Time Machine Troubleshooting Tips

Fix Your Time Machine Problems with These 4 Tips

Troubleshooting Time Machine problems may be a bit nerve-racking when you consider your backups may be at risk. That's one of  the chief issues with Time Machine, its sometimes cryptic warnings, and error messages.

Although Time Machine is a very robust backup app, it can have difficulties with some Macs or backup drives. When this happens, Time Machine displays somewhat unhelpful error messages that can drive a Mac user crazy.

Our guide to Time Machine error messages can help you fix many of the  problems you may encounter.

Backup Volume Could Not Be Mounted
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Time Machine "Backup Volume Could Not be Mounted" error message is generally seen when Time Machine is using a Time Capsule, an NAS (Network Attached Storage), or a remote Mac for its backup volume.

But that doesn't mean this message won't show up for backup drives that are directly attached to your Mac. It can happen, but for a number of reasons, it's just not as likely.

In order for Time Machine to use the assigned backup drive, it must be able to access the drive from the local Mac's file system. This means the remote or networked drive must first be mounted on your Mac.

Time Machine expects to find the backup drive in a special /Volumes folder that OS X uses as the mount point for both local and networked drives. If OS X can't mount the drive in this special folder, then Time Machine will eventually generate the "Backup Volume Could Not be Mounted" error message.

Our guide will help you diagnose and repair the problem so you can get on with your Time Machine backups. More »

External drive connected to MacBook
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When Time Machine spits out the "Backup Volume is Read Only" error message, it's complaining that it can't write backup data to the destination drive because the drive is set to only allow information to be read from it; it won't allow data to be written to it.

While it's possible to configure a drive as read only, it's unlikely that you did it on purpose. Something changed with the backup drive, and you'll need to figure out what happened so you can correct the problem.

There's good news and bad news with this error message. The good news is that most of the time, the problem is easy to fix. Even better, it's also likely that no loss of backup data has occurred, so most of you who see this error message can relax.

The bad news is that in a small number of cases, this error message may be an early indication of a drive that is having problems. The fix can range from performing minor drive repairs to replacing the drive, whether now or down the road.

Our guide will help you troubleshoot and correct the "Backup Volume is Read Only" problem, and get your Time Machine backups running again. More »

Time Machine Status
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

When Time Machine reports that it’s "Preparing Backup," you may think that everything is working fine and you can turn your attention to something else. But when Time Machine seems to be stuck, never advancing to the point of actually starting the backup, you may have cause to worry just a bit.

Generally, the Preparing Backup message isn’t an error message in itself. It’s really just a status message, one you’ll rarely notice because the preparation time is usually fairly short. When the Preparing Backup message hangs around long enough to be noticed, it may indicate a problem. The cause can be one of a number of things, including a third-party app interfering with Time Machine, corrupt files, a system freeze, or one or more drives that weren’t properly ejected.

In most cases, this problem is easy to troubleshoot. Our guide will help you get Time Machine humming again. More »

Apple Time Capsule 2008 model
Courtesy of Malabooboo

This isn't an error message, but a recommendation. You should verify your Time Capsule backups once in a while, to ensure that they're in good shape.

The difference between Time Capsule backups and regular Time Machine backups is that with Time Capsule, the destination drive isn't connected to your Mac; instead, it's connected to your local network.

Network file transfers can be slightly less robust than saving data to local drives. Network data has to put up with other network traffic, and the possibility that another device is trying to use the same backup drive. If you're using a wireless network, basic signal drops and noise can affect file transfers. Each of these factors can contribute to a less than ideal environment for backing up data, particularly when you want to ensure that the data is always correct.

Our guide will show you how to use Time Machine to verify your Time Capsule backups. More »