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Archived - Time Machine: Troubleshooting backup issues

If you are having issues with Time Machine backups, learn how to troubleshoot them. Troubleshooting in this article relates to specific situations and alert messages and can help if you have previously been able to back up via Time Machine.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

If Time Machine is unable to complete a backup, make note of any alert message that appears. You can also open System Preferences and in Time Machine preferences click the red "i" icon for more information.

Messages you may see after clicking the red "i" include:

 

Update your software

Regardless of the specific issue, you should first make sure your software is up-to-date.

If you use Time Machine with Time Capsule, make sure you have updated your Time Capsule with the latest available software and firmware.

Message: "Preparing" phase takes a long time

Time Machine keeps track of files and folders that have changed since your last backup so that it only backs up those files and folders. If Time Machine loses track of files and folders that have changed since the last backup, it compares an "inventory" of your current data to an inventory of your backup. When this happens, Time Machine preferences displays a "Preparing..." status message for a longer period of time. See Mac OS X 10.5: Time Machine preferences may display "Preparing" for a longer time.

Message: Time Machine starts a new, full backup instead of a smaller incremental backup

There are three reasons why this may occur:

  • You performed a full restore.
  • Your Computer Name (in Sharing preferences) was changed--when this happens, Time Machine will perform a full backup on its next scheduled backup time.
  • If you have had a hardware repair recently, contact the Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Retail Store that performed your repair. In the meantime, you can still browse and recover previous backups by right-clicking or Control-clicking the Time Machine Dock icon, and choosing "Browse Other Time Machine disks" from the contextual menu.

Message: Some items are not backed up

If Time Machine does not back up a particular file, you may have marked it "Do not back up" in Time Machine preferences.

To remove files from the "Do not back up" list:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. From the View menu, choose Time Machine.
  3. Click Options.
  4. Look in the "Do not back up" list. To remove an item that should not be in the list, select it and click Remove (-).
  5. Click Done.

In rare situations, Time Machine may be unable to back up third-party software (software from companies other than Apple), due to a setting made by that software manufacturer. For more information, contact the vendor of the software.

Message: "The disk (volume name) was not repairable by this computer. it is being made available to you with limited functionality. You must back up your data and reformat the disk as soon as possible." 

Attempt to repair your Time Machine's backup:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. From the View menu, choose Time Machine.
  3. Move the slider bar to "Off" to disable Time Machine backups.
  4. Open Disk Utility located in /Applications/Utilities.
  5. How you repair your backup depends on where Time Machine stores backups:

    Storing backups on a Time Capsule.

    1. Mount your Time Capsule.
    2. Open a Finder window and locate your Time Capsule in the sidebar.
    3. Double-click your Time Capsule.
    4. Click your Backups folder and locate your backup sparsebundle.

      Note: If you use a Time Capsule with multiple Macs, you can identify the affected sparsebundle by looking for the affected computer's name in the filename. You can also use the hexadecimal MAC address to identify the correct sparsebundle. To locate the MAC address of the affected computer, choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu and locate port en0. The MAC address will appear in your sparsebundle file name, but without colons (for example "mymac_0015abc5d6e0.sparsebundle").

    5. Drag the sparsebundle to the Disk Utility sidebar.
    6. Select the sparsebundle, then click Repair.
    7. If the repair is successful, attempt to backup via Time Machine. If the repair is not successful, delete the sparsebundle and start a new backup.

    Using an external hard drive to store backups.

    1. Mount your external hard drive.
    2. In Disk Utility, locate your external backup drive. Your backup drive should mount in the Disk Utility sidebar when attached to your Mac.
    3. Select your external backup drive.
    4. Click Repair.

    Using another Mac with Mac OS X v10.5 on a network or you store backups on a server.

    1. Connect to the other Mac or the server where Time Machine stores backups.
    2. In Disk Utility, the Mac or server with your Time Machine backup should mount in the sidebar when connected.
    3. Select your backup server.
    4. Click Repair.

Red "i" message: "The backup volume is read only."

Attempt to repair your Time Machine's backup:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. From the View menu, choose Time Machine.
  3. Move the slider bar to "Off" to disable Time Machine backups.
  4. Open Disk Utility located in /Applications/Utilities.
  5. How you repair your backup depends on where Time Machine stores backups:

    Storing backups on a Time Capsule.

    1. Mount your Time Capsule.
    2. Open a Finder window and locate your Time Capsule in the sidebar.
    3. Double-click your Time Capsule.
    4. Click your Backups folder and locate your backup sparsebundle.

      Note: If you use a Time Capsule with multiple Macs, you can identify the affected sparsebundle by looking for the affected computer's name in the filename. You can also use the hexadecimal MAC address to identify the correct sparsebundle. To locate the MAC address of the affected computer, choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu and locate port en0. The MAC address will appear in your sparsebundle file name, but without colons (for example "mymac_0015abc5d6e0.sparsebundle").

    5. Drag the sparsebundle to the Disk Utility sidebar.
    6. Select the sparsebundle, then click Repair.
    7. If the repair is successful, attempt to backup via Time Machine. If the repair is not successful, delete the sparsebundle and start a new backup.

    Using an external hard drive to store backups.

    1. Mount your external hard drive.
    2. In Disk Utility, locate your external backup drive. Your backup drive should mount in the Disk Utility sidebar when attached to your Mac.
    3. Select your external backup drive.
    4. Click Repair.

    Using another Mac with Mac OS X v10.5 on a network or you store backups on a server.

    1. Connect to the other Mac or the server where Time Machine stores backups.
    2. In Disk Utility, the Mac or server with your Time Machine backup should mount in the sidebar when connected.
    3. Select your backup server.
    4. Click Repair.

Red "i" message: "No volumes to be backed up were available."

This can happen if all volumes are in the 'Do not backup' list. To view the list, open System Preferences. In the Time Machine preference pane, click Options. Verify you have not excluded all available volumes.

Red "i" message: "Unable to complete backup. An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume."

Restart, then try the backup once again. 

Red "i" message: "The backup volume could not be mounted" or "The backup volume could not be found." appears when using network volume or Time Capsule

Red "i" message: "Time Machine could not be configured. The built-in network interface could not be found"

  1. From the Finder's Go menu go to this location:
    /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/
     
  2. Copy the file "NetworkInterfaces.plist" to the desktop (to make a precautionary backup).
  3. Delete the file "NetworkInterfaces.plist".  Enter administrator name and password if prompted.
  4. Restart your Mac.  
  5. Once restarted, reconfigure your Network and Time Machine preference panes in System Preferences.
  6. If the issue persists, contact an Apple Authorized Service Provider to have your Mac's network ports checked.
Last Modified: Feb 11, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Feb 11, 2014
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