How to Fix Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup in macOS High Sierra

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“Hello! Ever since I have upgraded to High Sierra, I have never been able to successfully backup my MBP via Time Machine. It gets stuck on ‘preparing backup’ for around 30-40 minutes and stops automatically. Not sure what happened.”

Aniruddh from MacRumors Forum

The time for Time Machine to prepare backup may vary from a few minutes to a few hours. If you haven’t backed up your Mac for a long time, it is normal for Time Machine to take some compares your current files and folders to those in the last backup. But if Time Machine stuck on preparing backup status for more than one day, you’ll need to take the issue seriously.

Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup in High Sierra

Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup in High Sierra

What to do if Time Machine takes forever to get past “preparing backup” status? Here are some tips to get out of Time Machine preparing backup status.

How to Fix Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup

To troubleshoot the Time Machine preparing backup taking forever, the first thing you need to do is stop the currently backup process. In the Time Machine preference pane, click the little “X” icon next to the progress bar. Then, follow the troubleshooting process below to fix Time Machine stuck on preparing backup in macOS High Sierra, macOS Sierra, or earlier Mac OS X.

  1. Exclude Time Machine backup folder from virus canning

Antivirus software can make Time Machine becomes slow to backup your Mac. So if you are running antivirus software on your Mac, you need to make sure the Time Machine backup folder that named “Backups.backupdb” is excluded from virus scanning.

  1. Prevent Spotlight from indexing the Time Machine backup volume

It is proven that preventing Spotlight from indexing the Time Machine volume can help improve the speed of backup process. Follow the steps below to make it:

Step 1. Click the Apple icon at the top left corner of your screen and choose System Preference.

Step 2. Click Spotlight and choose Privacy tab.

Step 3. Click the Add (+) button to browse to your Time Machine backup folder and add it to the list.

  1. Remove the .inProgress file

You’ll find a file with a “.inProgress” extension in the Time Machine backup volume. This file may contain out-of-date or corrupt information and you need to remove it to fix Time Machine stuck on preparing backup status.

Step 1. Open the Time Machine backup volume and navigate to the “Backups.backupdb” folder.

Step 2. Choose the folder that is the name of your Mac.

Step 3. Find the file named “xxx-xx-xx-xxxxxx.inProgress” and move it to the Trash.

How to Recover Files from Mac Without Time Machine Backup

In addition to the problem talked above: Time Machine stuck on preparing backup, you may face other problems like Time Machine backup interruption or Time Machine not backing up certain files. When there is no available backup, how do you recover lost or deleted files on Mac?

Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery, a professional Mac data recovery tool, makes it possible for you to get back lost files on macOS High Sierra, macOS Sierra, OS X El and others. It is capable of recovering documents, emails, photos, videos, and more from your Mac hard drive directly.

How to Recover Files from Mac

How to Recover Files from Mac

To get more details, read: How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac >

This entry was posted in on Dec 26, 2017 by Judy.

9 responses to “How to Fix Time Machine Stuck on Preparing Backup in macOS High Sierra”

  1. James says:

    Your Step#2 is flawed. I just tried it under High Sierra 10.13.2. It yields an error dialog which says the following:

    “Backups.backupdb” is a Time Machine backup folder. You cannot add it to the privacy list.

    And there you have it.

    • jasonmark39 says:

      It worked for me under High Sierra 10.13.3.

      • Earl Williams says:

        Adding the Time Machine folder to the Spotlight exclusion list in the Privacy tab didn’t work for me either under OS X 10.13.3, same error message…but I was able to add the entire volume OK (that contains the Time Machine folder).

  2. Trent Young says:

    I found that with a WD Hard Drive I had the same issue. Of course I used Disk Utility to erase everything on the drive and boot it for Time Machine. ** Just like we always did ***
    However, WD did something different… you have to leave their little bit of information on the drive just to get it to work. What I actually had to do was go to WD and have that program erase the hard drive and then I reformatted it with Disk Utility and finally have it working.
    WD is trying to save money and they don’t make hard drives for Mac any longer. You have to do all the work now….

  3. Leopold says:

    Hi! I just had this issue, upgraded quite a bit from “El Capitan” to “High Sierra” with its new file system APFS on an old MB Pro early 2013, 256MB SSD. I use a dedicated USB external disk for the TimeMachine backups.

    Was stuck on “preparing” for an hour or so, aborted and deleted that .inprogress file, had another go from clean reboot.

    Turned out that the process completed successfully after about 6 hours so my advice is to just accept that it will sometimes take a very long time to “prepare” (a couple of hours) and then for the actual backup which can be very slow first time after a big OS upgrade like the one I did.

    After the first backup was completed successfully I just did another one, it completed within an hour now with very little time in the “preparing” stage. Still quite slow but it seems to work at least.

    • Christine Neale says:

      Well, this is helpful. Ridiculous that it takes so long, but your post has encouraged me to just let it go for a while instead of stressing over it! Thanks. 😀

  4. AMP says:

    When trying to remove xxx-xx-xx-xxxxxx.inProgress, I get an error message saying it cannot be done.. The message is

    The Finder can’t complete the operation because some data in “2018-02-23-112919.inProgress” can’t be read or written. (Error code -36)

  5. Stan says:

    Late last week I upgraded to High Sierra 10.13.6. Since the upgrade, I have not been able to do an upgrade to my Time Machine. I have 3 MacBook Air’s backing up to the same time machine; the two others upgraded and still back up, but one machine is stuck at “Preparing Backup.”

    I have tried all the suggestions online, especially deleting the ‘inProgress’ files and rebooting. Nothing works. Here is the trace of what happens:

    2018-07-21 17:39:17 Starting automatic backup
    2018-07-21 17:39:17 Attempting to mount network destination URL: afp://Stanley%20Dunn;[email protected]’s%20AirPort%20Time%20Capsule._afpovertcp._tcp.local./Data
    2018-07-21 17:39:20 Mounted network destination at mount point: /Volumes/Data using URL: afp://Stanley%20Dunn;[email protected]’s%20AirPort%20Time%20Capsule._afpovertcp._tcp.local./Data
    2018-07-21 17:40:42 Checking for runtime corruption on /dev/disk2s2
    2018-07-21 17:40:53 Disk image /Volumes/Data/Stanley’s MacBook Air.sparsebundle mounted at: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups
    2018-07-21 17:40:55 Backing up to /dev/disk2s2: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.SnapshotVolumeFSEventStoreUUID’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.SnapshotVolumeLastFSEventID’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.SnapshotVolumeUUID’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.PreviousSnapshotVolumeUUID’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.PreviousSnapshotVolumeName’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.VolumeBytesUsed’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.VolumeIsCaseSensitive’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.fstypename’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Failed to remove attribute ‘com.apple.backupd.VolumeIsEncrypted’ from ‘file:///’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Starting age based thinning of Time Machine local snapshots on disk ‘/’
    2018-07-21 17:41:45 Age based thinning deleted Time Machine snapshot ‘com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-20-172303’ on disk ‘/
    2018-07-21 17:42:44 Completed thinning of snapshots on disk ‘/’ in 58.0 seconds – current free space: 37.63 GB (37,628,669,952 bytes), target free space: 25 GB (25,000,000,000 bytes), initial free space: 35.69 GB (35,685,974,016 bytes), urgency: 0, remaining snapshots: (
    “com.apple.Time “com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-20-190637”,
    “com.apple.Time “com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-20-202245”,
    “com.apple.Time “com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-20-213643”,
    “com.apple.Time “com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-21-085649”
    2018-07-21 17:42:46 Failed to write unlock record UUIDs as extended attribute for disk ‘/’, error: Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=1 “Operation not permitted”
    2018-07-21 17:42:47 Created Time Machine local snapshot with name ‘com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-21-174246’ on disk ‘/’
    2018-07-21 17:42:48 Declared stable snapshot: com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-21-174246
    2018-07-21 17:42:48 Mounted stable snapshot: com.apple.TimeMachine.2018-07-21-174246 at path: /Volumes/com.apple.TimeMachine.localsnapshots/Backups.backupdb/Stanley’s MacBook Air/2018-07-21-174246/Macintosh HD source: Macintosh HD
    2018-07-21 17:50:14 Not starting scheduled Time Machine backup: Backup already running
    2018-07-21 18:49:34 Not starting scheduled Time Machine backup: Backup already running

    What I don’t understand is the attribute problems above. I’ve never had trouble with system upgrades before, but again, this is only 1 of 3 machines with a problem. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  6. William Warther says:

    After upgrade to High Sierra I noticed Time Machine was not working. It does not show the ext, Drive to choose when setting up Time Machine backup. It only shows Time Capsule. Not sure how to get it working again.

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