Fixed, Time Machine Stuck On Preparing Backup on Mac: macOS Big Sur/Catalina & Earlier

Last Updated on Nov 10, 2020

You are not alone on the issue like Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup on Mac with the issue in MacOS Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, EI Capitan and Other Mac Versions. Don’t worry; the Solution is so simple, Just the process and Remove the in-progress file from Drive. Now Fresh restart backup using TM. Time Machine is far better and efficient way back up your Mac compared to other third-party tools. You can take regular backup and set the Time Machine to take backup automatically, and for sure it will complete without any errors. In some rare cases, Time Machine stuck on “Preparing Backup” for a long amount of time.

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It might be possible that you haven’t taken backup for few months and now time machine stuck on preparing the backup. Another reason is you are taking backup of the large drive so it is stuck or much more reasons we can guess. Instead, we should try to fix the time machine stuck in preparing the backup. Let’s do this.

Solution of this issues is the same for the All Mac devices: iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air.

1 Fix Time Machine Backup Stuck and in Progress

Troubleshooting Guide on  Time Machine Stuck On Preparing Backup: Force Start Backup

Fix 1: Stop the Currently Failing Backup

First off we will cancel the currently stuck backup on Preparing Backup. It is quite easy. Time Machine preparation time will take longer than expected then give some time to complete this process. Give 30 Minutes more time. After that you can stop backup process forcefully. Follow the below steps to complete the process in between. If you failed from stop backup process then Delete inProgress process using the solution 2.

  • 1: From the top Mac Menu click on “Apple Logo” and open “System Preferences”.
  • 2: From there click on “Time Machine”.
  • 3: Now, cancel the backup in progress by clicking on (x).
  • 4: If you no longer find “Preparing Backup…” then go ahead.

Fix 2: Delete the “In Progress” File From The Time Machine Folder

After canceling the backup, it’s time to remove that corrupt in progress file from the system.

  • 1: From the “Finder”, Find the “Time Machine” Drive and open “Backups.backupd” folder.
  • 2: Next, open the folder which is named with your current Mac.
  • 3: Now search for the file contains .inProgress extension.
  • 4: Delete that in Progress file.

Fix 3: Restart Mac with The Time Machine Drive connected

Now, simply restart the Mac but don’t remove Time Machine Drive from the Mac.

  • 1: From top mac Menu click on the “Apple Logo” and tap on “Restart”. Don’t disconnect time machine drive.
  • 2: Give some time to “Spotlight” to run completely.

This action will cause macOS to re-index the file attached to time machine drive.

This can be one of the reasons why you are time machine stuck on preparing the backup. Or if the time machine drive is indexed by the spotlight then also we will need a good restart.

Fix 4: Take Backup as usual to remove Time Machine Stuck On Preparing Backup

Now after trying above to fixes, you must take backup normally. Don’t forget to connect the Time Machine Drive to your Mac.

  • #1: Go to the “Apple Logo” from top Mac Menu.
  • #2: Open “Time Machine” followed by “System Preferences”.
  • #3: Tap “Back Up” Now.

Again you will see “Preparing backup” on the screen, but don’t worry it will be gone after some time. It depends on the speed of your mac, the hard drive and the size of the data.

Also Useful: Alternate Ways to take a Backup on Mac.

Hope you got the fix and Troubleshooting tips on what my Mac Taking too much time in Time Machine Backup. Terminate the Backup process and Restart the Backup on the Backup drive.

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Jaysukh Patel is the founder of howtoisolve. Also self Professional Developer, Techno lover mainly for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and iOS, Jaysukh is one of responsible person in his family. Contact On: [email protected] [OR] [email protected]

4 Comments
  1. I have done this step twice without any resolution. I run TM backing up to an external SSD HD that contains High Sierra backups in the same “Backups.backupd” folder. The problem occurs when connected to power or on battery even though I allowed run TM on battery in settings.
    I also wonder if I can create another folder or partition on my external HD and be able to select it for backup in TM. Right now it seems TM only allows me to select the entire drive vs folder. TM is very finicky in operations but great when you really need it to rescue files.

  2. Thanks for the info, but it didn’t work for me. That said, I did manage to solve my Time Machine problem:

    Folks will not like the solution I found. I spent days trying to get Apple’s attention on this matter, they don’t seem to care. Well, I tired most of the suggested remedies from the web, but none of them worked.

    I finally had enough (to hell with waiting for Apple to get off their butt) and erased my external hard drive and on a whim formatted it as MacOS Extended (Case Sensitive, Journaled). The downside – the process deleted all my old backup files, but my Time Machine now works great.

    Hope this helps.

    • Now suppose that same day or a few days after you needed to restore the backup of a week or a month ago.

      That “solution” is simply unacceptable, it is against the very nature of what a backup is useful for.

  3. Deleting the “in progress” file and restarting the MacBook Air with Time Machine drive connected resolved the issue for me. Thanks!

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