I am trying to add a way to remove backups older than 3 days ago in my script.

See below a stripped down simplified version, which just leaves the removal part.

It was my understanding that ${BACKUP_DEST[$i]}/$OLDBACKUP should be outputting something like '/Users/christopherdavies/Desktop/rsync/test1.co.uk/07-06-18'.

However, each time this runs, it deletes the folder above, of 'test1.co.uk', and regardless if it 3 days old or not.

Is anyone able to point me in the right direction? I haven't been able to make any headway... fresh pair of eyes?


    "[email protected]"
    "[email protected]"  


OLDBACKUP=`date -d "3 days ago" +"%d%m%Y"`


for (( i = 0; i < SITE_COUNT; i++ )); do

    # Remove old backups    
    if [ -d "${BACKUP_DEST[$i]}/$OLDBACKUP" ]; then rm -Rf ${BACKUP_DEST[$i]}/$OLDBACKUP; fi

exit 0
  • Use tmpreaper Jun 9, 2018 at 7:25
  • Is there any reason why you cannot rely on the file modification date?
    – Hermann
    Jun 9, 2018 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


The date utility on macOS (which I presume you're using judging from the location of the user home directories) is not GNU date and therefore does not support all its features.

This means that you OLD_BACKUP variable will be empty (and you ought to see an error message when date is run), which in turn means that it's the ${BACKUP_DEST[$i]} directory that gets deleted.

Instead, you may use date -v -3d +'%d-%m-%Y'.


set -e


when=$( date -v -3d +'%d-%m-%Y' )

for backup in "${backup_dest[@]}"; do
    [ -d "$backup/$when" ] && rm -Rf "$backup/$when"

Alternatively, install GNU coreutils and use GNU date.

Other changes made to your code:

  • Removed exit 0 from the end and added set -e. If the script fails, you will want to be able to notice it.

  • The website array was not used.

  • Loop over the items in the array rather than using indexes, it's easier to read.

  • If you want a single line simple if statement, you may use short circuit syntax instead (which is shorter).

  • Use lower-case variable names.

  • Always quote variable expansions.

  • It's a bash script, so it should reference bash on the #!-line.

  • Thank you! That was the issue. Also, thank you for your advice on my script. I am new to bash and still learning (as I am sure my code shows clearly). I have added my full script into my question, as I am unsure if some of your points would be correct (for example, removal of some variables etc). If you could take a look and let me know, that would be fantastic. I am still working on a way to loop the database connection details...
    – ccdavies
    Jun 9, 2018 at 7:53
  • @ccdavies I'm happy to have helped. Rather than continuing to review your code in this answer, I'd suggest that you ask a new question if you have specific issues with the code. We don't usually do pure code reviews (there's a StackExchange site dedicated to that).
    – Kusalananda
    Jun 9, 2018 at 8:06

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