Why has my Time Machine stopped backing up?

Why has my Time Machine stopped backing up?
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As one of the most critical features of your Mac, Time Machine automatically backs up all of your files onto an external drive and can restore them if they’re ever deleted. This software is compatible with both local and network-attached storage devices and is typically utilised with external disk drives connected via USB or Thunderbolt.

But what happens when your Time Machine stops backing up your files? Please read our guide below on how to restore your Time Machine should it suddenly stop working.

What to do when Time Machine won’t backup

If your Time Machine has been working perfectly up until this point and you’ve suddenly found it hasn’t been backing up, chances are that you’ve got problems with a connection issue, software issue or a hard drive problem.

Time Machine is very economical at freeing up space on your external hard drive for new files, so the issue won’t likely lay with storage space.

We’ve put together our best troubleshooting tips to try and work through the problem and get your data back up again.

Does Time Machine backup all users

Time Machine ensures that every aspect of the hard drive is backed up, including individual user accounts, settings, preferences, and even the MacOS operating system itself.

By doing so, Time Machine offers complete protection for all users, safeguarding their data and allowing them to restore their computer to an earlier state in case of system failure or data loss.

Is your backup showing up?

If you’re using a Time Machine backup, it’s essential first to ensure it’s properly connected and the files are showing up in your system.

To check if your Time Machine backup is appearing, follow these steps:

  1. Open Finder by clicking on the blue and grey smiley face icon in your Dock.
  2. Look for the “Locations” section on the left-hand side of the window.
  3. If you’re unsure which drive is your Time Machine backup, look for an icon with a clock and an arrow instead of a hard drive.
  4. If your Time Machine backup is connected and working correctly, it should appear under “Locations.” If you can see it here, you can follow the next section to reinstate it. If not, skip down to checking power and connection.

Reinstate Time Machine backup

If your Time Machine folder has been identified in Finder, we can head over to System settings in the top left drop-down once clicking the Apple Logo.

In System Settings, you will find the Time Machine settings under General (for Monterey and earlier, head to System Preferences, then Time Machine).

If you are reinstating a Time Machine backup, it will be available in the list of drives with a blue logo next to it. Right-click on this backup and click “Back up to ‘name’ now” to help get started.

Once clicked, you’ll see the drive preparing backup and then a time left remaining indicator when it begins. Your Mac will then continue with automatic backups when the backup disk is connected.

Check Power and Connection

Many external hard drives need an auxiliary power supply to work, as well as the USB connection to your Mac. If your external hard drive already has one of these, it will usually have some form of LED light on the unit to let you know that power is being received from the mains.

If you cannot see this, it may be worth changing the fuse on the plug if it has one and checking that the power outlet it has been plugged into is working. You can check this with any other electrical device plugged into it. It is also worth noting that extension leads might have fuses too, and you could need to change that too.

If you find your hard drive doesn’t require a power supply, or if you have completed all the troubleshooting tips above and your hard drive is receiving power, the next point of call is to check if the hard drive is connecting properly. In the top right of your Mac screen, click the Magnifying Glass and search for ‘Disk Utility’ and click the application.

On the left-hand side of the window, you will see a list of Internal and External drives. If your Time Machine is being seen by your Mac, it will show up in the External section. You may need to eject all other devices to work out which drive is the correct hard drive for your backup.

If your Backup Drive is showing up in the Disk Utility menu, then the drive is healthy enough for data recovery even if it is starting to fail. If you cannot see anything in this menu, try unplugging all leads possible and reconnecting them, starting with the power cable when reconnecting the time machine drive.

External hard drives that will not show in Disk Utility will, unfortunately, need to be seen by an expert to diagnose and fix the issue and recover any files if possible.

Starting a new Time Machine Backup

If you cannot reinstate the Time Machine Backup and do not need to recover the data on the drive, you can set up the process from scratch again. The Mac will require you to erase the drive so it is in the correct format for Time Machine.

To do this, you need to:

  1. Click The Apple Logo in the top left.
  2. Click System Settings (System preferences on Monterey or earlier).
  3. Click General (ignore this step for Monterey or earlier).
  4. Click Time Machine.
  5. Select Add Backup Disk to start a new backup.
  6. Click the disk you wish to proceed with and click Set up disk.
  7. Enter a password and hint to secure the Time Machine. If you don’t want to add a password, switch off Encrypt Backup at the top.
  8. Select Disk Usage Limit – Selecting none will let your Mac Time Machine backup use all available storage. If you want to separate a smaller portion from a large drive for use in Time Machine backups, click Custom and then use the Slider to determine the correct size you need.
  9. Click Done, then agree that you are sure you want to erase the disk. WARNING this will delete ALL DATA from the hard drive.

How long does Time Machine backup take?

The answer to how long Time Machine takes to backup is difficult to answer as it varies. In general, the first backup can take a few hours, but subsequent backups are much faster and can be completed in just a matter of minutes.

The speed of the backup process will depend on the size of your hard drive, the amount of data you’re backing up, and the speed of your internet connection if you’re using Time Machine to back up to the cloud.

How much space does Time Machine need?

Your Mac will generally need double the space of your data. You can check this by going to the Apple Logo in the top left and selecting About this Mac; from here, you can click Storage at the top of the window.

If, for example, this says you have 500GB available of 1TB, you have 500GB of data and would benefit from a 1TB Time Machine.

Wiping your Backup

If you want to wipe your backup completely:

  1. Click the Magnifying Glass in the top right of your screen.
  2. Search ‘Disk Utility’.
  3. Select the hard drive you want to wipe from the list of devices on the left-hand side of the window.
  4. Click Erase at the very top.
  5. Choose the format you want to use for the drive. If you’re planning to use the drive with a Mac, choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”. If you plan to use it with a Windows PC, select “MS-DOS (FAT)”.
  6. Give the drive a name.
  7. Click “Erase” again to start the process.
  8. Once the process is complete, you should see a message saying the drive has been erased and formatted.

Wondering how you can wipe your Apple Macbook completely? Read this blog.

Conclusion

We hope this helps with any issues you’re currently experiencing with your Time Machine Backup. If you continue to experience problems, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Hero Tech Support by filling in our contact form.

If your Apple MacBook is playing up, check out our guides here:

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Greg Doulton

Greg is an Apple repair specialist and has wealth of knowledge within the industry. Follow the blog for more news and tips.

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