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How To Fix Time Machine Issue “Preparing Backup” in Mac OS X

Fix Time Machine Issue
Written by Hassan Abbas

Do you want to fix the time machine issue? Time Machine is the easiest way to keep the daily and efficient recovery of a Mac. Usually, the automatic recovery starts and ends without any incident. In some situations though, Time Machine might get stuck* on the “Preparing Backup” stage for an excessively huge amount of time, causing recovery to never start, allow alone to finish. It’s these failed recovery attempts that we’re finding to remedy here.

We must point out that if you can’t back up a Mac in a while. It’s normal for the “Preparing Backup” stage of Time Machine to take a while to collect data before starting, specifically if you have a big drive to recover. What’s not normal is for the taking Backup stage to take 12-24 hours, getting stuck in that stage full night or all day long.

How to Resolve a Stuck “Preparing Backup” Problem in Time Machine for Mac

We’ll move through various troubleshooting processes to fix the preparing backup issue and get Time Machine working in Mac OS X again.

Fix Time Machine Issue

Let’s start:

Stop the Currently Failing Backup Attempt Before Initiating

Initially, you want to do is cease the recently failed backup attempt while it’s stuck on “preparing backup”, this is quite enough:

  • Head over to the “Time Machine” settings panel within System Preferences
  • Tap the little (x) icon until the recovery stops the attempt

When the progress bar vanishes and it can’t say “Preparing backup…” you’re good to start the troubleshooting process listed below.

Bin the “inProgress” File

Now when the backup is stopped, you have to trash the Time Machine placeholder file found on the backup drive:

Step 1:

Head over to the Time Machine drive in the Finder and move to the “Backups.backup” folder.

Step 2:

Move the folder within Backups.backupd that is the name of the recent Mac that is stuck on preparing.

Step 3:

Add this directory into “List View” and sort it by ‘Date Modified’, or simply find the folder for a file with a “.inProgress” file extension.

Step 4:

Remove the “xxxx-xx-xx-xxxxxx.inProgress” file.

The .inProgress file is in the form of xxxx-xx-xx-xxxxxx.inProgress. In this, the first 8 digits are the year-month-day (date) and the other 6 or so digits are random numbers, followed by the file extension.

Simply trash that file, it must be about 3kb or so.

Reboot Time Machine Drive Connected

Next, provide the Mac a good old fashioned reboot while the Time Machine drive is attached to the Mac, you’ll then view why that matters in a moment:

Step 1:

Pull down the Apple menu and then select “Restart”

Step 2:

Once booted, allow Spotlight to execute fully

It causes OS X to re-index the Time Machine drive if it’s required. However, it may be getting the way of Time Machine recovering properly thus causing the PC to get stuck on “Preparing Backup” for a very long time. Also, if the drive currently indexed by Spotlight. A reboot appears to be important, whether to resolve whatever issues are occurring with backupd or not.

Start a Backup as Usual

Now Mac has rebooted with the Time Machine drive attached, you can begin a back up yourself. The simplest way to do this is through the Time Machine menu icon or the System Preferences:

  • Pull down the Time Machine icon and select “Back Up Now”

You will still view a “Preparing backup…” message but it must be gone for a few minutes. However, it depends on the hard drive size, the Mac speed, and the size of the recovery to be made. At this point, your Time Machine recovery will proceed further, so simply allow it to execute and you’re good to go again.


Here’s all about the “Fix Time Machine Issue”. I hope this article helped you to fix the issue. If you think that it is helpful then do let us know your suggestions in the comment section below. Do you know any other method that you think we can’t mention in this article? Comment us below and stay tuned with us! If you still find any issue then ask us!

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About the author

Hassan Abbas

Tech enthusiast with too many items on his wish-list and not nearly enough money! Specializing in all things tech, with a slight Apple bent he has been writing for various blogs for the best part of (too many) years

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