Time Machine Stuck on "Preparing Backup": Troubleshooting Guide

Time Machine, a built-in backup feature on macOS, offers a convenient way to protect your important files and data. However, users often encounter issues with Time Machine, one of which is getting stuck on the "Preparing Backup" process. This problem can be frustrating and may leave users concerned about the safety of their backups. The issue of Time Machine being stuck on "Preparing Backup" is quite widespread. Many users have reported encountering this problem across various macOS versions. While it can happen for a number of reasons, understanding the concept of Time Machine and troubleshooting the issue can help resolve it effectively.

19 oct 2021

Understanding the Concept of Time Machine

Time Machine is a backup software developed by Apple Inc. for macOS. It creates incremental backups of files, allowing users to restore their data to a specific point in time. Time Machine is designed to be an easy-to-use and seamless backup solution for Mac users.

Time Machine plays a crucial role in protecting user data by providing automatic and regular backups. By creating snapshots of files on an external drive, Time Machine ensures that users can recover files in case of accidental deletion, data corruption, or system errors.

While Time Machine generally functions smoothly, it is not immune to issues. Some common problems users may encounter include slow backup speeds, failure to complete backups, and getting stuck on the "Preparing Backup" phase. It is important to troubleshoot these issues to maintain a reliable backup system.

Read More: Time Machine Backup

Diving into the Main Issue: Stuck on Preparing Backup

When Time Machine gets stuck on "Preparing Backup," it means that the backup process fails to progress beyond this initial stage. This can be a frustrating experience, as it prevents users from completing their backups and securing their critical files.

There are several possible reasons for Time Machine being stuck on preparing backup:

  1. Disk verification: Time Machine may be stuck if it is verifying the backup disk before starting the backup process. This is a necessary step to ensure the integrity of the backup.

  2. Connection issues: If the connection between your Mac and the backup disk is unstable or interrupted, Time Machine may get stuck on preparing backup.

  3. Incomplete previous backup: Time Machine may encounter issues if a previous backup was not completed successfully or if there were interruptions during the process.

  4. Insufficient space: If there is not enough space on the backup disk to accommodate the backup files, Time Machine may be unable to proceed with the backup.

Read More: Time Machine Backup Failed

Troubleshooting the Issue

  1. Verifying the backup disk First, ensure that the backup disk is connected and accessible. Go to "System Preferences" and select "Time Machine." Verify that the backup disk is listed and click on "Verify Disk" to ensure that the disk is error-free.

  2. Restarting the Mac and the Time Machine Sometimes, a simple restart can resolve the issue. Restart both your Mac and the Time Machine by disconnecting and reconnecting the backup disk. Then, try initiating the backup process again.

  3. Deleting the "in progress" backup file If Time Machine is stuck due to an incomplete backup, deleting the "in progress" file might help. Access the backup disk and navigate to the "Backups.backupdb" folder. Locate the folder for the affected Mac and delete the file with the name of your Mac and the ".inProgress" extension.

  4. Ensuring sufficient space for backup Check the available space on the backup disk to ensure it is sufficient for the backup. Delete unnecessary files or consider using a larger backup disk if the space is limited.

Tips and cautionary advice during the troubleshooting process

  1. Always backup important files separately: It is important to have an additional backup of your important files in case the Time Machine backup process encounters issues.

  2. Be patient during the backup process: Time Machine backups can take time, especially for large amounts of data. Avoid interrupting the backup process prematurely as it can lead to incomplete backups and potential data loss.

  3. Maintain a stable connection: Make sure the connection between your Mac and the backup disk is stable. Avoid disconnecting the backup disk while the backup process is ongoing.

  4. Update macOS and Time Machine: Keeping your macOS and Time Machine up to date ensures you have the latest bug fixes and improvements that may address the backup issues.

Professional Solutions

A. Introduction of suitable software to resolve the issue If the troubleshooting steps mentioned above do not resolve the issue, you may consider using professional software solutions designed to fix Time Machine issues. Some reputable options include Stellar Data Recovery, Disk Drill, and Carbon Copy Cloner.

B. Comparison between manual solutions and professional software While manual troubleshooting can often resolve Time Machine issues, professional software provides a more streamlined and efficient approach. These tools are specifically designed to diagnose and fix Time Machine problems, saving time and effort.

C. Step-by-step guide to using professional software solutions If you decide to use professional software, follow these general steps:

  1. Research and choose a reliable Time Machine fixing software based on user reviews and recommendations.

  2. Install the software on your Mac and launch it.

  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to perform a scan or diagnostic test on your Time Machine.

  4. Review the scan results and select the appropriate fixes recommended by the software.

  5. Initiate the repair process and allow the software to resolve the Time Machine issue.

Preventing Future Occurrence

A. Best practices to avoid the same issue in the future To prevent Time Machine from getting stuck on "Preparing Backup" in the future, follow these best practices:

  1. Maintain a stable backup disk connection: Avoid disconnecting the backup disk while Time Machine is performing backups.

  2. Monitor available disk space: Regularly check and ensure that the backup disk has sufficient space for backups to complete successfully.

  3. Keep system and software up to date: Regularly update macOS and Time Machine to benefit from improvements and bug fixes.

  4. Address potential hardware issues: If you encounter frequent Time Machine issues, consider checking the health of your backup disk or connecting it to a different Mac to determine if the issue lies with the hardware.

B. Other useful tips for optimal Time Machine backup

  1. Exclude unnecessary files and folders from backup: Configure Time Machine to exclude files and folders that do not require regular backups, such as temporary files or caches.

  2. Use an external disk dedicated to Time Machine backups: Avoid using the same external disk for other purposes to reduce the risk of data corruption and conflicts.

  3. Regularly check backup integrity: Periodically perform test restores of files or folders to ensure the backup is working properly.

Using Slik Safe for Time Machine Backup

Slik Safe is a reliable software solution that can be used for Time Machine backup on macOS. It offers advanced features and encryption options to ensure the security and integrity of your backup data. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use Slik Safe for Time Machine backup:

  1. Download and Install Slik Safe: Visit the official Slik Safe website and download the software. Follow the installation instructions to install it on your Mac.

  2. Set Up Slik Safe: Launch Slik Safe and selected Connected Folders. Choose a suitable location and set the desired settings such as backup frequency for the system location.

  3. Regularly Update the Backup: Slik Safe will automatically perform backups based on the settings you have configured. Ensure that the backup disk is connected and accessible to allow Slik Safe to perform backups.

Using Slik Safe for Time Machine backup provides an additional layer of security and encryption to protect your backup data. It is recommended to follow best practices for password management and regularly update Slik Safe to benefit from the latest security enhancements.

Note: Slik Safe is a third-party software solution, and it is important to review its documentation and user guides for detailed instructions on its usage and features.


In this article, we explored the issue of Time Machine being stuck on "Preparing Backup". We discussed the concept of Time Machine, the significance of backups, and the common issues users encounter. We provided a detailed troubleshooting guide, including manual solutions and professional software recommendations. Additionally, we shared tips to prevent the issue from occurring again and improve the overall Time Machine backup experience.

Encountering issues with Time Machine can be frustrating, but it is important to approach them with patience and a systematic troubleshooting approach. By following the steps outlined in this article, users can effectively resolve the "Preparing Backup" problem and ensure the safety of their critical data.

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