1 Reply Latest reply: Oct 30, 2009 4:40 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 *User Tip* at the top of this forum.

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


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*Section A. _TOOLS and PROCEDURES YOU MAY NEED*_
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*A1. Time Machine Buddy widget*
*A2. Time Tracker*
*A3. Tinker Tool*
*A4. Full Reset of Time Machine*
*A5. How to do a Repair or +Verify Disk+*

*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+ button 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*
*B5. Would you like to reuse the Backup . . .?*

*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 of TM drive>"*
*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" or "Calculating changes"*
*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 or restore from 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 and PROCEDURES 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 *User Tip* at the top of this forum.

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.)

If the message area is blank, but you know there were backups, your user account may not have permission to view your logs, or TM Buddy may be having trouble reading them.

Use the Console app (in your Applications/Utilities folder) to see the messages directly.

When it starts, click +Show Log List+ in the toolbar, then navigate in the sidebar that opens up to your system.log and select it. If you can't select it (it's grayed-out), then your user doesn't have permission to see them.

If so, from a Finder window select +Go > Go to Folder+ and type /Private/var in the prompt. Right-click the Log folder and select +Get Info.+ Click the padlock at the bottom of the next panel, then enter your Admin password when prompted. Then click the plus sign at the bottom, select your user in the next panel and click the Select button. That will give your user read rights to the Log folder. Then click the "gear" icon and select +Apply to enclosed items.+

Return to the TM Buddy display; if it now works, use it. If not, go back to Console and select your system.log.

Once you get your system.log displayed, type backupd in the Filter box. This will limit the display to TM backups, but they'll all be displayed together, not nicely separated by backup run as in the widget. So navigate by date & time to the "Starting standard backup" message for the backup you're looking for.

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.0.bz2, system.log.1.bz2,+* etc). Click +*Show Log List*+ in the toolbar, then navigate to the desired logs in the sidebar that opens up. You can select only the messages from TM backups by typing backupd in the Filter box in the toolbar.
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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.

Some folks prefer the BackupLoupe application, at: http://www.soma-zone.com/BackupLoupe/
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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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_*A4. Full Reset of Time Machine*_

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  • a. Go to TM Preferences, turn TM Off, de-select the drive (select "none"), and click the Options button. Note any exclusions in the +Do Not Back Up+ box, and other option(s) on that panel. Then quit System Preferences.


  • b. Eject, disconnect, and power-off the drive for a few moments, then reconnect it.


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


  • d. Go back to TM Preferences, re-select your drive, re-enter any exclusions and other options.


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

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    _*A5. How to do a Repair or +Verify Disk+*_


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    This will Repair or Verify the +File System+ on a disk, partition, or sparse bundle (not the actual hardware). Use the +*Disk Utility+* app, in your Applications/Utilities folder. Do this when TM backups are turned-off, or at least not running.

  • *To REPAIR:*



  • To Repair an *external disk attached to an Airport Extreme,* or *Time Capsule,* disconnect it from the Airport or Time Capsule, connect it directly to your Mac and select it in the Disk Utility Sidebar.


  • To Repair an external or *internal Time Machine* disk/partition, select it in the Disk Utility Sidebar.

  • To Repair the *sparse bundle* on a Time Capsule, connect via an Ethernet cable if you can; it will be much faster. Then mount the sparse bundle by opening the TC in the Finder and double-clicking on the sparse bundle. Drag the sparse bundle into Disk Utility's sidebar and select it.


  • With the desired partition or sparse bundle selected, click the +*Repair Disk+* (not permissions) button. This may take a while, especially on a Time Capsule. If errors are found, but not all of them were repaired, run the +*Repair Disk+* again, and again, until it either fixes all the errors or can't fix any more.


  • *To VERIFY your internal (boot) drive/partition* (since you can't Repair the one you're running from), select it in Disk Utility's sidebar and click the +*Verify Disk+* (not permissions) button. If it shows errors, you'll need to fix them via this procedure:

  • *To REPAIR your internal HD:*



  • 1. Insert your Leopard/Snow Leopard Install disc and restart while holding down the "C" key. This will take a few moments.


  • 2. Select your language when prompted.


  • 3. On the next screen, select Utilities in the Menubar, then +*Disk Utility.*+


  • 4. Do a +*Repair Disk*+ (not permissions) on your internal HD. If it doesn't fix all the errors, run it again (and again), until it either fixes them all, or can't fix any more.


  • 5. Reboot normally.


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*Section 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.

If it's a network disk, you may need to mount it first by double-clicking on it in the Finder.
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_*B2. The +Change Disk+ button 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 (see #A4).
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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 a "Full Reset" as in item #A4.
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_*B5. Would you like to reuse the Backup . . .?*_

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On Snow Leopard only, if you try to back up one Mac to another Mac's backups, you'll see this message:


*Would you like to reuse the Backup "<name and location of backups>" with this computer?*

The backup was created on a different computer. If you reuse this backup it can no longer be used by the original computer.

With the following choices:

  • Do not Back up now.

  • Create new Backup.

  • Reuse Backup.



Time Machine keeps each Mac's backups completely separate from the backups of any other Mac. This is done not by computer name (which you can change via +System Preferences > Sharing),+ but by each Mac's +Ethernet Address,+ which is embedded in the hardware on the logic board, and cannot be changed. (Thus, when you get a new logic board, TM thinks you got a new Mac.)

If you choose +*Create new Backup,*+ TM will leave the old backups alone, and start a whole new, separate set for the Mac you're on. Take this option if you've been backing up one Mac to the drive, and now want to add a second Mac. (If these backups are on an internal HD, or an external HD connected directly to your Mac via FireWire or USB, you might want to partition the drive, so each Mac has it's own, exclusive space. See #3 in the Frequently Asked Questions *User Tip* at the top of this forum.)

If you choose +*Reuse Backup,+* TM will "add on" to the existing backups. As the message says, then the original Mac cannot continue to back up to the same set of backups.

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*Section C. _BACKUP FAILURES*_



_*C1. Initial Backup Failed*_


The most common cause is the TM drive/partition not being formatted correctly. 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 that you selected in TM Preferences). Towards the bottom, the Format should almost always be the same as your internal HD (above). If they're not the same (one is case-sensitive and the other is not), see the pink box in #5 of the Frequently Asked Questions *User Tip* at the top of this forum. The only way to change the Format is to erase the partition and select a different format.

Last, select the top line of the TM drive (with the make and size). Towards the bottom, the *Partition Map Scheme* must be either GUID or +Apple Partition Map.+ Either will work for Time Machine; but for some other purposes, GUID is preferred for an Intel Mac, +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 *User Tip* at the top of this forum.

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. So if there's any question, 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 *User Tip* at the top of this forum. 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. As this is part of the "Preparing" (Leopard) or "Calculating changes" (Snow Leopard) phase, 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 *ndexing 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.

If you don't see any of these messages, or nothing here seems to help, copy and post all the messages from the failed backup in a new thread here, along with specifics of your set up.
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_*C3. "An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume"* or *"Aborting backup because indexing a file failed"*_


Occasionally, 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 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 -- the question is, what?

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:


  • 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, or, perhaps, it's enclosing folder.


  • Select it, click Exclude, then Done.


  • Then do a +*Back Up Now*+ from the TM icon in your Menubar, or by 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 the new 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 #A4).

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


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


  • b. Also exclude it from Spotlight indexing, at least temporarily, via System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy.


  • c. Do a +*Repair Disk*+ on your TM drive/partition. See #A5 above.


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


  • e. If the original file is on your internal HD (your boot drive), do a +*Verify Disk*+ on it. See #A5 above.



If all else fails, you may have a problem with the drive, or communicating with it. Try all the suggestions in #D2 below.
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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 last remaining 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 may not 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. Thus you won't lose the backup of anything that's currently on your system.

When this happens, you have a few options:

1. If you're on Leopard, de-select the +*Warn when old backups are deleted*+ option in TM Preferences > Options, and try again.

2. Erase the TM disk/partition with Disk Utility (in Applications/Utilities) and let TM start over with a new full backup.

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 *User Tip* at the top of this forum for detailed instructions.

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

  • Give it a different name, and use the +Change Disk+ button in TM Preferences to select it. Let TM start fresh on the new drive/partition, with a full backup of your entire system. Keep the old drive/partition for a while (disconnected) until you're sure everything is working and you don't need the old backups anymore. You'll still be able to view and restore from the old ones, via the procedure in #E2 below.


  • Or, duplicate the current backups to it via the procedure in #18 in the Frequently Asked Questions *User Tip* at the top of this forum.


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_*C5. "You do not have appropriate access privileges to save file “.<nnnnnnn>” in folder <name of TM Drive>"*_

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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 in the example, 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 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 *User Tip* at the top of this forum.

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 Mac's "Ethernet Address," 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).

On Snow Leopard only, you should have the opportunity to "reuse" or continue with the current backups. See #B5 above.

On Leopard, there is a fairly elaborate way to attempt to persuade TM that the existing backups really are for the same 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 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, spaces, and unusual characters.

If that doesn't help, apply the same rules to the name of your Time Capsule or Airport Extreme and network.
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_*C10. Error: (-50) Creating directory*_

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This may indicate a problem with your TM drive. Do a +*Repair Disk*+ on it. See #A5 above.

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 #A4.

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 full reset. See item #A4.

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*Section D. _OTHER PROBLEMS RUNNING BACKUPS*_




_*D1. Stuck in "Preparing" or "Calculating changes"*_

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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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If this is your first backup under Snow Leopard after updating from Leopard, try cancelling the backup, doing a Restart, and trying again.

Otherwise, 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, at least temporarily, from Spotlight (System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy).

_*If backing up to a Time Capsule or External Disk connected to an Airport Extreme:*_

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. Remove any punctuation and spaces. Do the same with the Time Capsule or Airport Extreme name, and your Network name.
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 TC's Sparse Bundle or AEBS drive's TM disk/partition. See #A5 above.

_*If backing up to an External hard drive:*_

7. Do a +*Repair Disk*+ on it. See #A5 above.
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, as some are USB 1.0).
10. Try different port(s), cable(s).
11. See if your drive has an automatic sleep or "spin down" feature you can disable.
12. Check the maker's web site (support or forum) for any driver or firmware updates.

If nothing helps, your drive may be failing (they all do, sooner or later).
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_*D3. TM is doing a full backup for no good reason*_


If this is your first backup on Snow Leopard after upgrading from Leopard, try cancelling the backup, doing a Restart, and trying again.

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 (rarely).


  • 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 to be safe, 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 #D3.

Doing an OSX update can cause a large backup, as it may add or update many thousands of 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 or drive.

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 your oldest backups to make room for new ones. See item #C4 for more info and your options.

In addition, regardless of space, TM also routinely "thins" your backups. It keeps one per week for as long as there's room; one per day (the first) for a month; all others for 24 hours.

Usually when old weekly backups are deleted unexpectedly, it's because TM has done a new full or large backup, which of course requires a lot of space. See #D3 or D4 for common reasons.

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

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If you can't see the backups for a disk/partition that's no longer connected, see #E3 below.

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 the same disk/partition.

Also, sometimes TM will start a new "sequence" of backups, as if they were from a different Mac. See item #D3.

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 right-clicking the TM icon in your Dock. (If the backups are on a network drive, you may have to mount it first, by double-clicking it via the Finder.)

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.

Also note that you cannot use the normal Restore button at the bottom of the screen to restore items, since they're from a different Mac. Instead, select the desired item(s), then click the "Gear" icon in the Finder window's toolbar and select the +*Restore <item> to ...+* option. You'll then get a prompt to specify the destination.
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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 +*Today (Now),+* you'll see all the drives/partitions currently attached to your Mac.

Select the Finder window or TimeLine entry for any backup, and you'll see a folder for each drive/partition that was backed-up, including any that are no longer connected. Navigate from there to whatever you're looking for.

Also note that you cannot use the normal Restore button at the bottom of the screen to restore selected items, since they're from a different disk/partition. Instead, select the desired item(s), then click the "gear" icon in the Finder window's toolbar and select the +*Restore <item> to ...+* option. You'll then get a prompt to specify the destination.

You can restore an entire disk/partition that has OSX on it to the same or a different one (erasing any previous contents) via the procedure in item #14 of the Frequently Asked Questions *User Tip* at the top of this forum.
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_*E4. Time Machine Interface ("Star Wars") won't display properly, or crashes*_

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This can be caused by any of a number of things. Try these fixes:

  • If you're using a Finder replacement (such as Pathfinder), be sure the Finder is running.


  • If you're using Spaces, turn it off temporarily.


  • If you have a second monitor, or anything plugged-in to a video-out port, disconnect it temporarily.


  • De-select your TM drive via TM Preferences > Change Disk (select "none"), then re-select the correct one.


  • Do a "complete reset" of TM, as in item #A4.


  • Do a +*Repair Disk+* on your TM drive. See #A5 above.


  • Try or create another user (System Preferences > Accounts). If it works ok from that user, delete the file:
    +*<home folder of the user where it doesn't work>/Library/Preferences/com.Apple.Finder.plist+*

24" iMac 9,1 2.66 GHz; 4gb; 640 gb, Mac OS X (10.6.1), dual-band AEBS v. 7.4.2