Fixing a simple Time Machine error

This morning I nudged the mouse on my Mac Pro and was welcomed with the following window:
Time Machine Error. Unable to complete backup. An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume.
Funny thing is that the dialog has an OK button. It's really not OK. Why not? Because it didn't tell me where the problem was.

As I've said before, I love the simplicity of Time Machine, though presenting an error message like this is not very helpful. Something - anything - to indicate what went wrong would be a good idea. I accept that you don't want to scare off the non-techies with a detailed error message but having a little "more" link that described what the problem is would have helped.

Rather than investigate I decided to go with the flow. I clicked the OK button and then told Time Machine to back up now. It happily whirred away and looked like everything was fine, then at the very end up popped the failure notification again. Crap.

I did what I always do when something unexpected happens on my computer: I Google'd up the error message. There were a number of solutions offered up, many involving reformatting the TM drive. I felt that was a little drastic so I looked into the Backup drive in Finder and saw that the last folder was:


I dragged that folder into the Trash can and was prompted for my login credentials. The file was whisked away and I asked Time Machine to do another backup and it proceeded fine.

Finding out what happened
Wanting to understand why this occurred I popped around looking for logs. In reviewing the current System Log (/var/log/system.log) I found entries that indicated one of my Growl plugins had a problem being written to the backup. Once that occurred the "in progress" backup file was corrupted and needed to be deleted in order for Time Machine to continue.

I'm not sure what caused the problem. The backup and main disks appear to be operating fine; I ran Disk Utility's Verify Disk on both and they came up clean. Perhaps a Growl notification opened the plugin in mid-read? Not too sure but it all seems fine now.

If you happen to get the error message above you may want to just check your backup volumes to see if you've got an open backup that's listed as In Progress, even though Time Machine is not running. Try deleting that to see if it allows your backups to continue. At least that's what worked for me!


Anonymous said…
Hi Dave,

You just switched a few month ago, and now, I learn ton of good tricks from you.
Thanks so much for sharing

(I switched in 1984 ;-)))
Anonymous said…
A handy tip, don't go manually searching through logs. Instead, run the Console application in your Utilities folder, and select All Messages on the left. Then start searching using the box in the upper right. All Time Machine activity is logged under the process name of "backupd", so searching for that will pull up all the relevant logs.

You can also go to File and make a new database query in the normal Smart Folder interface way if you keep checking for the same thing.

OS X not only has Spotlight, but a great search mentality integrated into everything. Tools like the way Console app works, or searching through a bijillion preferences to find one would have been real handy back in my Windows admin days.
nigel said…
I got the same error dialog (although since I was typing at the time it helpfully grabbed focus and then vanished as I hit return as part of my typing, meaning I only just saw the time machine icon). I then had to dig into the time machine prefs to find the error message.

However in my case just manually kicking off the backup again with "Backup Now" resulted in a successful backup.
David Alison said…
@Tom: that is incredibly handy - thanks! I pulled up the console application didn't see anything obvious - but I didn't realize that I wasn't looking at all of the messages. I really appreciate that tip.
Anonymous said…
Great post! Thank you.

There are a TON of us who are getting a Time Machine error since upgrading to 10.5.3 - read this post:

If any of you know how I fixed it, PLEASE let me know! There are a ton of Apple forum posters who are getting these errors and it's driving us crazy!
Unknown said…
Great stuff, Dave.

Like Fred I switched in '84.

Here's a zipped Applescript that'll pull the info from the last (or current) backup for you. It even gets backups whose logs span files (If you're up that early. The author often is.)

ProMo~ said…
It is so useful even though I don't use Time machine.

: )

Why don't you read "Playing Media Rant - when will this get better?" comment?
Anonymous said…
David, I found when I was getting errors like that with Time Machine that my Time Machine drive was full. It was having a difficult time removing older incremental backups. I helped it along by removing a couple of older backups.

I was also having problems with the drive at the time so its possible that the hardware problems were actually what was causing the errors. It may have been a coincidence that the drive was running out of space at the same time.

Still, I would check the space and make sure there is enough.

I also had some issues with my TM drive and permissions. For some reason the drive was read-only for a short while. Rebooting OS X seemed to fix that, but I couldn't eject the drive even after turning off Time Machine.

Hopefully 10.5.3 will address some of these issues so that better error reporting can be displayed.
David Alison said…
@Vesperdem: Thanks man - I have plenty of disk space though:

TM Drive:
931GB Capacity
595GB Available

Man, I love 1TB drives!
Anonymous said…
I had the same problem with Time Machine after updating to 10.5.3, and found that I couldn't dismount the Backup volume even though at that point the backup wasn't running. Thinking a restart might help, I did so, the backup started up again and has been fine since. I've unchecked the new option for backing up when on battery power, and will see if that change prevents the problem from returning.
Anonymous said…
I had that same error message just yesterday. I simply did nothing and TM cleaned itself up on the next regularly scheduled backup an hour later, as I had suspected.
Anonymous said…
Here's a related tip that I just figured out: You can't delete the .inProgress file if you have Fast User Switching enabled.
Unknown said…
Thanks for the post - the pointer to /var/log/system.log was more than useful! My error was the same as yours but system.log indicated that it had trouble deleting a pair of backups from earlier today. Now deleted, everything seems fine.

Thanks again.
David Alison said…
@Nic: Glad it helped man! I continue to get the error every day or so. Sometimes a retry fixes it, others I have to manually delete the .inProgress file before it works.
Kent Steen said…
running 10.5.3 and encountered this error today. I just wiped the drive and went back to .mac backup after getting the error again after that - I may investigate SuperDuper also until Time Machine stabilizes - lots of us getting this error
Anthony said…
I was having this issue and found that it was indeed Growl interfering in some way - once I removed Growl (and I was using the latest 1.1.3) - the problem stopped.
Anonymous said…
Great realy handy! It worked!!!
Anonymous said…
i did what you said.. but i cant backup yet.. theres a new error.. an error accurred while creating the backup directory.

what happend? pls help thanks
David Alison said…
@Max Stone: There are a couple of things I would check: First, ensure you have enough disk space to perform the backup. If you do have you ever conducted a successful backup? If so, what's changed since the last time you did? Do you have the ability to manually create a folder on your backup volume? If not, that is likely your issue. If all of these items check out fine try running Disk, point it at your backup disk and try verifying the disk.

I hope this helps Max.
Paul Thompson said…
On the topic of backups, I've a piece of software and a service to recommend. I think the combination of services + software is the future of the Internet (eg iTunes, Skype, etc) and this is a great addition.

Have you heard of ?

It's powered by Amazon's S3 hosting solution, and allows you to easily backup to the "cloud". You pay Amazon a very small fee (you'll be surprised how cheap) per GB stored and transmitted (see the calculator ) and then you are safe in the knowledge that in the result of a fire/flood/burglary that caused you to lose both your computer and your time machine backup, you would not lose any data. For example, 10Gb of storage would cost you 1.50 USD per month. Transferring this data (a one off event) would cost 1 USD!

You can use it in a number of ways. For example, you can use it to simply mount a drive in Finder/ Windows Explorer (similar to Dot Mac/Me). Or you can use the software to create automatic incremental backups every night at a certain time.

One of the best things about Jungle Disk is that it makes the interaction with Amazon's servers easy. Furthermore, once you pay for the Mac version, you get the Windows and Linux versions too, creating great opportunities for cross-machine synchronisation, whatever the platform. Also, you can use the software so that your files are encrypted on the Amazon server, meaning that even if someone were to break into Amazon, your files would be safe.
David Alison said…
@Paul: I had not heard of this. Great tip - thanks for the link Paul. Looks promising.
Paul Thompson said…
Glad to help - would be good to hear how you find it.

I'm planning on using this in addition to Time Machine. This for the really important stuff + Time Machine for everything looks like a great combo.
Anonymous said…
I'm like Ping. I get the error message about once a day. Often, by the time I see the error message, TM has gone on and done the next backup(s) successfully. I only recently noticed that the middle of the TM icon changes to a lock after the unsuccessful run; it changes back to the clock hands after a successful run. Anyway, I found this post and comments very informative. Thank you.
-- Lennie
Anonymous said…
I am new to whole mac thing. i like everything but this freakin time machine. i am having this error and can't drag the file to the trash because I do not have sufficient priveleges?? any help appreciated.
David Alison said…
@Anon: Don't have sufficient privileges? Are you an administrator on your Mac? If not that's likely the problem.
Anonymous said…
Yes I am the admin. I ran the disk permissions utility with no luck either. Somehow, all my backup data has disappeared as well. I am going backwards with this problem.
Anonymous said…
UPDATE: I was able to delete the file after a reboot. I deleted the "in progress" file and ran backup now. I eneded up with the same error. I think I must have something corrupt? How can i find out what is causing the hang?
Anonymous said…
You could wipe the backup disk and start "fresh" ?
Anonymous said…
I was having the same problem with TM and asked my ML buddies for help. I got no response, so I decided to search the web, which I should have done initially. Oh well... shoot me!
Anyway, I just wanted to say that your link was the 1st one on the page and it sounded exactly like my problem, so I decided to follow your advise and delete that pesky file (inprogress) I'm running backup again right now and am hoping for better results. I'll let you all know how I make out.

Thanks for the tip.
Anonymous said…

Just wanted to stop back in and let you folks know that it worked. I was able to complete a new backup after deleting that file. Thanks again for the tip.
David Alison said…
Glad this was able to help you Ed. Lots of people still getting those TM errors. Now I'm fighting a losing battle with my wife's MacBook and our Time Capsule.
Anonymous said…
Time Machine keep skipping the next scheduled backup. I've done several backups by using back up now button so there is no apparent problems with the 1TB backup firewire drive or my Mac Pro HD. Any Ideas as to why each hour, nothing happens and no backups are made, except the next scheduled backup time is incremented by 1 hour.
David Alison said…
@James: Try loading up the (Activate Spotlight and type "Console", should be your top app hit). Click on the Show Log List button on the left side, then select the All Messages item under "Log Database Queries".

Now enter "backupd" in the filter text area in the top right to see all of the Time Machine related messages. That should give you an idea of what is actually happening with Time Machine and give you a clue as to why it may be skipping backups. Hope this helps...
Anonymous said…
David, I followed your advice and examined the console logs. There is nothing listed when Time Machine skips a backup. Today, when I restarted my Mac Pro & External 1TB drive that I use for Time Machine, the next scheduled backup was 11:02am. When 11:02 came, nothing happened and at 11:03 Time Machine's Preference window change the next scheduled backup time to 12:03pm. Examining the console logs as you suggested shows no entry at 11:02 or any other time the backup was skipped. If if force a backup by selecting Backup Now from the Time Machine menu bar icon, the backup occurs and the console log lists the Time Machine actions.
So, bottom line: Time Machine will not backup automatically every hour. I can't find this behavior identified anywhere on the WWW.
David Alison said…
@James: As I sit here and watch my Redskins failing to beat the Lions I read your comment and did some searching. I've seen a number of ideas on how to address it but I think this would be a good item to drop into the Apple discussion forums.

I also found a little application called TimeMachineScheduler that you may want to try to see if that will work for you. Drop a note in here to let me know if you find a solution!
Anonymous said…
David, Sorry about the Redskins!
Several weeks ago I installed Time Machine Editor. I thought this was messing with the time so I deleted it and restored the defaults by restoring Time Machine's LaunchDaemons in the system library from an earlier backup. but I missed a File: /user/library/preference/com.timeSoftware.timeMachineEditor
I opened that file using "Pref Setter"
and found that the "startinterval" was set to 14400. That's 4 hours. I reset it to 3600. At 12:02pm the next scheduled backup came an went without any backup. Somewhere there's a file, maybe invisible, that's set to backup every 4 hours so I'll wait until 2:02pm to see if it does a backup.
Anonymous said…
Hi everybody,
I have a very big and important problem and need urgent help.
I have a time machine backup file that was not terminated correctly. It has the ending .inprogress I need to restore that file by all means. Does anybody have an idea how i can do that. There are videos in there that are not storeda anywhere else and are extremly important. The .inprogress file is 194 GB bis, so hopefully tyhe videos would be there...
Anonymous said…
Hi everybody,
I have a very big and important problem and need urgent help.
I have a time machine backup file that was not terminated correctly. It has the ending .inprogress I need to restore that file by all means. Does anybody have an idea how i can do that. There are videos in there that are not storeda anywhere else and are extremly important. The .inprogress file is 194 GB bis, so hopefully tyhe videos would be there...
Thanks, Estephan
ThosEM said…
No one here mentions sleep. I always get the error message when I wake up the machine from sleep. Then I "back up now" and it completes without error. So my suspicion is that the code gets in trouble if the machine is asleep when the backup is triggered.

Any confirmation out there?
David Alison said…
@Tom: I do get the Time Machine errors independent of whether the machine is sleeping or not. I got two of them today, no sleep involved. Both were the "just retry it" variety.
Anonymous said…
I've been getting this error message once or thrice a day since upgrading to 10.5.3. I can't believe that Apple has not formally acknowledged it by now... but so it goes.

I am running a 24" aluminum iMac. I'll look into removing Growl and see .. but don't have high hopes for that.

Apple ... please please fix this issue!

Jonathan Dean said…
This may not help anyone but just in case.

Rebooting Time Machine didn't help and I wasn't able to delete the in progress file even as admin (or via command line using sudo.) Only after rebooting my Mac did it start working. Maybe it's as simple as remounting the backup volume in some cases?

For as many solutions as I've heard to the issue I have a feeling there is more than one cause. I'd start with the easy ones first (like rebooting your Mac and the Time Machine) before you start deleting your old backups.
Chris said…
Hi - for those people (like me) who are having a problem actually deleting the .inprogress file, I've found that if you relaunch Finder (Apple Menu->Force Quit...->Select Finder->Click Relaunch), this then allows you to drag the file to the trash and delete it.

Anonymous said…
I tried all the tips listed here but nothing worked. finally, i read somewhere that people who were using bluetooth keyboard/mouse were the ones with problems. I disconnected my bluetooth connect, attached a wired keyboard and mouse and wow my TM is working again!!

I am using 10.5.6 with an external HD.
Anonymous said…
I just found out that my TM that has been backing up since July is worthless as a system backup because the partition scheme on the drive was MBR (master boot record) instead of GUID partition scheme. I tried to restore from the backup (using Leopard DVD) it wiped my drive and then copied everything from my TM drive, restarted and then just hung, and wouldn't restart, just a gray screen. So my warning to everyone using and external HD for TM is to make sure that your drive has the GUID scheme.(for intel macs) You can find this using Disk Utility. Click on the man disk in question and in the lower left it will tell you the partition scheme. This is for all intel based macs. I moved my TM backups to a new drive (set up with GUID) using SuperDuper. I tried 3 times with Carbon Copy Cloner but it failed everytime. If all works out when my computer is fix (hardware problem) I will see if my new drive with work to restore my data. Make sure you check your drive and it is set properly while you can still get a good backup from a working computer. I believe this could turn into a major problem for apple if they do not get the word out to people that have been using TM since day one that the partition scheme matters so much.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the tip, VERY useful. I was pulling out my hair trying to figure out wtf was going on!
Anonymous said…
My TM seems to be backing up the harddrive fine, but there is also a "Desktop" folder on my TM drive and that cannot be deleted, nor the access status changed, and it is empty.
My error message says it cannot access the Desktop folder. How can I get rid of this and start fresh with the Desktop backup?
Peter da Silva said…
Time Machine seems horribly incomplete, but then a lot of OS X seems incomplete to me. You get these meaningless and useless error messages (-45, -36, what do those mean, is it documented anywhere?) I hated that from old Mac OS and while you get useful errors from the UNIX environment (Can't open /whatever: network is unreachable ... oh, it's a network problem, probably a bad route) so much of their own software still has that horrible tendency to give you useless or misleading messages. If I wanted that kind of thing I'd be running Windows.
Peter da Silva said…
Oh yes, the whole MBR vs GUID thing. Why on earth would the Leopard recovery software format the boot drive as MBR just because the backup drive was MBR if it can't boot from that? That's just sloppy. Apple is supposed to be smarter than that.
Following Jason's comment about GUID, sure enough, my external drive was MBR.

I've changed it now in accordance with the info here:

Thanks everyone.
Anonymous said…
Thanks. Deleting the 'in progress' file worked.
Sundial Studios said…
Thanks David. This was the only site I found that helped me fix this problem (including

I appreciate the help!!
Kevin said…

Looks like Apple fixed this somewhere along the way....maybe 10.5.7?

TM will still error out....however, instead of failing and presenting the useless dialog box, it will now just retry the backup.

David Alison said…
@Kevin: I haven't personally seen the error in quite a while myself so hopefully it is indeed fixed.
Unknown said…

I can't believe it - what a huge help this is. I search Apple and other sites to determine what the problem was. Once I found your posting I had the problem fixed in moments.

Thank you so much for your help!

DennisWKam said…
Thank you so much for the fix. My backups are going as scheduled thanks to you!
Anonymous said…
G5 Dual 2.0GHz OS X 10.5.8.
After looking at the Console information (as per previous tips) I determined that my DROPBOX application was preventing my TM backups. I turned off Dropbox and voila ... everything worked like it should. I didn't even have to delete the progress file. I also run Growl 1.2 which seemed not to affect anything.
Keith said…
Hey, just wanted to say thanks for this post and also the early-on comment about using Console to check the log quickly.

Got the error, checked the backupd log messages, found out it was an old iMovie project that was tripping it up, put that on the Do Not Back Up list, and now it's running again. It's already further along and seems to be running faster as well.
Susanne Gunning said…
These tips were all great and I finally got to the bottom of my problem. It was so simple. The external hard drive that I run my Time Machine on has to be connected to a high speed USB port and someone had changed it to a low speed port. Therefore the Time Machine was continually trying to back up!
Anonymous said…
Yes, /Applications/Utilities/ is a great source for under-the-hood view of activity on your Mac. Here's another handy Time Machine-specific "tool"...

Time Machine Buddy
It's a free widget that shows recent Time Machine logs.

Hope this helps, too.
Anonymous said…
Great help, many thanks!

Unknown said…
To David Alison,

I just dumped the prefs in ~/Library/Preferences/ and then Restart. Some other helpful solutions at apple knowledge base:

Good luck.
Nand said…
Process: fm [3931]
Path: /Applications/Footballmanager/Football Manager 2010/
Identifier: com.sigames.eur.FootballManager2010
Version: 10 . 1 (10 . 1 . 0 f 84713)
Code Type: X86 (Native)
Parent Process: launchd [82]

Date/Time: 2010-09-03 02:47:27.123 +0530
OS Version: Mac OS X 10.6.4 (10F569)
Report Version: 6

Interval Since Last Report: 377 sec
Crashes Since Last Report: 1
Per-App Interval Since Last Report: 1 sec
Per-App Crashes Since Last Report: 1
Anonymous UUID: 7FC4D7A2-B3EB-4A3F-AE7C-332E2F92BAF8

Exception Codes: KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE at 0x0000000000000000
Crashed Thread: 4

can u help make a head or tail of this error..?? what shud i do??!
David Alison said…
@Nand: It's likely either a bad program image on disk or bad memory in your Mac. Crucial makes a memory testing tool which may help on the memory side, though I've never used it. You can also run Disk Utility on your primary drive to ensure there are no bad areas of the hard disk. Finally, try getting a new copy of the Football Manager application by reinstalling it. Hope this helps...
Colin Kenney said…
Thanks for this post. Just got this error and was resigning myself to the prospect of having to format the drive. But this solution saved me from all that trouble.

Thanks David!
David Alison said…
@Colin Kenney: Glad to see that the blog post helped. Though a bit dated now it's still accurate and I get a ton of hits to this page every day from Google searches.
Anonymous said…
RD version: this worked for me! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

NYT version: My wife finally filled up the HD on older G5. I wanted to install a new larger internal HD, she wanted to go shopping for new external HD (her logic is that she is getting a new Mac later this year so she rather just move her data via the external). So the crazy set-up is a 320GB OWC 800-firewire (used with SuperDuper!), a 640GB WD (for all data files, apps stay on the internal HD) and a 2TB WD for Time Machine. TM did the back ups fine the first week I set all of this up, then all of a sudden it started bombing out with that nebulous Microsoft-like error. I wasted this past Fri, Sat & Sun messing with a dozen different settings trying to undo what I thought I screwed up and get things working correctly. I played a round-robin with my files as I reformatted all of the HDs. I re-re-re-set permissions. I did several things other forums suggested. THIS was the only post I found with the right answer. (Use Elvis voice) Thank you. Thank you very much.

~ Will in DC (bilingual PC/Mac since 2008 as my graphics artist wife is sooooo non-technical)
Anonymous said…

My time machine stopped working mysteriously about 2 weeks ago. After pulling my hair in frustration for a while and combing the apple support forums i stumbled across this blog and finally found my fix.

Here's what worked:
-disabling growl (i know, right?)

Yup. It was as stupid as that. Thanks Apple.
Jim said…
Thanks for your post. I'm running Snow Leopard Server to back up remote clients and the server itself to an external drive. The server-backup started failing over a month ago but remote machines were fine. Your suggestion of reviewing system.log showed Time Machine having problems locating a an application file. The app was non-critical so it was deleted and now the server backups are successfully completing.
Tim said…
Brilliant! A 3-year old tip staying alive and useful. Thanks for helping!
Anonymous said…
I got the same message but my drive has completely failed. The error message seems like potluck; total disaster or rogue folder! Whoop, thanks Apple.
Anonymous said…
cant delete the .inprogres file
David Alison said…
@Anon: Try turning off Time Machine, then reboot your Mac. After you log back in you should be able to delete the file and turn Time Machine back on.
Zap Media said…
Wow, can't thank you enough - saved our bacon. I though we were going to have to restore (and lose all data) Time Capsule.

Great post, thanks for sharing.
Hector Caroselli said…

I have been having a problem completing a Time Machine backup for a couple weeks.

Snow Leopard - 10.6.7

Per this thread, I was able to delete the "In Progress" file, have restarted the computer numerous times and the backup is still failing.

What next?

Thanks in advance
David Alison said…
@Hector: Open the Console application (use Spotlight to launch it if you don't know where it's located) and ensure All Messages is selected in the left pane. Scan through that and see if a particular file is hanging up your backup. As I mentioned above, I had a particular Growl file (a patch subsequently fixed that issue) that was causing problems. Once that file was eliminated, the backups worked.

If you can't find a specific file that's causing the problem it may be that your Time Machine drive is out of disk space or failing in general. Run Disk Utility on it and see if something obvious comes up. If these steps don't give you a solution, may be time to reformat / replace your Time Machine drive.

Good luck!
Hector Caroselli said…
Hi Dave,

Thanks for the advice and suggestions. I looked at the console log but nothing stood out. I have Tech Tools Pro and I ran a "File Structure" test on both the Time Machine Drive and my Mac HD drive that is being backed up by Time Machine. Tech Tools reported 2 files on the Mac HD drive that are either corrupt or contain invalid data. One is a .plist file and the other is .png

Based on what they are and their location, my best guess is that these files have been there for a long time and my Time Machine problem started recently so I am not sure if they are the culprits. The TM "drive" is a 1.25TB partition on a 2TB external drive.

Tech Tools is not reporting any other problems.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Dumb question - If I reformat or replace the TM drive is their any way to save the backup data or do I just run a full backup right away in which case I will lose historical data, I think.

Thanks again
David Alison said…
@Hector: If it's failing you should be seeing something in the Console view of your logs. Keep in mind that the entries will be listed under backupd-auto for Time Machine activity. You can filter the logs for "backupd" and it should show you where the problem is.

If that still doesn't give you an indication, you're probably best off reformatting that drive partition and starting from scratch. Given the low cost of multi-TB drives you may want to go out and get a Firewire 800 or USB 2+ external HD that you can use as a rotating spare.

I personally have two drives for backup within my Mac Pro and rotate them occasionally, then an external drive that I pull out of a fireproof safe every couple of months and copy all of my key data over to it; between 10 years of digital photos and video, I don't want to lose it.

Hope this helps...
Hector Caroselli said…

I beleive I have the answer. After looking at the console messages again I noticed error messages for files that make up Photoshop plugins. These files are from a product from On One software.

Long story short, I visited the On One support page and they are aware of this problem For now they suggest excluding their files from the backup until they figure out the problem. I will try this tomorrow.

FWIW here is a link to their support page with more info:

Thanks again for your help.
Peter said…
I got the error message. For me I think the problem was that I had named my backup drive with a name that had punctuation in the name. I used a ' in the name of the drive, as in "peter's drive". I think that Apple doesn't like this, so I tried to rename the backup drive. It didn't let me so I restarted and then it did let me remove the ' character. I restarted once more and then tried to use TM. The back up was now successful.
Peter said…
Forgot to mention that I also disabled some of the applications in the growl list. But in the Console there was an error about the backup disk volume having an 'invalid argument' so I figured that the was the name of the disk and changed it. Forgot to try and backup with the growl changes only. Oh well.
David Alison said…
@Peter: Thanks for posting that follow up comment. I don't believe Apple has an issue with an apostrophe in drive names. Ironically I never put apostrophes in drive or file names because of my old Windows habits. The far more likely culprit was one of your Growl based applications. They may have a file opened or attempt to open it while Time Machine is doing its thing.
GI said…
Many thanks for the sharing. I did what you mentioned, but still got error. So I also erased the previous backup, and it works. No more error happened. Cheers
KAMcGee said…
BIG thanks for this post David - I'm not wise in the ways of disk troubleshooting and had tried a bunch of other google'd advice to no avail. I found the .inProgress file, moved to Trash and Voila! Brilliant - thanks again.
David Alison said…
@KAMcGee: Glad it helped. Since I've been running Lion on my Mac Pro I haven't had this error happen. This post continues to get a LOT of Google traffic so I'm curious—if you happen to come here and the above post solves your problem please let me know which version of OS X you are running. Thanks!
KAMcGee said…
I'm on 10.6.8. Also was running Growl, which I really don't use so I deinstalled it after reading your comments. Haven't had the nerve to upgrade to Lion yet. I like the Snow Leopard interface just fine.
David Alison said…
@KAMcGee: Thanks - I have a feeling this has disappeared in Lion. For what it's worth, the switch to Lion is fairly bumpy; as a Spaces fan I find myself rather frustrated with the new model - that's the hardest long term adjustment. The scrolling / gestures were a little tough to begin with but are now embedded in my muscle memory and the only time I struggle is when I have to use a Windows machine (or pre-Lion Mac).
johan said…
Perfect! Thanks!
Tamelask said…
ok, i've read thru the whole thread, though some of it is hard to understand for a non techie. I have a 1 TB backup drive that was working perfectly until i upgraded to snow leopard before christmas '11- then this error started popping up. I shut down the drive, and I just finally have had time to dig into it. I tried reformatting the drive, changing the name, all of that stuff- nada- still getting the same error. Looking through the console and all i can find for the latest failure (after i threw out the in progress file from that drive earlier) is nonsense letters. When i search for that file it can't be found. It does tell me it's error -11. Not sure what else to try. I'm on 10.6.8, and i did just do the second security patch released today. I ran repair disk on all 4 of my internals yesterday from the dvd but nothing is showing up as being amiss. When i repair permissions on my OS drive, it always has a ton, but fixes them. I really need to get this backup going again, esp since i reluctantly deleted the old one when i reformatted it. I work on this computer as a retoucher and have a bunch of files that desperately need backed up. Oh, and there's enough room on the backup drive... though i do need to get a larger one so that i don't have to exclude so many things. Any advice/thoughts?
David Alison said…
@Tamelask: Are you formatting the drive as Mac OS Extended? If not, reformat it for that.

When you run Repair Disk on your OS drives you mentioned that it always has a ton of permissions that it has to fix - is that every time? If you tell it to repair permissions, then you fire it back up, do you get the same errors it needs to fix? If so, check to ensure you are logged in as an admin on the machine.

This doesn't sound so much as a Time Machine error as something wrong w/ either your drive or permissions. Hope this helps...
Tamelask said…
Dave- yes, the target drive was OS extended. I zeroed the thing out the other night, just to be extra safe. Then ck'd it again and it still said it was good. So, i ran time machine again and excluded the one whole drive that it last referenced as having the gibberish file i couldn't find on it that caused the error and i got a backup last night, finally It has also backed up successfully every hour since. yay! I guess i will add a folder at a time back on from that drive- way tedious, but i don't know how else to proceed. Any other ideas are more than welcome!!

The drive that is showing lots of fixed permissions is my OS drive. i do think it has issues. However, it backed up just fine. I read a tip elsewhere that someone booted off the OS cd, ran permissions repair, repaired the disk, and then ran permissions repair again and it got rid of all the 'sticky' fixes. Unfortunately that didn't work for me- its still goes through all of them. Worth a shot, though. I'm not positive i'm logged in as admin, truthfully. When i set up the mac, since i'm the main/only user, i set it up as one user. Doe sit automatically have an admin set up? Sorry i'm don't have as high a level of knowledge in tech stuff as many of your posters. Thanks so much for your help!!
Tamelask said…
an addendum- i've tried to back up just a single folder (any one) on that drive (my 4th, and does not have my OS on it) and it balks. When i exclude the entire drive it's fine. I guess i'll leave that drive to be a manual back up drive for other stuff... but so frustrating, seeing as how it backed up just fine before the switch from 10.5 to 10.6. Not worth taking everything off reformatting and copying back over to me. Not even sure that would work. The drive is a-ok, according to disk utility, too. Not very old, either- same type and age as #3, which has been fine. sigh.
David Alison said…
@Tamelask - if you're the one that set up the machine originally, it's a good chance you're the admin.
Tamelask said…
i am indeed the one who set everything up. So, i'm automatically logged in as admin? Your advice as to the fact that the permissions repair fixes don't seem to stay fixed then?

Did a couple more experiments and it definitely does not like that one drive now, period. At least i'm getting back ups of everything else. Frankly, that's the best one to exclude anyhow.
Anonymous said…
Once you have found out, through console, which file is causing the problem, you could consider excluding it from the TM back-up through the options but on TM: Thanks, nagyd
Hannah said…
When i try to delete the .inProgress file it says it can’t be moved to the trash because it "can’t be deleted" :( i have no idea how my TM just suddenly became "read-only" one day. What do i do?
David Alison said…
@Hannah: Turn off Time Machine, then restart your Mac (Apple / Restart...), then try again. That usually clears it. If not, you may need to drop into a Terminal window, navigate to the right folder using the CD command, then try running:

sudo rm .inProgress

It will prompt you for your administrative password.

Hope this helps...
Hannah said…
Turning off TM and rebooting didn't work :(
will try the Terminal option! what's the CD command?
David Alison said…
@Hannah: cd (short for Change Directory) allows you to navigate to a folder (directory) within Terminal. Once you open a terminal window you will likely be placed into your home folder - something like:

(mac name):~ hannah$

will be your prompt. From their you can use the cd command to navigate to the folder where your time machine backups (and the .inProgress file) is stored.
Hannah said…
Yup, that's how my Terminal looks like. but i'm not sure how to type it out? to navigate to the specific folder? (i'm just making sure 'cause i don't wanna accidentally delete something else)
David Alison said…
@Hannah: If you can see the .inProgress file in your finder, right click on it (or select it and press Command-I) and the information page will show. From there, copy the Where path for your file, right up to the /.inProgress.

Open a terminal window and enter:

cd (followed by a space)

Then press Command-V to paste the path from the clipboard. Hit enter and that should take you into the folder where your .inProgress file is located. From there you should be able to do the:

sudo rm .inProgress

command to remove the file.
Murky's Mom said…
@Murky's Mom
9 years from first post and this still helps!
Running OS X 10.5.4 Server, and had the same error.
Ran a manual backup just fine.
This morning deleted the prefs, restarted, and Time Machine is happily doing automatic backups.
[Was glad I didn't have to go into Console. :-) ]

Popular posts from this blog

Keyboard vs. Mouse

Some cool Firefox add-ons

A hardcore Windows guy gets a Mac