4 Ways to Troubleshoot Time Machine not Backing up

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Time Machine is an application that helps the user to take a timely backup of the data from the computer on to a preferred location such as external hard drive, an extra partition on the internal disk, or time machine capsule.

Why does my Mac backup keeps failing?

At times, you may face difficulties backing up with Time Machine due to reasons such as macOS not updated or after updating to new macOS versions that is not compatible. This may be due to upgrading of macOS or errors such as Time Machine Backup error 109, fault in the backup drive or insufficient storage. No matter the reason why Time Machine not backing up, you can use this detailed guide to resolve Time Machine backup problems.

What to do when Time Machine fails to back up?

Before performing any of the trouble shooting steps, it is always easier to follow few common checklists that helps fix the issue in a jiffy.

Quick Ways to fix Time Machine not Working:

  • Ensure that the Mac software is updated
  • Reboot Mac and check if the Time Machine is not backing up again
  • In case you are using Airport Time Capsule, update the firmware on the Airport Time Capsule
  • Check if your Mac is connected to the same network as the backup drive. For instance, if you are trying to backup data using the AirPort Time Capsule or the server, make sure you are connected to the specific device network.
  • If your drive is connected to a port on your Mac or AirPort Extreme Base Station, make sure that the drive is switched on.
  • Connect the drive directly to your Mac or base station, if you are using a USB hub.
  • If you're backing up to an external third-party drive, make sure the drive's firmware is up to date or contact the drive manufacturer for assistance.

How to Fix Time Machine Not Backing Up Problem?

Follow the sequence of steps given below to fix the Time Machine not the backing-up issue.

  1. Stop the current backup 
  2. Exclude spotlight from indexing Time machine backup
  3. Reinitiate Time Machine 
  4. Restart Mac and Turn on Time Machine 
  5. Recover your valuable data when time machine fails

Stop the current backup

If your time machine is not backing up, follow the instructions to stop the current backup.

  1. Click on Apple menu
  2. Select System Preference > click on Time Machine icon. system preferences
  3. If the backing up is under progress, you will be able to find a message stating ‘Preparing Backup’.
  4. Click on the (X) icon, by doing so you can stop the current backing up process.time

Exclude Spotlight from indexing Time machine backup

The Spotlight application helps you quickly access the documents, music, pictures, and applications on Mac. At times Time Machine might not backup because the Spotlight application could be indexing the data present on the disk.

Therefore, by excluding this application from indexing the Time Machine, the backup process can happen faster. To do so, follow the instructions.

  1. Click on the Apple menu
  2. Select System Preference system preferences
  3. Click on Spotlight icon
  4. Click the Privacy tabspotlight
  5. Select (+) to browse for the backup folder.

Reinitiate Time Machine 

The last step to fix Time Machine backing up error is to reinitiate the backup process again manually. For that, here is what you need to do:

  • In the Finder window, navigate to /TimeMachineBackupDrive/Backups.backupdb/Backup Name
  • Here Backup Name is the name of the backup assigned.
  • In the backupdb folder search for a file with the extension, .inProgress and delete the file.

Restart Mac and turn on Time Machine again.

After successfully deleting the file, restart the computer and turn on Time Machine back again. This time the Time Machine will start backing up the files again and will fix Time Machine not backing up error.

Even after going through the above-process if your Time Machine is not backing up, chances are that there is a problem with the backup disk. If this is the situation, consider replacing the drive. In case you have certain data only on the backup drive, you have to act smart and use a data recovery software to retrieve this data. Moreover, recovering the deleted Time Machine backup is quite tricky.

This is because any attempt to recover data from corrupted drive manually might lead to data loss if not done the right way.   However, efficient data recovery tool such as Remo Mac Data Recovery software understands the way in which Time Machine takes backup of the data. Hence, it is a lot more efficient and safer to retrieve data with the help of professional data recovery software.

How to Recover Data when Time Machine Fails to Backup?

Connect the backup drive to the Mac. Install Remo data recovery software and follow the instructions mentioned below.

  1. Launch the application and click on Recover Volumes/ Drives recover lost files from Internet Recovery Mode
  2. Choose Volume Recovery> Select the backups drive to be recovered
  3. Click on Advance Scan > choose the type of file to be recovered and click Next
  4. Select the recovered file and click on Preview at the top right corner to validate> Click Save and browse for a location to save the data.


Regular backups using Time Machine can be reliable during an event of data loss. But if the Time Machine program is faulty and data from Mac is not being backed up, you can never be prepared. Hence, you can avoid such a situation by having the mac-OS and drive firmware up to date. Despite taking the preventive measures, if your Time Machine is not backing up data, make use of Mac data recovery software. This software will efficiently recover Mac partitions when your Time Machine backup fails to do so.

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John Harris

Senior Editor, Content Analyst and a fan of exceptional customer service. John develops and publishes instructional and informational content regarding partition management, Windows hot-fixes, data management and computer troubleshooting.

As a tenured data recovery specialist, John shares exceptional insights and blog posts about data loss and data recovery across any storage device. With 8+ years’ experience in writing for Data Recovery for both Mac OS and Windows OS computers, he is an avid learner who always wants to polish and simplify the data recovery process. John passes his free time playing Chess and reading Science Fiction novels.

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