With the digital age advancing at such a rapid rate, it comes as no surprise that the paper industry is almost obsolete. All of your important files and information are now online or stored on your local devices. While this is not safe for the environment, it has also made life easier.

However, it brings up concerns about data storage and backing up your files, should anything accidentally go wrong and cause your private information and documents to be deleted. Apple has luckily developed a software to help in this regard. Developed for masOS 10.5 and onwards, Time Machine has provided users with an easy and incremental method for backing up files. Using incremental backup, Time Machine allows files to be restored at a later time.

This allows users to either restore their whole system, or rather, specific files from the Recovery HD. However, it is important to note Time Machine doesn’t act as an archival utility but rather as a backup utility. In other words, Time Machine will note the most recent state of the data on your disk. As time goes on, these snapshots, so to speak, will age. Recent snapshots will be prioritized over previous ones.

Time Machine’s incremental backup system is fairly quick, however if you’ve recently added many files to your system, or carried out processor-heavy changes, Time Machine’s process may seem slow or even get stuck. Luckily, the problem is easy to fix, using the instructions below.

However, we begin troubleshooting how to fix Time Machine, it’s best to see if you have the latest macOS update installed on your computer. Software is full of bugs, which is perfectly normal, and it’s possible a problem in your current macOS software is interrupting the Time Machine process. Luckily, Apple is constantly releasing new updates in order to correct the mistakes and bugs in prior updates. To update your macOS software, follow the instructions below.

Update macOS Software

1. Launch the App Store on your computer.

2. Click on the Updates tab towards the top right.

3. Check to see if there are any macOS updates available.

4. If there’s an update available, click Update.

Please note that in order for the macOS update to download and install, a fair amount of time is required. Please be patient. You may have noticed when you clicked Update, there were other updates as well, regarding the application installed on your computer. Feel free to update those applications as well.

For future references, always be sure you have the latest software update installed when experiencing a problem with your device. We often see updating our software as a chore, that is ignored. However, it’s essential to update to the latest macOS version whenever possible.

If you’ve updated the software on your device, or already have the latest software update installed, and find that Time Machine still isn’t working properly, follow the instructions below.

First you should determine if the Time Machine process is in fact stuck, using the instructions below,

System Preferences

  1. Click on the Apple logo on the top left corner of the screen, and scroll down to System Preferences. Click this option.

Time Machine

1. Locate the Time Machine icon and click on it.

2. Depending on your current software version of OS X, you will see messages such as Scanning xyz items, Preparing xyz items, or Preparing backup.

3. If things are going well, the number of items should increase. However, if the number remains the same for at least 30 minutes, Time Machine is likely stuck.

4. Wait another 30 minutes to confirm if Time Machine is stuck.

Now that you’ve confirmed that Time Machine is stuck, follow the instructions below to solve the problem,

Turn off Time Machine

1. If your OS X version is fairly old, you can turn Time Machine off by sliding the toggle ON/OFF toggle button in the Preference pane. If you have macOS Mojave or onwards, there will be a checkbox allowing you the option to turn off automatic backup. It will be labeled Back Up Automatically. Check this box in order to disable the option, if it’s currently enabled.

2. Now that Time Machine has been turned off, try to figure out what may be causing the problem.

  • Antivirus programs may not be excluding Time Machine’s backup volume. Exclude Backups.backupdb on the Time Machine backup volume.
  • If Spotlight is indexing the backup volume, this may be causing Time Machine to get stuck. Follow the steps below, if this is the case,

1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner on the menu bar. Scroll down and click System Preferences.

2. Click on the icon for Spotlight.

3. Towards the right, there will be a Privacy button. Click this button.

Drag and drop your Time Machine backup

4. Drag and drop your Time Machine backup volume into the list of locations that won’t be indexed.

  • You may need to delete the .InProgress file. This is a file generated by Time Machine as it gathers information about everything that needs to be backed up. Deleting this file may delete corrupt information that is causing Time Machine to get stuck.

Open Finder

1. Open Finder. Press command + shift + G. A window will appear asking where you would like to navigate to next. As seen above, it will say Go to the folder:.

2. Type in /TimeMachineDriveName/Backups.backupdb/NameOfMac. Note: TimeMachineDriveName is the name of the drive you’re storing your backups on. Backups.backupdb is the folder which holds the backups. The name of this folder will never change. NameOfMac is the name you assigned your computer when you first opened it.

3. Look for a file named Year-Month-Date-xxxxxx.inProgress. Note: Year-Month-Date-xxxxxx are a set of numbers dependent on your device.

4. Delete the aforementioned file.

5. Now that you have settled the issues that are likely causing Time Machine to act up, you can turn Time Machine back on, and try the backup process once again.

Time Machine should now be completing the backup process in an appropriate amount of time.