8 Replies Latest reply: Oct 20, 2013 11:51 AM by 570ad
570ad Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

Hi all,

I know this is probably a "noob" question, but I have been backing up my laptop (2009 Mac OS X 10.6.8) onto an external hard drive set up for Time Machine, and now my MacBook Pro only has 1.15 GB available of free space after the many years of usage and saving things onto it (such as images, movies, etc.). I had a question: Are these files backed up onto Time Machine and so can I delete them from my laptop without losing them? I am concerned about losing them and am not sure how Time Machine really works; if I delete these files from my laptop in order to free up space, then backup my computer onto Time Machine, will they be deleted from the Time Machine drive also?? I need to free up a lot of space on my laptop but also don't want to lose any pictures and videos from over the years.


Thanks in advance.

MacBook Pro 13", Mac OS X (10.6.5)
  • Kappy Level 10 Level 10 (262,780 points)

    If you delete them from the computer, then they will eventually be deleted from your backup. But you have worse problems than that.


    A startup disk should have at least 15-20 GBs of space free at all times. You are dangerously close to a disaster. You need to replace your internal drive with a much larger one or buy another external drive so you can copy files from the internal drive to the external one, then delete them from the internal drive. You cannot use the Time Machine drive to do this. You need another external drive.

  • 570ad Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)


    Thanks for that, I was not aware of how serious the problem was.


    So just so I understand the way time machine works, if I delete files from my laptop, which were already backed up onto the time machine months before, those files will also be deleted on the time machine too if I delete them on my laptop and then back it up? Just the act of backing the laptop to the time machine post-deletion will also remove those deleted files from time machine also?? Is this right? It doesn't seem right--ie, to me, it doesn't seem like this is how backups work.. Or should work, but I could definitely be wrong?

  • PlotinusVeritas Level 6 Level 6 (14,720 points)

    Delete NOTHING until you buy another HD and use it to copy all vital data, pics, documents etc to the new HD.


    1TB HD only costs $65.   Dont lose important data trying to "save space" on your Macbook.


    Time machine is a backup, NOT an archive, NOT a protected copy of your valuable data.



    see differences between time machine, archives, and protection of your data:

    Protection and security of your valuable data

  • Kappy Level 10 Level 10 (262,780 points)

    In time, Time Machine will note that certain files are no longer on the source, so as space is needed Time Machine will delete these files from the backup. There are many ways for backups to work. Time Machine does things differently from what you may be be used to.

  • 570ad Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thank you both for clarifying the difference between Time Machine backups and actual archives with one's files locked in there. I've purchased a 1 TB external hard drive from Amazon and it just arrived a couple of days ago.


    My question is, how do I effectively "copy over" files onto my new external hard drive? Is it as easy as connecting the hard drive via usb, then from the finder window, copying the entire "user" folder onto the external hard drive (either via dragging it onto the icon, or the longer way of "copying" then "pasting" into the external hard drive)?


    I've never actually done this with a Mac before; with PCs, you'd just drag and drop a folder onto the external volume, so want to double check to see what the best method is for Macs. Wouldn't doing the entire "user" account be too much/take too long? Any advice to approaching this is much appreciated!


    Thanks again in advance.    

  • clintonfrombirmingham Level 7 Level 7 (29,995 points)

    You just need to format the drive so that it's a Mac volume. Connect the drive via USB to your computer. Open Disk Utility (Applications>Utilities folder) to erase the drive and format as "Mac OS Extended (Journaled" with a single GUID partition. Then you can begin dragging and dropping to your heart's content!



  • PlotinusVeritas Level 6 Level 6 (14,720 points)

    My question is, how do I effectively "copy over" files onto my new external hard drive? Is it as easy as connecting the hard drive via usb



    Easy as drag and drop, yes indeed.  Could almost do it with your eyes closed.


    Entire user account, ....no, just get all your files, you created, saved, made, work on ALL VITAL DATA you "dont dare lose" etc.  drag it over, make files in the HD showing where things are, etc.


    There are of course a 1000 ways to organize folders and data on external HD, ..pick what suits you.


    Keep it simple.

  • 570ad Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thank you everyone for all of your help. I'm backing everything up as we speak. If anyone is interested, I got a Transcend portable hard drive, StoreJet 25M3, 1 TB. It's supposedly military grade protection lol.