How to Fix Time Machine Stuck on Cleaning Up or Preparing backup

If you are backing up your Mac using Time Machine for the first time, it is completely normal for it to take a lot of time.

This guide is for you if you are facing these issues:

  • Time Machine is stuck at Cleaning up or Preparing backup stage.
  • Time Machine is taking too much time to complete the backup.
Time Machine Cleaning up… Status

The main reason the Time Machine backup is stuck in the cleaning up or preparing backup phase is because your system has many files and data that need to be backed up. In that case, the only thing you can do is wait.

But, if its stuck in “Cleaning up…” or “Preparing backup…” phase for long time, cancel the backup and try again.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Click on the Time Machine icon in menu bar.
  2. Click on Stop this backup option. See the screenshot below:

Alternatively, you can open Time Machine from Settings and then click on x or cross icon next to progress bar to cancel the current backup.

BASIC Check: Does your External Drive have Enough Storage?

Does your external drive have enough storage for all the data you want to back up?

To know how much capacity an external drive needs, check the data size you want to backup. The drive capacity should be at least twice the data on your Mac.

So, for example, if the data on your Mac which you want to back up is 50 GB, the external hard drive should be at least 100 GB.

If the Time Machine is still stuck, disable automatic backups options and format your external drive.

Disable the “Backup Automatically” Option

The first thing to try is to disable the automatic backup option in Time Machine settings. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Open System Preferences by clicking on the gear icon in the dock.
  1. Click on Time Machine.

In macOS Ventura, you will find it under General in Settings. See the screenshot below:

Alternatively, you can also open Time Machine settings by opening Launchpad and then typing time machine in search. See the screenshot below:

  1. In Time Machine settings, uncheck the Back Up Automatically option.
  1. Now, open the Time Machine hard drive, look for a folder named ***.backupdb, and delete it.
  2. Restart your Mac.

Now, try running the Time Machine back up again.

Check External Hard File System

Time Machine only supports external hard drives with native macOS file systems. So, if your external hard drive is formatted in FAT or NTFS file system, it won’t work.

To confirm the file format of the external drive you want to backup data to, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the drive to your Mac.
  2. Open Finder.
  3. Right-click on the hard drive and select Get Info from the list.

If it has an incompatible file system, you must format it to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Here’s how to do that:

  1. Press the Command and Space button on the keyboard to open Spotlight search.
  2. Type Disk Utility and hit Enter.
  3. Select the hard drive you want to format on the left side and click on the Erase button.
  4. Give the drive a name and in format, select Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Then, click on the Erase button.

Once the drive is formatted, try taking the back up again using Time Machine.


If you have any questions about this guide, feel free to ask me!

About the Author

Muhammad Qasim

Muhammad Qasim

Muhammad Qasim is an Electrical Engineer, Solo Entrepreneur, and Web Developer who loves troubleshooting gadgets and making cool things for the internet.

You can contact him on Email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or GitHub.

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