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How to Fix Time Machine Stuck in Preparing Backup

Updated on Mar 11, 2019 by Abby Haines to Mac File Recovery


What to do when the time machine is stuck in preparing backup for macOS 10.14 - OS X 10.6? Here we are going to talk about how long Time Machine preparing backup take and how to fix Time Machine stuck issues in macOS Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite or some other Mac versions.

Does Your Time Machine Really Get Stuck
Steps to Fix the Time Machine Stuck Issue
Best Data Recovery Software

Many users have an unpleasure experience of Time Machine stuck in preparing backup in macOS Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite or some other Mac versions. Time Machine is a simple and convenient backup tool for mac.  Generally, it creates backups automatically - It starts and finishes without your interference. However, in certain cases, this tool can get frozen or stuck.

If Time Machine gets stuck, you shouldn’t feel helpless. The purpose of this article is to explain how to judge if Time Machine stuck in preparing the backup process or not and how to fix the issue.

Fix Time Machine stuck in preparing backup - Stop the currently failing Time Machine backup attempt

Does Your Time Machine Really Get Stuck

Before you start the process of fixing Time Machine, you’ll need to make sure that something is actually wrong. A number of things can make Time Machine take longer than usual. Generally, the preparing backup process is very quick. But some special situations will force Time Machine to take a long time preparing for a backup to begin.

1. The size of the data is too big.

  • You have a really large hard drive to backup. For example, you have to back up terabytes of data.
  • You've made major changes or added a number of new files to your drive.

2. There is something wrong with your device.

  • The hard drive is very old.
  • The device is too slow, you need to speed up the Mac.
  • The virus attacked your Mac.

3. Haven't backed up data for a long time.

  • It is the very first Time Machine backup or you haven't backed up a Mac in a while, say a few months.

In all the cases mentioned above, the Time Machine backup preparation phase does indeed take a long time. But if the Preparing Backup stage takes 12-24 hours, getting stuck in that stage overnight or all day long with no reason, it's not normal. At most times, it suggests that Time Machine has been stuck at preparing the backup.

If you are one of the victims, this guide should help you fix the problem and get Time Machine working on Mac again.

What to Do If Time Machine Is Stuck in the "Preparing Backup" Process

We’ll go through a multi-step troubleshooting process to resolve the preparing backup problem and get Time Machine working on Mac OS X or macOS again. Before you take any actions, back up Mac as soon as possible.

Step 1. Stop the currently failing Time Machine backup attempt 

  • Open the "Time Machine" settings panel within System Preferences (get there from the Apple menu or Time Machine menu). 
  • Click the little (x) icon until the backup attempt stops. 

Fix Time Machine stuck in preparing backup - Stop the currently failing Time Machine backup attempt

When the progress bar disappears and it no longer says "preparing backup", it means that you have successfully stopped the currently failed Time Machine backup attempt. Then, you can move to the next step to troubleshooting Time Machine stuck in preparing backup issue.

Step 2. Remove the .inProgress File

When Time Machine backup is stopped and stuck, the first thing to do is trash the Time Machine placeholder file, at most times the .inProgress file found on the backup drive. 

  • Open the Time Machine drive in the Finder and navigate to the "Backups. backup" folder.
  • Open the folder within Backups. backup that is the name of the current Mac which is stuck on preparing.
  • Put this directory into "List View" and sort by 'Date Modified', or just search the folder for a file with a ".inProgress" file extension.
  • Delete the "xxxx-xx-xx-xxxxxx.inProgress" file.

Fix Time Machine stuck in preparing backup - Remove the .inProgress file

Step 3. Prevent Spotlight from Indexing the Time Machine Backup 

Spotlight can interfere with the Time Machine preparation process if it's performing an index of the Time Machine backup volume. You can prevent Spotlight from indexing the Time Machine backup volume by adding it to the Privacy tab of the Spotlight preference pane as follows:

  • Launch System Preferences by clicking its Dock icon, or selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  • Open the Spotlight preference pane by clicking its icon in the Personal area of the System Preferences window.
  • Click the Privacy tab.

prevent the spotlight from indexing the time machine backup

Either drag-and-drop your Time Machine backup volume to the list of locations that will not be indexed, or use the Add (+) button to browse to your backup folder and add it to the list.

Step 4. Reboot Mac and Initiate a Backup Again

Once the .inProgress file is removed, you can reboot your Mac computer with the Time Machine drive connected and turn Time Machine back on to initiate a backup as usual. If this doesn't work, you can use a third-party backup utility -  EaseUS Todo Backup for Mac which can back up Mac with just 3 simple steps. 

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