So you’re trying to delete an old Time Machine backup off your Time Capsule or other Time Machine disk, and you run into this error: “The operation can’t be completed because the item “bands” is in use.” What do you do? Here’s how to delete those bands so that you can delete your old Time Machine backups from your Time Capsule or other external hard drive.
The primary, if not the only, reason that you would be running into the ‘item “bands is in use’ error is if you are trying to manually delete an entire Time Machine backup from Time Machine’s target backup disk, whether a Time Capsule or another external hard drive. And the main reason that you would be wanting to do that is because you need to start a new Time Machine backup on that external drive, and so you need to make room for the new backup. This also presupposes that you will never again want or need to use the old backup.
This article assumes that you are both comfortable and familiar with how the Time Machine program works, and, more importantly, how manually deleting things works. In short, this article assumes that you already know what you are doing, and you are reading this because – and only because – you have run into the ‘operation can’t be completed because the item “bands” is in use’ error, and are wondering what it’s about and how to get around the error so that you can delete the old backup and make room on your disk.
Bottom line: We are not responsible for what you do with this information. If you are going to follow it, be sure that you know what you are doing, and that you are deleting the thing you both think you are deleting and want to delete.
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What to Do About the “Operation Can’t be Completed Because the Item “Bands” is in Use” Error when Trying to Delete a Time Machine Backup
To start, of course, you are already connected to your Time Capsule or other external drive to which you are making Time Machine backups, and so you see one or more files with the extension .sparsebundle. These are your Time Machine backups.
The sparsebundle is a type of disk image format proprietary to Apple. It is essentially an elastic disk image that can expand and contract so that it takes up only as much room as required by the data within the disk image (i.e. your backup data). Essentially, when your Time Machine program initiates a backup session, the sparsebundle is mounted as if it were a disk, and the backup data is updated to the sparsebundle.
Put another way, you can think of a sparsebundle as a “folder” that contains all of your backup data, but which your computer sees as a self-contained disk image.
In our example below we want to delete an old Time Machine backup to make more room for the current backups, which are in the Macbook Air (3) sparsebundle. We have renamed the old sparsebundle that we want to delete to “old.sparsebundle”,
Now, of course, the old sparsebundle is what you are trying to delete, and that act of hitting ‘delete’ on the old sparsebundle is what is causing your system to throw the ‘operation can’t be completed because the item “bands” is in use’ error.
So here’s what to do:
Control-click on the sparsebundle which you want to delete, and select “Show Package Contents”.
This will reveal everything contained within the sparsebundle disk image, which will look something like this:
Now, select the ‘bands’ folder. (At this point you can choose to delete all the other stuff in that directory or leave it, it doesn’t really matter, it’s going to get deleted eventually anyways.)
And select all of the files within that bands folder.
Now delete all of those files.
At this point you will be able to delete the bands folder, and then you will be able to delete the old sparsebundle.
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