Apple - How can I delete Time Machine backups, moved into trash?

To remove or move the Backups.backupdb folder open

  • Enter cd /Volumes/<Name_of_BackupDrive>/.Trashes to change the working directory. <Name_of_BackupDrive> has to be the volume name of your TM backup volume.
  • Enter sudo ls -laO to show all folders. Usually you should see only one folder with the name 501 now:

    d-wx-wx-wt@ 3 root      wheel  hidden 102 Jun 25 20:52 .
    drwxrwxr-x  9 root      admin  -      374 Jun 26 01:21 ..
    drwx------@ 2 user      staff  hidden  68 Jun 26 01:21 501
  • Enter sudo su to get super user rights.
  • Enter cd 501 (Replace 501 with whatever the name of the directory is) to change the working directory and list the content of the folder 501 with ls -laO. Now you should see the folder Backups.backupdb:

    drwx------@ 3 user      staff  hidden 102 Jun 26 01:21 .
    d-wx-wx-wt@ 3 root      wheel  hidden 102 Jun 25 20:52 ..
    drwxr-xr-x  2 user      admin  -       68 Jun 26 01:19 Backups.backupdb
  • Now you may either move the folder back to the root of the backup drive with:

    mv Backups.backupdb /Volumes/<Name_of_BackupDrive>/

    or remove the folder with

    rm -dR Backups.backupdb

    If you are asked to override something (e.g. override rw-r--r-- root/wheel uchg for Backups.backupdb/.RecoverySets/0/ enter yes and hit the return button. You may also add the -f option to skip confirmations.

To delete a 30 GB backup in a virtual machine it took about 3 minutes. So depending on the size of Backups.backupdb some patience is needed.