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Ask Max: Will Time Machine get confused if I change the name of my machine?

Asked on 04/23/2009:

I have a few questions about Time Machine.

1. If I change the name of a Machine (not the hard drive) in the Sharing Pref Pane, will that confuse Time Machine? That is will it still be able to access previous backups, or will I be limited to backups made after the name change?

2. What, exactly does Time Machine do when the backup drive is full? Does it delete some files? If so, how does determine which files to delete?

3. Can I manually delete redundant (or otherwise backed up) files from Time Machine?

Thank you,



Changing your Apple computers name will not affect your Time Machine history or cause additional, redundant, backups. When you make the system name change your Time Machine folder is changed to the new name and updates continue uninterrupted. When the TM backup drive is full, it starts deleting old files. These files are considered old if they were changed since the original copy and it is the oldest version of the file. If you had a Word file that you edited on November 1st, 3rd, and 20th you would have three copies of that file. If you ran out of space, Time Machine would delete the one that was saved on November 1st.

Manually deleting Time Machine files would be a bad idea. They are not only copied to a folder, but also linked and indexed. If you delete them from Finder it has the potential to damage the integrity of your backups. It is better to just let Time Machine manage itself. Like the Infomercial guy says, ™Set it and Forget it.™

Hope that helps,


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