How to Fix Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup

Time Machine is the best way to back up your Mac data. A regular backup ensures that your data is safe if something goes wrong with your machine. However, Time Machine sometimes takes a long time to prepare a backup. This may be due to a large amount of data you are backing up or a software issue. 

If you see a very long preparation process or Time Machine gets stuck in the preparation process, do not worry! This guide should help you fix the problem.

How to tell if Time Machine is stuck in the preparation process?

The preparing backup process is usually fast, but the speed may change if you add more files to your backup. Sometimes the preparation process takes so long to be noticed. With that in mind, here’s how to tell if Time Machine gets stuck in the preparation process.

  1. Go to the Apple Menu at the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences from the drop-down menu.
  2. Select Time Machine.
  3. From here, you should see a Preparing Backup Progress Bar. If it stays still for more than 30 minutes, it’s stuck, and you cannot proceed with the backup. 

Note that if you have added more files or made significant changes, Time Machine should take longer to prepare a backup. 

Cancel Your Backup

 If Time Machine is stuck in the preparation process, the next step is to cancel the current backup before proceeding with troubleshooting solutions. Here are the steps.

  1. Open System Preferences and click the X button next to the progress bar.
  2. Time Machine will take a while to stop the preparation process.
  3. When it’s stopped, uncheck the option next to Back Up Automatically
  4. Now, open the Time Machine backup volume and select Backups.backupd.
  5. From here, locate the file that ends with .inprogress, then right-click on it, and select Delete > empty the trash.

How to Fix Time Machine that Gets Stuck on Preparing Backup

When you have canceled the current backup attempt, it’s time to get your Time Machine backup working properly again. Check out our troubleshooting solutions below.

Bypass Large Files

One of the main reasons why Time Machine is stuck in the preparation process lies in your large files. In fact, if you have many large files to be backed up at the time, they will hold up the process. In this case, try bypassing large files to see if the problem is fixed. 

  1. Open System Preferences > Time Machine.
Time Machine backup
  1. From the box, select Options and select the plus (+) sign to proceed.
  2. Now, select the files or folders you wish to bypass from the list and select Exclude.
  3. Hit Save to save the changes. Run the Time Machine again and see if it’s stuck again. 

Check Spotlight Search

Spotlight is a great feature that allows you to search files and apps across the board. However, it can index the Time Machine backup volume, interfering with the Time Machine preparation process. Try adding the Time Machine backup volume to the Spotlight preference pane in the Privacy tab.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Select Spotlight and hit the Privacy tab.
  3. Select the plus (+) sign and select your Time Machine backup volume.
  4. Spotlight will stop indexing the Time Machine backup volume, which should fix the problem.

Restart Your Mac

A restart helps fix many problems on your Mac. In this case, try restarting your machine to see if the problem is resolved. To restart a Mac, click the Apple menu > Restart from the drop-down list. Your computer will restart and come back on a few moments later. 

Restart a Mac

Alternatively, hold down the Control + Command + power/eject/Touch ID button simultaneously until the screen darkens and you hear the restart sound. 

Check Your Internet Connection

A poor internet connection could be causing Time Machine to get stuck in its preparation process. Try checking your Wi-Fi to make sure everything works properly. 

Another solution is to disable your antivirus settings. In fact, if you have set up antivirus settings on your Mac, they may interfere with Time Machine backup. In this case, go to your antivirus settings and exclude Time Machine. 

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