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

Last Updated on Nov 15, 2021

You are not alone on the issue like Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup on Mac with the issue in MacOS Monterey, Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, 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 a far better and efficient way to 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 the time machine is 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.

The solution to these issues is the same for All Mac devices: iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air.

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

Monterey Time Machine not working

Due to an internal Bug & Software issue with the installed app running on Mac or in Backgroud. This problem persists with the several Mac Users running on MacOS Monterey. So, the solution is to put your Mac in Safe mode [Intel or M1 Chip] and Start Time Machine Backup on the External hard drive in Safe mode. Hope this will work. Finally, Restart your Mac to Exit from Safe mode and Back to the normal login screen.

Backup Failed (104: BACKUP_DELAYED_UNFINISHED_PROTECTED_FILES)

Several users have been reported the Time Machine Backup issue, They are stuck with the error “Backup failed” and Time Machine Waiting to Compete First Backup. Let’s fix it and Start smooth and Fast backup action.

So the solution is to repair your Mac disk in Recovery mode, Don’t worry about data loss. head over the process of Recovery mode on Apple M1 or Intel Mac. Let’s put your Mac in Recovery mode.

  • For M1 Macs:- Shut down your Mac, then wait for 20 seconds and Press and Hold on the Power button until you see the Startup Volumes and Settings gear icon with name Options. Click on Options and see the Disk Utility Window MacOS Recovery utilities screen.options-in-recovery-mode-on-m1-mac
  • For Intel Macs:- Shut Down your Mac, then wait for 20 seconds and Turn on your Mac. Now, Quickly press and hold the [Command + R] Key from the keyboard. Until you see the utilities screen in MacOS Recovery.

Now, the Next Process is the Same for Both intel or M1 Mac.

Select Disk Utility > Continue to See Disk Utility window.

disk-utility-on-macos-recivery-utilities
disk-utility-on-macos-recivery-utilities

See disk on the sidebar of a window, Otherwise, go to View > Show All Device.

show-all-devices-in-disk-utility-on-mac
show-all-devices-in-disk-utility-on-mac

Next, Select Startup Disk, Container, Volume, and Repair with the option “First Aid” from the top of the window.

repair-mac-disk-container-and-volume-on-mac
repair-mac-disk-container-and-volume-on-mac

Start Repair process “RUN“.

fix-mac-disk-error
fix-mac-disk-error

Click on Done to Successfully repair.

complate-macos-disk-error
complete-macOS-disk-error

That’s it.

Restart your Mac to Exit from MacOS Recovery mode. Go to the Apple Logo > Restart in MacOS Recovery screen. and Check with Time Machine Backup in External Drive.

Now, Follow the beneath steps to start New Time Machine Back on Mac in an External drive.

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 the backup process forcefully. Follow the below steps to complete the process in between. If you failed to stop the backup process then Delete the inProgress process using 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).stop-the-time-machine-backup-on-mac
  • 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: How to Free Up Space on Time Machine Backup Drive

Are you getting errors during Time Machine Backup to your External Time Machine Backup drive? This Time Machine Couldn’t complete the backup to “Backup of Your Mac Mini or MacBook” or “Red Exclamation mark in Time Machine Backup window”.

red-exclimation-mark-while-taking-up-time-machine-backup-on-mac
red-exclamation-mark-while-taking-up-time-machine-backup-on-mac

That means you have an issue with low space on Time Machine Backup Drive. at that point, I recommend taking your Mac Backup to Another External Drive or Free Up space in a used Hard Drive.

Follow the below steps, to free space, and Re-Start Backup in the same Drive That’s stuck.

  1. Click on the Red Exclamation mark showing on your Time Machine window.
  2. Read the Error Message, that appearing for a fix. red-exclamation-mark-in-time-machine-backup.webp
  3. here’s I am making free space on the External Time Machine Backup driveshort-time-machine-backup-in-backup-drive-on-mac
  4. Open Finder on Mac, See the Time Machine Drive is showing on the left side of the window. Click on it and see All the Backup in Date wise List. to Re-Short the Folders, Right-Click on Free space and Go with Short by > Date Added or Date Modified. Still, you have a cofusion and want to analyze Each Backup in brief then select all the Backup folders> Right-click on it and Click on the “Get Info” option.get-info-of-time-machine-backup-drive-on-mac
  5. See the Info card, with the Last Modified Date and Size of the folder.find-old-time-machine-backup-in-backup-drive-on-mac
  6. Select Old folder and Delete, Right-click on it > Delete Immediately.delete-old-backup-in-time-machine-backup-drive-on-mac
  7. Click on Delete Button, To Free Up Space.
  8. That’s it.

Re-connect the Time Machine Backup drive to Mac. and Check the Error is fixed. if not then follow the below steps.

Fix 4: Re-start the Time Machine Backup Process

  1. On-Time Machine Window in System Preferences. Click on “Select Disk” Option.take-a-manual-backup-of-mac-in-time-machine-backup-drive
  2. under the Available Disk, Select Backup disk and Click on Use Disk to start to Backing up process.restart-time-machine-backup-on-external-drive
  3. That’s it. Problem is fixed now.time-machine-backup-is-strated-on-mac

Fix 5: 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 the 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 6: Take Backup as usual to remove Time Machine Stuck On Preparing Backup

Now after trying the above 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.

Hope you got the fix and Troubleshooting tips on 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

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]om

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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