Deleting a huge movie from Time Machine backups in iphoto Library

Nov 8, 2011
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I've got a few huge movies (1GB+) that were imported from my camera, and are now in iPhoto, down in Pictures/iPhoto Library/Originals/2011/"2011/7/15". (BTW, can't believe iPhoto uses a / in file names, but anyway ..). These have been deleted from my current iPhoto events, but remain as one-off occurrences in Time Machine backups.

(I've identified these from a special version of GrandPerspective that identifies files with only one hard link, ie. they are now appearing in only one backup time-slot, and are therefore most likely orphans that can be deleted. I've used this approach to successfully get rid of many GB of unneeded backup files in my Time Machine database).

However it's very hard to get rid of things down in "iPhoto Library", because ir presents by default as an opaque structure.

A. In the Enter Time Machine GUI, there is no "display package contents" option to allow "iPhoto Library" to be opened up, so that you can go down and order "delete this backup" for the unwanted file (remember, this is a movie file of umpty GB, well worth purging).

B. In the plain Finder GUI (outside Time Machine), if you navigate down to the file you want to delete, you can't delete it cos it says "Can't delete backup items". I haven't tried to override that yet with a plain "rm" at shell level. I'm 99% sure it's safe, but would like to be 100% sure.

I hope that's clear. So, appreciate advice on getting around the above and deleting the giant movie files out of my Time Machine backup DB.

Greg E


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Staff member
Jan 23, 2008
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Keller, Texas
Your Mac's Specs
2017 27" iMac, 10.5" iPad Pro, iPhone 8, iPhone 11, iPhone 12 Mini, Numerous iPods, Monterey
I understand what you're trying to do, however, as far as I know you can not delete an item from the TM backup which resides in the iPhoto library without deleting the entire library. Also, I'm not sure what damage if any will occur if you use Terminal to remove (RM) the file.

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