Can't delete old backups from external hard drive

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Hi all,

I'm trying to free up space on my WB 2TB external hard drive, and I thought I'd be slick and delete old back ups from 2017. In retrospect, I'm sure there's a better way to do it (and please be kind to a n00b if this is something I should have known would obviously cause problems), but I just went into the Backups.backupdb folder and moved 15 of the old backups to trash. Trying to delete left the empty trash process hanging at "preparing to delete 235,572 files" and required a restart to get out of that.

Now I'm stuck: I can't move the files back to where they came from because I get a "The operation can’t be completed because backup items can’t be modified" error. I can go into individual folders in my trash and force delete them one at a time, but that would take literally forever to finish, and some items claim I can't delete them at all because I don't have access permissions (going into info and changing all permissions to read & write does not help). I get a lot of -8072 errors.

I suppose I could just live with the situation forever and only delete other trash manually, file by file, but I'm hoping there's a more elegant solution.
 

Cory Cooper

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Hello and welcome.

You can delete old Time Machine backups manually as you did. The issue is that it can take quite a bit of time (up to several hours) to empty the Trash, since there can be hundreds of thousands of files in a Time Machine backup as you saw.

You could try force emptying the Trash by holding the Command key and right-clicking on the Trash. Or, use the key combo of Command-Shift-Option-Delete.

Try those and wait for it to process and complete. Let us know if it finally clears the Trash.

C
 
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Thanks for the suggestion Cory! I haven't tried the force empty before, the normal empty seemed to hang for many hours. I'll let the force empty go overnight and see if that works.
 
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Okay, I tried force empty, and it worked but took hours, especially because I had to click continue every time an error popped up saying "This file cannot be deleted because it is in use" or "Some items in the Trash cannot be deleted because of System Integrity Protection". Files like "spindump" and "Macintosh HD" and the top level backup folders with the dates of the backup all say they're in use.
 

Cory Cooper

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Sorry it took so long for a response.

Try restarting your Mac, then force empty the Trash again.

C
 
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Thanks for sticking with it Cory. I've tried a few times, and even after restart, the same thing happens (System Integrity Protection, spindump is in use, etc.)
 

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