I love the way Time Machine works. And I'm smart enough to have excluded certain folders, like Music and others.

But I foolishly forgot to exclude my virtual machines.

That's 3GB+ that's now been backed up, and Time Machine sees the disk image as one files, so minor changes have also been stored (at a cost of 3GB!).

I only found out when I ran out of space and I ran GrandPerspectiveCentral and found four big stinkers in there.

I've excluded those folders now... so... I guess... with subsequent updates these big files will come out in the wash. But I'd really like to free up the space (just in case).

Is it possible to delete the files? Time Machine says 'no'.

Do any super users know any different?

  • What do you mean with Time Machine says 'no'?
    – Arjan
    Commented Aug 19, 2009 at 15:23
  • good question, Finder was saying 'cannot delete a backup file'. Time Machine wasn't saying no as I'd not realized the Gears at the top of the window gave me delete options. It IS rather hidden. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 8:31
  • 1
    Maybe hidden, but documented ;-) support.apple.com/kb/HT1427
    – Arjan
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


To delete files from a Time Machine backup:

  1. Open Time Machine when you have the Finder window displaying those files
  2. Select the items you wish to remove the backup(s) (you can select multiples using shift to select a section or command to select just one at a time)
  3. On the action button (what looks like a gear) in the toolbar choose Remove From All Backups... or just Remove from Backup if you only wish to remove the one instance of the file.
  4. You will be prompted for your administrator password and then you're done.
  • Thank you. I didn't see the Action Button. I tried right-click and expected that to give me some actions and I didn't really notice the Gear. Not massively obvious. Thanks Chearlion. Hope this answer helps others. Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 8:35
  • 1
    From Apple: support.apple.com/kb/HT1427 You can also enter Time Machine and find files that can be removed from the backup disk itself to conserve space. To do this, select the file(s) and from the Action pop-up menu (gear icon) in the Time Machine Finder window choose "Delete All Backups of...". Be sure to only delete files you are sure you won't need or want to restore later. Commented Aug 21, 2009 at 10:21

If you're using sparse bundles (like when backing up over a network) then you actually may want to reclaim the space you freed, as Time Machine will not do that until it discovers it's running out of space and then finds that deleting the oldest backups has no effect. See What is Time Machine doing? on Server Fault.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .