(Fixed) Can I Delete Old Backups from External Hard Drive

Wondering if it's safe to delete old backups from your external hard drive? This article explores why managing old backups is essential and provides step-by-step guides on how to make backups with the best backup plans.


By Sebastian Updated on April 10, 2024

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“I am running Windows 7 on an HP Home premium PC. I run a backup to an external hard drive, (Hitachi 250GB) once a month. As space was getting limited, I deleted some old backups. I was then told that when you run a backup, only files/ folders are added since the previous ones are added. Is this so, or is a full copy made each time? Will a complete backup be made of files I have deleted previously next time I back up?”

– answers.microsoft.com

The Answer to This Question

First, you should know that if you delete old backups from your external hard drive, the deleted files/folders will not be replaced during the next backup. Once deleted, they are gone forever unless you have another backup containing those files/folders. And there are different backup plans for different backup software. You should check it to see if it is a full copy made each time only newly added files/folders. Therefore, it's important to know whether to keep old backups and what is the best backup plan and method for your condition before directly deleting data from the external hard drive.

What are the Risks of Keeping Old Backups?

Indeed, backing up data is crucial for safeguarding important files. But over time, old backups can accumulate and consume valuable storage space on your external hard drive. Keeping outdated backups poses several risks, including:

Storage Overload: Old backups can fill up your external hard drive, leaving insufficient space for new backups or other data.
Slow Speed: Saving redundant backups will also slow the reading speed of your external hard drive, making it extremely hard to use.
Confusion: Maintaining multiple outdated backups can lead to confusion when searching for specific files or versions.
Security Vulnerabilities: Outdated backups may contain sensitive information that is no longer relevant or necessary, posing security risks if accessed by unauthorized users.

To avoid these risks and optimize storage space, it's essential to regularly review and delete old backups from your external hard drive.

How to Clean Old Backups from External Hard Drive

How should I deal with old backups? Are you wondering how to properly clean old backups from external hard drives efficiently? Over time, backup files can occupy valuable storage space, making it hard to manage them effectively. In this guide, we'll explore methods to clean old backups from your external hard drives, ensuring optimal storage management and data security.

Method 1: Manual Deletion

To manually delete old backups from your external hard drive, follow these steps:

1: Plug your external hard drive into your computer and ensure it is recognized.
2: Open File Explorer and locate the folder and select the old backups you wish to delete.
3: Right-click on the selected backups and choose the Delete option from the context menu.
4: Confirm the deletion and wait for the process to complete.

Although there are fewer steps provided here, manual deletion is not as easy and convenient as you might think. If you use this external hard drive exclusively for storage backup, there must be tons of backups with different updates. So, it will take you a lot of time to manually find and delete specific old backups. If you accidentally delete the wrong backup containing important file data, it will cause permanent loss, which can not be recovered. That is why we recommend using professional backup software to automatically manage and delete your old backups.

Method2: Use Professional Backup Software

Deleting backup files manually regularly can be a tedious task. Opting for an alternative backup program offers a more flexible approach to managing backup drive space. Take, for instance, AOMEI Backupper Professional, a robust backup and restore tool designed for PCs running Windows 11/10/8/7. While it encompasses all the features supported by Windows backup utilities, it also introduces advanced options to streamline and enhance your data protection routine.

1: It is built with a user-friendly interface. Everybody can use all kinds of features in it.
2: It is compatible with all kinds of storage devices. No matter whether you use an internal/external hard drive, USB drive, SSD/HDD, or SD card.
3: This tool supports all necessary backup options, including File Backup, System Backup, Partition Backup, and Disk Backup.
4: There are scheduled incremental and differential backups in addition to conventional full backups, effectively conserving backup disk space by solely backing up changed data.
5: Offering various backup schemes, such as options based on quantity, time, and space, ensuring automatic deletion of previous backup files to prevent your backup disk from running out of space.

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Backup Options:

Tailored to your backup preferences, you have the flexibility to choose among system backup, disk backup, partition backup, file backup, mail backup, and cloud backup options. Furthermore, each backup type supports schedule backup and automatic deletion, ensuring seamless management of your backup tasks.


Backup Schedule:

When selecting a backup schedule, you have the option to set the backup task to run at specific intervals such as daily, weekly, or monthly, or trigger it based on certain events. If you prefer the backup to execute when the USB plug-in, you can select the option to run scheduled backups using the Advanced feature.

Schedule Settings

Backup Cleanup:

Once you've set up a scheduled backup, you can activate Automatic Backup Cleanup to automatically remove old backup files, ensuring that the remaining backup images remain recoverable. Depending on your scheduled backup configuration, select the appropriate backup scheme to effectively manage disk space.

backup cleanup

1. Incremental backup builds upon the previous backup. If you delete an incremental backup, former incremental backups become invalid. Hence, it's advisable to create a full backup before deleting one. Conversely, a differential backup is dependent on the last full backup, making it safe to delete any differential backup as long as the full backup remains intact.
2. If you're unsure, rely on the built-in backup schemes to manage your backups and disk space efficiently, alleviating concerns about Windows 10 backup disk space constraints.

FAQs About Deleting Old Backups

Q: Is it possible to recover deleted backups?

A: In some cases, deleted backups may be recoverable using data backup software. However, it's crucial to act promptly and avoid overwriting deleted backup files to increase the chances of successful recovery.

Q: Can I delete backups directly from my external hard drive without software?

A: Yes, you can manually delete backups from your external hard drive using File Explorer or similar file management tools. However, this method could be time-consuming for large backup collections, and it is easy to lose important files and data in those backups.

Q: Are there any risks associated with automated backup deletion?

A: Automated backup deletion can help streamline the management process, but it's essential to configure settings carefully to avoid unintended data loss. Review deletion parameters regularly to ensure they align with your backup management strategy.


In conclusion, deleting old backups on your external hard drive is essential for optimizing storage space and ensuring efficient backup management. By following the methods outlined in this article, you can safely delete old backups and reclaim valuable storage space. Whether you choose manual deletion, file management software, or automated backup deletion, prioritize reviewing and organizing your backup collections regularly to maintain an effective backup strategy. For comprehensive backup management and additional features, consider using third-party software like AOMEI Backupper. Start managing your backups effectively today to safeguard your data and optimize storage space.

Sebastian · Editor
Sebastian, a professional editor at AOMEI, brings personal product experience and a user-focused mindset to solve data protection issues. With valuable technical insights and a dedication to user experience, he simplifies complex concepts and provides reliable solutions. Sebastian's expertise and skills make him an invaluable resource for readers seeking technical guidance.