1 Reply Latest reply: Jul 26, 2009 5:54 PM by Pondini
Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,720 points)
This article provides some troubleshooting tips for common Time Machine errors and problems.

It does not cover problems specific to Time Capsule or other wireless backups. See the Airport and Time Capsule forum, in the Digital Life section.

Nor does it include general information about Time Machine. For those, see the Frequently Asked Questions post at the top of this forum.

_*C o n t e n t s*_


*Section A. _TOOLS YOU MAY NEED*_


*A1. Time Machine Buddy widget*
*A2. Time Tracker*
*A3. Tinker Tool*

*Section B. _SET - UP PROBLEMS*_
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*B1. I can't select my drive for use with Time Machine*
*B2. The Change Disk option doesn't work*
*B3. No last or oldest backup date shown*
*B4. Wrong icon shown for TM drive/partition on desktop and/or Finder sidebar*

*Section C. _BACKUP FAILURES*_
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*C1. Initial Backup Failed*
*C2. Other Backup Fails*
*C3. "An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume"* or *"Aborting backup because indexing a file failed"*
*C4. "This backup is too large"*
*C5. "You do not have appropriate access privileges to save file “.<nnnnnnn>” in folder <Name>"*
*C6. The backup volume is read only*
*C7. "Error (12): Link of previous volume failed."*
*C8. Backup fails after Logic Board replacement*
*C9. "The back-up disk image could not be created."*
*C10. Error: (-50) Creating directory*
*C11. Drive does not appear to be the correct backup volume for this computer(Cookies do not match)*


*Section D. _OTHER PROBLEMS RUNNING BACKUPS*_
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*D1. Stuck in Preparing*
*D2. Backup is Slow or "hung"*
*D3. TM is doing a full backup for no good reason*
*D4. My backups seem too large*

*Section E. _PROBLEMS VIEWING, RESTORING, or DELETING BACKUPS*_
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*E1. Backups were deleted unexpectedly*
*E2. I can't see some backups*
*E3. I can't see backups for a disk/partition that's no longer connected*
*E4. Time Machine Interface ("Star Wars") won't display properly, or crashes*


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*Section A. _TOOLS YOU MAY NEED*_



There are some free 3rd-party tools that may be useful in diagnosing problems with Time Machine. You'll see references to them in several places below.


_*A1. Time Machine Buddy widget*_

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Click here to download the +Time Machine Buddy+ widget.

It shows the messages from your logs for one TM backup run at a time, in a small window. An explanation of some of the error messages is in section #C2 below. Other common messages are explained in item #7 of the Frequently Asked Questions post.

You can copy these messages by selecting them via dragging your mouse over them (be sure to get them all, as they may overflow the small window), then pressing CMD-C. This copies them to your "clipboard," so you can post them in a thread here (via CMD-V) to get help diagnosing a problem. (Occasionally, the widget won't let you copy while a backup is running.)

Note that the widget may only let you look back a few days. If you need to look back farther, you'll need the Console app (in your Applications/Utilities folder) to look at your older system logs (named +system.log.1.bz2, system.log.2.bz2,+ etc). Click +Show Log List+ in the toolbar, then navigate to the desired logs in the sidebar that opens up.
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_*A2. Time Tracker*_

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Click here to download the TimeTracker app. It shows most of the files saved by TM for each backup (excluding some hidden/system files, etc.). This can help you figure out just what is (or is not) being backed-up.
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_*A3. Tinker Tool*_

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Click here to download the +Tinker Tool+ app. It allows you to change the Finder to show hidden files (among many other things). Select the first option under Finder, then click +Relaunch Finder+ at the bottom. Reverse this when done.

Do not use any of the other options unless you know the possible consequences.
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*Setcion B. _SET - UP PROBLEMS*_




_*B1. I can't select my drive for use with Time Machine*_


If the drive/partition you want to use for TM backups doesn't appear in the list when you select TM Preferences > Change Disk, it's probably not formatted correctly. See item #C1 for help determining whether it's right, and how to fix it.
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_*B2. The Change Disk option doesn't work*_


If the +Change Disk+ button in TM Preferences doesn't do anything, try turning-off the +Back To My Mac+ application temporarily.
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_*B3. No last or oldest backup date shown*_

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If these dates don't appear when selecting the TM icon in your Menubar, or TM Preferences, try the following:

1. Do a +Back Up Now.+ That will often recover the info.

2. De-select your TM Drive via TM Preferences (select "none"), quit System Preferences, then re-select it and do a +Back Up Now.+

3. A Log Out or Restart may fix it.

4. If they're still not shown, try a *"full reset:"*
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  • a. Turn TM Off, de-select the drive, note any exclusions in Options, quit System Preferences.

  • b. Delete the file /Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine.plist (in your top-level Library folder, not your home folder).

  • c. Re-select your drive (and re-enter any exclusions).

  • d. Do a +Back Up Now+ or wait for the next scheduled backup.

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    _*B4. Wrong icon shown for TM drive/partition on desktop and/or Finder sidebar*_

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    Try de-selecting, then re-selecting the "Show" option in Finder > Preferences > General and/or Sidebar.

    Try the same steps as in item #B3.
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    --------

*Section C. _BACKUP FAILURES*_



_*C1. Initial Backup Failed*_


The most common cause is the TM drive not being formatted correctly (even, on occasion, if TM formatted it!). Use Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder) to verify the setup:

First, select the second line for your internal HD (usually named "Macintosh HD"). Towards the bottom, the Format should be +Mac OS Extended (Journaled),+ although it might be +Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled).+

Next, select the line for your TM partition (indented, with the name). Towards the bottom, the Format must be the same as your internal HD (above). If it isn't, you must erase the partition (not necessarily the whole drive) and reformat it with Disk Utility.

Sometimes when TM formats a drive for you automatically, it sets it to +Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled).+ Do not use this unless your internal HD is also case-sensitive. All drives being backed-up, and your TM volume, should be the same. TM may do backups this way, but you could be in for major problems trying to restore to a mis-matched drive.

Last, select the top line of the TM drive (with the make and size). Towards the bottom, the *Partition Map Scheme* should be GUID (preferred) or +Apple Partition Map+ for an Intel Mac. It must be +Apple Partition Map+ for a PPC Mac. If this is wrong, you must completely erase the disk and reformat it. See item 5 of the Frequently Asked Questions post.

Once you're sure your disk/partition is formatted correctly, if your backups still fail, continue to the next item:
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_*C2. Other Backup Fails*_


If this is your first backup, or the first one to a new external drive/partition, the most common cause is the drive not being formatted properly (even, on occasion, when Time Machine formatted it for you!). So if there's any question, see see the previous item.

If a backup fails, note any message it sends, and start with this Apple article: Troubleshooting Time Machine backup issues. It includes a wide range of problems, and has links to many other Apple technical articles.

Those messages/problems are not repeated here, except for a couple that Apple doesn't cover completely.

If that doesn't solve your problem, get the Time Machine Buddy messages (see #A1). Many of the common and normal messages are detailed in item 7 of the Frequently Asked Questions post. Only the ones that might indicate a problem are repeated here.

Messages that might indicate trouble:

Event store UUIDs don't match naming your internal HD (or any other drive/partition being backed-up). TM can't be sure the OSX internal log of file changes that it normally uses is correct. This is seen on your first backup of a disk, or after an improper shutdown, a full restore, certain hardware repairs, removal of certain exclusions, a large volume of changes (such as an OSX update), or many days without a successful backup. It may cause a lengthy backup, so if you see it frequently, without a good reason, you need to figure out why.

Event store UUIDs don't match naming an external drive/partition. TM isn't sure that everything on it is what TM expects. This may be because the drive was disconnected improperly, or it doesn't appear to be the drive TM expects. Again, if you see this without a good reason, investigate.

. . . node requires deep traversal. Instead of the log of file changes TM normally uses, it must examine every file and folder on the named drive/partition, and compare it to the last backup, to figure out what's changed and needs to be backed-up. Obviously, this is a lengthy procedure; and especially lengthy if you're doing wireless backups. You may not see any more messages for quite a while. Try not to interrupt the backup, as this must be done again (and again) until a backup is completed successfully.

Error: backup disk is full - all nn possible backups were removed, but space is still needed. This is pretty clear. TM deleted as many old backups as it could (and they're all listed in the first failed backup's messages). See item #C4.

Bulk setting Spotlight attributes failed. or Waiting for index to be ready. There may be a problem with your TM drive, or difficulty communicating with it. See item #D2.

Error: (-36) SrcErr:YES Copying {a file path} to {"null" or another file path}
or Indexing a file failed. Returned -12 for: {a file path}, {another file path}
These may indicate a problem with the first file referenced. See the next item:
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_*C3. "An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume"* or *"Aborting backup because indexing a file failed"*_


Sometimes, backups will fail with this message for no good reason, and the next one will complete normally.

So either wait for the next scheduled backup, or do a +Back Up Now+ from the TM icon in your Menubar, or by control-clicking (right-clicking) the TM icon in your dock. If that backup completes normally, there's no real problem.

If the next one fails also, then there most likely is something wrong.

Get the Time Machine Buddy messages (see #A1). Look for the message(s) about a file that couldn't be copied, such as:
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Error: (-36) SrcErr:YES Copying {a file path} to {"null" or another file path}
or Indexing a file failed. Returned -12 for: {a file path}, {another file path}
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If you're not familiar with file "paths," it can be a little difficult to read these messages. They look something like this:

/Users/<Name>/iMovie Events.localized/clip-2008-04-02.mov to /Volumes/TM Backups/ . . . etc.

The end of the file in question is usually indicated either by " to " or just a comma and space before the next one.

If it's a file you're sure you don't need, you can delete it. If not, for now, don't touch it. Instead, exclude it from TM:

To exclude it, go to TM's Preferences and click Options.


  • In the next panel, click the plus sign at the bottom.

  • In the sidebar of the next panel, select your computer name, internal HD, or home folder as necessary; then navigate to the file listed.

  • Select it, click Exclude, then Done.

  • Then do a +Back Up Now+ from the TM icon in your Menubar, or by control-clicking (right-clicking) the TM icon in your dock.


  • If the backup runs ok, then you need to figure out what's wrong with that file.

    If it fails again, check it's messages. If it's the exact same file, you didn't exclude the right one, or you need to do a "full reset" (see item #B3).

    If you get the same message for a different file, you may need stronger stuff:

  • a. Do a +Repair Disk+ (not permissions) on your TM drive/partition, via Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder).


  • b. If the file is on an external disk, do a +Repair Disk+ on it, too.


  • c. If the file is on your internal HD, do a +Verify Disk+ (not permissions) on it. If that reports errors, you'll have to boot from your Leopard Install disc and use it's copy of Disk Utility to repair it.


  • d. Exclude your TM disk from any anti-virus scanning.


  • e. Also exclude it from Spotlight indexing, via System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy.

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    _*C4. "This backup is too large"*_

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    For one reason or another, TM is out of room on the backup disk/partition. When it's space gets near full, TM will normally delete as many old and expired backups as it can to make room for new ones.

    There are some backups that Time Machine *will not delete,* however. It won't delete the most recent backup, or any backups from a different Mac. Sometimes TM will start a new "sequence" of backups, as if you had a different Mac, and it won't delete any from the prior sequence, either.

    Also note that, although it deletes a backup, it doesn't necessarily delete it's copies of all the items that were on that backup. It only deletes it's copies of items that no longer exist on any other backup.

    When this happens, you have a few options:

    1. De-select the +Warn when old backups are deleted+ option in TM Preferences > Options, and try again.

    2. Erase the TM disk/partition and let TM start over.

    3. Manually delete some old backups via the TM interface (do not use the Finder!). This is rather tedious, as it must be done one at a time, and there's no way to tell in advance which ones will be quick (and not gain much room) and which will take a long time and recover more space. See item #12 of the Frequently Asked Questions post for detailed instructions.

    4. Get a different disk/partition for your Time Machine backups. Then either:

    Let TM start fresh on the new drive/partition. Give it a different name, and use the +Change Disk+ button in TM Preferences to select it. Keep the old drive/partition for a while until you're sure everything is working and you don't need the old backups anymore.

    Or, duplicate the current backups to it via the Restore tab of Disk Utility in your Applications/Utilities folder. Note that you must duplicate an entire disk/partition to another entire disk/partition. See item #18 in the Frequently Asked Questions post for detailed instructions.
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    _*C5. "You do not have appropriate access privileges to save file “.<nnnnnnn>” in folder <Name>"*_

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    Open the Terminal app (in your Applications/Utilities folder).

    Be extremely careful when using Terminal. It is a direct interface into UNIX, the underpinning of OSX. Unlike the Finder, there are few protections against making a mistake, which can cause untold damage.

    In Terminal, the prompt looks like this: user-xxxxxx:~ <your name>$

    (where <your name> is your short user name). It's followed by a non-blinking block cursor (unless it's been changed via Terminal > Preferences).

    At the prompt, type the following exactly as shown, substituting the name of your TM drive exactly, including any spaces, between the quotes; and the string of numbers & letters from the message where the series of x's are (keep the dot):

    <pre> sudo chmod 644 /volumes/"TM drive name"/.xxxxxxxxxxxx</pre>
    example: sudo chmod 644 /volumes/"TM Backups"/.0a1b2c3d4e5f

    Press Return. You'll get some warnings and a request for your Administrator's password. Type it in (it won't be displayed) and press Return again.

    Then try a +Back Up Now+ from the TM icon in your Menubar, or by control-clicking (right-clicking) the TM icon in your dock.
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    _*C6. The backup volume is read only*_


    First, follow the Apple article mentioned above: Troubleshooting Time Machine backup issues.

    If that doesn't correct it,

    If you only have a partial backup, or don't need the ones you've done, the simplest thing to do is just erase the disk/partition with Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder).

    If you don't want to erase it, here's a workaround:

    First, you need to find the name of the hidden file that's causing the problem. If the Time Machine Buddy (see #A1) shows a message like the one in item #C5, follow the instructions there.

    If not, use the TinkerTool app (see #A3) to show hidden files.

    In a Finder window, select your Time Machine drive/partition. The very first file shown should have a name consisting of a period (dot) followed by 12 numbers and/or letters. (This is your Mac's Ethernet address). Copy or make a note of it.

    Then follow the rest of the instructions in item #C5.
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    _*C7. "Error (12): Link of previous volume failed."*_

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    This usually happens when you replaced a drive with a different one, but with the same name as the original.

    Because of the way Time Machine keeps track of drives, at one point it thinks they're the same, but later on realizes they aren't.

    Either rename the drive (append "_2" or something), or delete all previous backups of it, via the instructions in item 12 of the Frequently Asked Questions post.

    And note that TM will probably do a full backup of the drive. If there isn't much space on your TM drive/partition, see #C4. You may need to do item 2, 3, or 4 listed there.
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    _*C8. Backup fails after Logic Board replacement*_


    The logic board contains your Ethernet "Mac Address", which is a unique number that TM uses to be sure it knows which Mac is which. So, to TM, it is now a *different computer.*

    This is so it can keep each Mac's backups separate (you can back multiple Macs up to the same external disk or Time Capsule). It does this by putting a hidden file containing this address on the TM disk.

    There is a fairly elaborate way to attempt to persuade TM that the existing backups really are for your "new" Mac: http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20080128003716101

    It is very easy to make an error with Terminal, get no error message, and have it not work, or worse, so try it at your own risk.

    But there is an alternative: hold down the Option key while selecting the TM icon in your Menubar, or control-click (right-click) the TM icon in your Dock. Then use the (badly named) +Browse Other Time Machine Disks+ option. It will take you into the normal TM interface where you can see and restore from the old set of backups.

    Even if you're successful with the Terminal work, your first backup with the new logic board may be a full one -- every file and folder on your system. If TM decides to do that, you cannot prevent it.

    So if your TM disk/partition isn't over twice the size of the data it's backing-up, your best bet may be to just erase it with Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder) and let TM start over.
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    _*C9. "The back-up disk image could not be created."*_

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    If you get this message when backing-up wirelessly, check your +System Name+ at the top of the System Preferences > Sharing panel.

    It must not be blank; it should not be more than 25 characters long; and you should avoid punctuation (except periods and underscores), and unusual characters.
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    _*C10. Error: (-50) Creating directory*_

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    This may indicate a problem with your TM drive. Use Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder) to do a +Repair Disk+ (not permissions) on it. If any errors are found that Disk Utility can't fix, run it again (and again) until they're all fixed or it can't fix any more.

    If no errors are found, or they're all found and fixed, but you still get the message, try a "full reset" as in item #B3.

    If Disk Utility can't fix them all, the disk may be failing. Copy the messages from the last run of Disk Utility and post them in a new thread in this forum for advice.
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    _*C11. Drive does not appear to be the correct backup volume for this computer(Cookies do not match)*_

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    If this happens after getting a new Logic Board, see item #C8.

    This also happens on occasion after switching a TM drive from one Mac to another, erasing your TM disk/partition, or attaching a new TM drive with the same name as an old one.

    You can usually fix this by simply re-selecting your TM drive in TM Preferences > Change Disk.

    If that doesn't help, try a complete reset. See item #B3.

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*Section D. _OTHER PROBLEMS RUNNING BACKUPS*_




_*D1. Stuck in Preparing*_

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See this Apple Support document: Time Machine may display "Preparing" for a longer time

Try not to interrupt the backup, as this procedure must be done again (and again) until a backup is completed successfully.

Also see the next topic:
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_*D2. Backup is slow or "hung"*_

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Get the Time Machine Buddy messages (see #A1).

If it shows Event store UUIDs don't match
and/or . . . node requires deep traversal, it may not be "hung" at all. See item #C2.

If it shows Waiting for index to be ready and/or Bulk setting Spotlight attributes failed messages, there may be a problem with your TM drive, or difficulty communicating with it. Unfortunately, any of a number of things may cause this. The list of things to try is:

1. Exclude your TM disk/partition from any anti-virus scanning.
2. Exclude it from Spotlight (System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy).

_*If backing up to a Time Capsule or External Disk connected to an Airport Extreme:*_
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3. Check your System Name via System Preferences > Sharing. It it's blank, that's likely the problem. If it's over 26 characters long, trim it. If it has any unusual characters, try removing them.
4. Try moving the TC or AEBS and Mac closer together.
5. Look for interference with another wireless device. Turn anything else off, or move it farther away.
6. Try repairing the Sparse Bundle with Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder). Mount the Sparse Bundle, then drag it into the Disk Utility sidebar, then use +Repair Disk+ (not permissions).

_*If backing up to an External hard drive:*_
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7. Do a +Repair Disk+ (not permissions) on it via Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder).
8. At least temporarily, de-select +Put the hard disk(s) to sleep ...+ in System Preferences > Energy Saver.
9. Be sure it's connected directly to your Mac (no hubs, and not the USB port on the keyboard).
10. Try different port(s), cable(s).
11. See if your drive has an automatic sleep or "spin down" feature you can disable.
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_*D3. TM is doing a full backup for no good reason*_


Time Machine may do a full backup after any of the following:


  • Using a new disk or partition for backups (always).


  • A full restore (probably).


  • Some hardware repairs, especially a new internal hard drive (probably) or logic board (always, but see #C8).


  • Changing your computer's name via System Preferences > Sharing (probably).


  • Renaming a disk/partition that's being backed-up (probably).


  • Going several days without a backup (probably; also seems to depend on the volume of changes).

  • Exactly why it doesn't always do full backups for the items marked "probably" is not clear, so assume it will.
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    _*D4. My backups seem too large*_

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    Time Machine may be doing a full backup of your entire system. See item #D3.

    Doing an OSX update can cause a large backup, as it may add or update several thousand files.

    Removing exclusions, such as your top-level System and/or Library folders, can be sizeable.

    Renaming a folder or disk drive, or moving a file or folder, will cause the entire item moved or renamed to be backed-up. This includes all files and sub-folders in a moved or renamed folder.

    There are some OSX features and 3rd-party applications that cause large Time Machine backups. Common ones are FileVault, vmWare Fusion, Parallels Desktop, Entourage, and Thunderbird. Any application that uses a single large file or database may do this. See item 9 of the Frequently Asked Questions post.

    You can use the +Time Tracker+ app (see item #A2) to see just what was copied on any particular backup. There may be ways to minimize the size of such backups; search and/or post in this forum for help.
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*Section E. _PROBLEMS VIEWING, RESTORING, or DELETING BACKUPS*_




_*E1. Backups were deleted unexpectedly*_

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Time Machine manages it's space for you, automatically. When it's drive/partition gets near full, it will begin deleting expired backups first, then the oldest ones. See item #C4 for more info and your options.

Usually when this happens unexpectedly, it's because TM has done a new full backup, which of course requires a lot of space. See item #D3 for the common reasons.

If in doubt, get the widget messages (see #A1). They'll show how much it was trying to back up. See item #7 of the Frequently Asked Questions post for explanation of those messages.
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_*E2. I can't see some backups*_

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TM keeps the backups for each Mac separate, and normally only shows the ones for the Mac it's running on, even if there are other Macs' backups on its disk/partition.

Also, sometimes TM will start a new "sequence" of backups, as if they were from a different Mac.

To see these "other" backups, you need the (badly named) +Browse Other Time Machine Disks+ option. It's available by holding down the Option key while selecting the TM icon in your Menubar, or by control-clicking (right-clicking) the TM icon in your Dock.

You'll see a selection screen showing all the disks/partitions that have TM backups on them. Select the one you want, and you'll be taken to the normal TM "Star Wars" interface, where you should see all the backups on that disk/partition.

Note that, unfortunately, you cannot merge or combine two different "sequences" of backups.
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_*E3. I can't see backups for a disk/partition that's no longer connected*_

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Open a Finder window and press ShiftCmdC (or select your computer name in the Finder Sidebar).

Then either +Enter Time Machine+ or +Browse Other Time Machine Disks+ (see #E2).

On the first Finder window in the "cascade," labelled Now, you'll see all the volumes currently attached to your Mac.

Select the Finder window for any backup, and you'll see a folder for each drive/volume that was backed-up, including any that are no longer connected. Navigate from there to whatever you're looking for.
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_*E4. Time Machine Interface ("Star Wars") won't display properly, or crashes*_

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Do a +Repair Disk+ (not permissions) on your TM drive, via Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder).

If that doesn't help, re-select your TM drive via TM Preferences > Change Disk.

If it still doesn't work, try a "complete reset" of TM:

  • a. Turn TM Off, de-select the drive (select "none"), note any exclusions in Options, quit System Preferences.

  • b. Delete the file /Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine.plist (in your top-level Library folder, not your home folder).

  • c. Re-select your drive (and re-enter any exclusions).

iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)