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I have a MacBook Pro from 2009. It came with OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) but I upgraded to 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

A few days ago, I tried to backup my files on an external hard drive, like I have successfully done many times before and after the OS upgrade.

The status on the Time Machine menu at the top of my screen said "Preparing Backup", instead of counting up like it usually does. It stayed that way for a few minutes, then I got tired of waiting and stopped the backup.

Last night, I tried it again and let it sit overnight for almost 12 hours. It is still stuck on "Preparing Backup". What can I do to make the backup work like it did before?

I tried Googling for this problem and the solutions I saw said to either wait longer (without any clear idea of how long) or to exclude the Backups.backupdb folder from my virus scanner (which doesn't apply to me since I don't have a virus scanner).

Edit on 2013-5-23: Here are all the things I tried that didn't work:

  • I tried waiting for the indexing to finish but that didn't seem to help. I let my laptop sit for about 36 hours and the status still said "Preparing Backup".
  • I found a folder on my backup drive named /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/Elias Zamaria’s MacBook Pro (2)/2013-04-30-182726.inProgress. I deleted it and that didn't seem to help.
  • I tried verifying my main hard drive using the Disk Utility and everything seemed fine. I tried verifying the disk permissions and got some errors involving iTunes (I think), and I fixed them by clicking the "Repair Disk Permissions" button. I also tried verifying my external hard drive and it seemed fine. I tried the backup again and it froze like before.
  • I tried looking at the website that @lgsancho linked to. I found some things that may look useful but I didn't try them yet.
  • I tried running tmutil status, without the backup running and got this result:

    Backup session status:
    {
        ClientID = "com.apple.backupd";
        Running = 0;
    }
    

    I started the backup, waited for the status to change to "Preparing Backup", and ran the same command, and got this result:

    Backup session status:
    {
        BackupPhase = ThinningPreBackup;
        ClientID = "com.apple.backupd";
        DateOfStateChange = "2013-05-21 19:09:06 +0000";
        DestinationID = "8BC5795A-0AAC-4976-B960-ECCE8F48842C";
        DestinationMountPoint = "/Volumes/Time Machine Backups";
        Percent = "-1";
        Running = 1;
        Stopping = 0;
    }
    

    The backup has been going on for about 45 minutes. I tried the command and got this result:

    Backup session status:
    {
        BackupPhase = ThinningPreBackup;
        ClientID = "com.apple.backupd";
        DateOfStateChange = "2013-05-21 19:09:06 +0000";
        DestinationID = "8BC5795A-0AAC-4976-B960-ECCE8F48842C";
        DestinationMountPoint = "/Volumes/Time Machine Backups";
        NumberOfChangedItems = 483816;
        Percent = 0;
        Running = 1;
        Stopping = 0;
    }
    

    It looks exactly the same, except the Percent has increased from "-1" to 0. The backup has been going on for almost 3 hours. The status still says "Preparing Backup" and tmutil status gives me exactly the same result as the last time.

Here are the things that have been suggested, which I am reluctant to try:

  • Emptying my trash. I don't want to do this because it defeats the purpose of the trash and takes away my ability to recover files that I may have accidentally deleted.
  • Deleting old backups. I may try this if nothing else I can think of is helpful.

Edit on 2013-6-1: I am unaccepting my answer because it is happening again. I will get sick of rebooting every time it happens. I just want it to stop. I am thinking of considering deleting my old backups. This is what I see in the Console from backupd:

5/31/13 11:09:09.595 PM com.apple.backupd-helper[16259]: Not starting scheduled Time Machine backup - time machine destination not resolvable.
6/1/13 12:09:37.920 AM com.apple.backupd-helper[16438]: Not starting scheduled Time Machine backup - time machine destination not resolvable.
6/1/13 12:23:20.619 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: Starting automatic backup
6/1/13 12:23:21.794 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: Backing up to: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb
6/1/13 12:23:26.430 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: Using file event preflight for Macintosh HD
6/1/13 12:23:55.148 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: Will copy (829.8 MB) from Macintosh HD
6/1/13 12:23:55.602 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: Found 14880 files (949.2 MB) needing backup
6/1/13 12:23:55.632 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: 2.44 GB required (including padding), 391.84 GB available
6/1/13 9:06:02.191 AM com.apple.backupd[16473]: Cancellation timed out - exiting
6/1/13 9:10:04.406 AM com.apple.backupd[18634]: Starting automatic backup
6/1/13 9:10:05.055 AM com.apple.backupd[18634]: Backing up to: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb
6/1/13 9:10:11.788 AM com.apple.backupd[18634]: Using file event preflight for Macintosh HD
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Let us know if the question here already has your answer. apple.stackexchange.com/questions/54216/… –  bmike May 4 '13 at 18:58
    
Do not reuse the old backup. Use a newly formatted drive. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 4 '13 at 19:16
    
@bmike, I looked at the question you linked to. I am not using MacDrive or accessing the drive from a Windows computer or using it for any purpose other than Time Machine backups. I tried waiting for the indexing to finish but it was stuck for 36 hours. I tried deleting the inProgress folder like one solution suggested and it didn't seem to do anything. I will verify the volumes when I get a chance. –  Elias Zamaria May 15 '13 at 4:02

5 Answers 5

This isn't normal, but you have two options:

  1. Just wait for all the processing to finish or error out.
  2. Help the process along.

In this case, an initial backup can take a long time, but the way to help the process along is to delete the .../whatever.inProgress file. You could also try backing up to a new drive to make sure it's not a problem with the Mac as opposed to a problem with the backup drive or just a lot of changes to reconcile.

See this other answer for details.

http://apple.stackexchange.com/a/65801/5472

In cases where you run into this repeatedly, you can either try to isolate what folder takes so long to back up. On a first backup, I've tried to exclude the Users folder (or several folders at the base of the boot volume if they have more than 10 GB of data) to make sure that the filseystem is OK and the backup drive is OK. At that point, you will see backups taking a minute or so for each incremental backup. You can then relax the exclusion list and know if it freezes, then you have a problem in a specific folder.

The other way to attack this is run disk utility (or another tool) to repair the directory structure or make a back up using another tool and wipe the drives / restore them from backup.

share|improve this answer
    
I waited for almost 12 hours. How much longer do I have to wait? –  Elias Zamaria May 5 '13 at 1:02
1  
I will try deleting the inProgress file the next time I feel like trying to make this work. –  Elias Zamaria May 5 '13 at 1:02
2  
You can also use the command line tool tmutil status to dump exactly how far in the process you are. 12 hours could be perfectly fine if you are backing up 85 GB over a network connection. It would be abnormal for 5 GB over USB. –  bmike May 5 '13 at 2:28
    
I found a file named /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/Elias Zamaria’s MacBook Pro (2)/2013-04-30-182726.inProgress and moved it to the Trash, then started doing the backup as usual. I will let everyone know as to how it went and accept this answer if it helps. –  Elias Zamaria May 8 '13 at 3:28
1  
Also note that the "Preparing backup" may need a lot of bandwith to the drive - if you can give it a cabled connection instead of wireless, it may be faster. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Aug 27 at 8:35

I just rebooted my laptop and started the backup. It worked fine.

I have no idea why this works but at least I have some idea what to try if I have this problem again.

share|improve this answer

I think this is a normal issue. See here, the first backup is expected to take a long time…

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

    
I don't care if you are expecting long answers. I can't comment because of this stupid reputation minimum requirement, so I posted an answer and some stupid moderator comes to try to teach me what should I do, if I can't do nothing with my account. –  Werner May 4 '13 at 23:27
    
Either way, this worked for me, and it is a plausible solution. If it will work for him, I don't know, but it is an answer. Long answers not always are the best. –  Werner May 4 '13 at 23:30

I'm pretty sure it helps to delete an old backup. I struggled around with the same problem and solved it by deleting the oldest backup. See here how to do that.

share|improve this answer
    
Are you sure I should delete my oldest backup and not my latest one? How would that help? –  Elias Zamaria May 11 '13 at 6:06

A very useful page about Time Machine: http://pondini.org/OSX/Home.html

share|improve this answer

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

1  
If you would like to expound on what that link has to say about the issue at hand, hat would be ideal. Link only answers are better as a comment to the question. –  bmike May 4 '13 at 22:57
    
I saw a lot of stuff on that site. What exactly is useful on it? Any specific pages? –  Elias Zamaria Jun 1 '13 at 16:21
    
For troubleshooting about Time Machine you should take a look at pondini.org/TM/Troubleshooting.html –  lgsancho Jun 8 '13 at 13:58
    
Specific help about TM stuck while preparing backup can be found at pondini.org/TM/D1.html –  lgsancho Jun 8 '13 at 14:02

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