Troubleshoot Time Machine Not Backing up in 4 Easy Steps

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

Table of Contents:

  1. Why Does My Mac Backup Keep Failing?
  2. What To Do When Time Machine Fails To Backup?
  3. How To Fix Time Machine Not Backing up Problem?
  4. How To Recover Mac Data After Time Machine Fails To Backup?
  5. Conclusion

Why Does My Mac Backup Keep 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 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 is 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 troubleshooting steps, it is always easier to follow a few common checklists that help 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 back up 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, ensure 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 

Step 1: Stop the current backup

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

  • Click on the Apple menu
  • Select System Preference > click on the Time Machine icon.

system preferences

  • If the backing up is in progress, you will be able to find a message stating ‘Preparing Backup.’
  • Click on the (X) icon; by doing so, you can stop the current backing-up process.time

Step 2: Exclude Spotlight from indexing Time machine backup

Applications on Mac. At times Time Machine might not backup because the Spotlight application could be indexing the data present on the disk.

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

  • Click on the Apple menu.
  • Select System Preference

system preferences

  • Click on the Spotlight icon.
  • Click the Privacy tab.


  • Select (+) to browse for the backup folder.

Step 3: Reinitiate Time Machine 

The last step to fix the Time Machine backing up error is manually reinitiating the backup process. 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.

Step 4: Restart Mac and turn on Time Machine again.

After successfully deleting the file, restart the computer and turn on Time Machine 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. If you only have certain data on the backup drive, you must act smart and use data recovery software to retrieve it before it’s lost forever. Moreover, recovering the deleted Time Machine backup is quite tricky.

How to Recover Lost Data when Time Machine Fails to Backup?

Any manual attempt to recover data from a corrupted drive might lead to permanent data loss if not done correctly. However, efficient data recovery tool such as Remo Mac File Recovery software understands the way in which Time Machine takes backup of the data. Hence, it is much more efficient and safer to retrieve deleted data from Mac with the help of professional data recovery software.

How to Recover Data when Time Machine Fails to Backup Using Remo Mac File Recovery Software?

  • Install Remo and connect the backup drive to the Mac. 
  • Launch the application and click on Recover Volumes/ Drives and Choose Volume Recovery.

click on volumes recovery option to recover time machine data from mac volumes

  • Select the backup drive from where you want to recover data. 

select the mac drive from where you want to recover time machine data

  • Click on Advance Scan > choose the type of file to be recovered and click Next.

select the scan type based on your requirement to recover data when time machine fails to backup

  • 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.

select the files recovered from the drive where time machine failed to backup the drive


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 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 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

With a decade of experience in data recovery, John Harris, Senior Editor at Remo Software, is your go-to specialist. His focus includes partition management, Windows solutions, and data troubleshooting, delivering insightful content that serves both users and search engines.

John's expertise shines through in illuminating blog posts, untangling data loss intricacies across diverse storage platforms. His mastery extends from file systems to SD cards, USBs, and external drives on Mac and Windows.

Recognized by cpomagazine, everythingusb, and more, John Harris is your trusted data recovery guide. You can also find his articles featured on, computertechreviews.

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