Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

How to fix stuck Time Machine backups

As I mentioned on Sunday, I had problems with Time Machine getting stuck when doing backups. It would say something like ‘Backing up 28 MB of 1.25 GB’ and stay stuck like that for hours at a time.

I tried the obvious things first – using Disk Utility to repair disk permissions and the disks themselves. I did this for both my internal hard drive and the backup drive. But it didn’t make a difference. I even reformatted the backup disk, wiping all my previous Time Machine backups, but that didn’t work either.

Then I had a look at Console. Console shows you your system logs in realtime, and when I looked at ‘All logs’ I saw something like this:

Screenshot of mdworker console errors linked to stuck Time Machine backups

That’s ‘mdworker: (Warning) Import: Bad Path:‘ for those who can’t see it. The mdworker process was generating several of these errors every second. Thankfully you’re usually never the only person with any particular problem and I found this thread on the MacRumors forums with a solution – open Terminal and type these two commands in turn:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

Then, start a new Time Machine backup. After doing this I had no problems and the Time Machine backups have worked correctly ever since. The MacRumors thread suggested two additional commands but this seemed to work for me – there seems to be a related problem with drives formatted using the ExFAT file system, although mine used OS X’s standard HFS+ file system.

Whilst I love using OS X, it can be exasperating when things stop working correctly. It can take quite a bit of effort to work out what’s wrong and how to fix it, and usually I end up getting information from third-party web sites rather than Apple’s own support site (which is rather lacking). Whilst I don’t often use Windows at home, usually I find solutions to Windows problems on Microsoft’s own site.


  1. Heads up, the lines of sudo text are truncated, the image has been chopped at the right hand end. (as seen by Safari v7.0.5)
    A reader trying it out risks some REAL problems.
    Personally, in all the years I ran Time machine I only needed it 3 times and each time it failed to deliver. I flagged it and use SuperDuper for backups. Not the same thing but at least it’s trustworthy.

  2. Wouldn’t restarting the Mac do the same as unload and reloading these LaunchDaemons?

  3. Lets see if they show up correctly in the comments:
    sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
    sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

  4. I’ve had Time Machine get stuck a couple of times on me with no obvious reason. Restarting always did the trick. But I agree that it’s totally frustrating that Time Machine itself isn’t better about telling you what’s going on.