to do. Also, use Carbon Copy Cloner, so I have a backup redundancy. Both systems have worked well when needed in the past.
    EMS

  7. #7
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    Slydude's Avatar
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    That explains the two different name situation.

    Since those are from two different computers you're probably OK deleting that old set of backups without messing up the current backup. If you simply drag that old backup to the trash and delete it this may take ages in the Finder. The fast way to do it would be to format the backup drive but that deletes everything and you would be starting over with backups of the current machine.
    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
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  8. #8
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    MacInWin's Avatar
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    +1 for what Sly said. Deleting TM backups are very slow because of the number of links that need to be deleted. But you can do exactly what Sly said, drag the folder to the Trash and then empty the trash. You may be an error message every once in a while that a file cannot be deleted or that you need to provide a password to delete it. That happens because some of what is in TM is protected or system files, and that requires an administrator to delete. As Sly said, it will be slow. If you don't care about the current backup and are willing to start over fresh, erasing and formatting the backup drive will be much faster as the format function will just ignore what's there and reformat it instead of deleting it. The downside of formatting is that you have now lost all of that history, plus the first TM Backup will take forever as it does a full backup.

    So, spend time deleting or spend time making a first backup. Them's the options...
    Jake

  9. #9
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    Slydude's Avatar
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    The advantage of starting over is that even though the first backup takes a while you can do other things on the computer while the backup is going.
    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
    Kevin Durant

  10. #10
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    MacInWin's Avatar
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    True, Sly, but you can also do other things while the delete process is running, so I think that's a push.
    Jake

  11. #11
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    Slydude's Avatar
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    Didn't think of that. Going to find the dunce cap now.
    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
    Kevin Durant

  12. #12
    Since I am over my head, I may not have described things very well. I suspect when I got a new computer, I gave it same name as the old one, hence version 2. If I look at the drive in Finder I see a folder called backups.backupdb. In that folder are two folders EMS MacBook Pro with backups from 2017-04-03 to 2017-04-03 to 2017-08-16, which about the time I got the new computer., and EMS MacBook Pro 2 with backups from 2019-01-17 to the present. Since I have had the new computer longer than that, it has obviously pruned some backups to create space as it should. What I don't need and want to get rid of is the first folder. I know that if I go in folder 2, and highlight a specific backup I get a drop down box with the option to delete that back up. It's quick and easy. But if I do the same in folder 1, the only option is to move too trash. Do that, and it takes very long time to clean the trash and that is what I would like to avoid if possible.

    EMS

  13. #13
    Deleting Time Machine backups
    MacInWin's Avatar
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    Sorry, but if you want to keep the backup named EMS MacBook Pro 2, then the only way is to put up with the the long delete times. No other way. And your description is exactly what we understood, so your original explanation was fine. One strong caution: Do NOT, repeat NOT, use Finder to look into those backup folders and delete any backup. As I said, there are links to links to links in a chain from the oldest to the newest backups and if you reach into the middle and meddle with it, you will crash the links and lose the entire backup. You won't know until you want to use the backup, which is exactly when you do NOT want to find out you have no backup. In fact, if you have already deleted a backup from "2" using Finder, you might as well erase the drive and start over.
    Jake

  14. #14
    Thanks for the help.

    EMS

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