Time Machine backups causing issues for some Apple Silicon Mac users

Posted:
in macOS edited December 2021
An unknown number of macOS Monterey users are reporting that Apple's Time Machine is failing on its initial backup of a drive and it's not clear why.

Time Machine
Time Machine


According to posts on Reddit, it is specifically related to the first time that the Time Machine solution attempts to backup a drive. Not only does it fail to complete the backup, but it nonetheless takes up storage space.

"I was performing my first TM backup on Monterey," wrote Reddit user Muhdakmi. "Everything seems fine and it loads the backup onto the disk and taking up storage. But when it was completed and showing 'cleaning up' suddenly it shows 'Oldest Backup: None" [and] 'Latest Backup: None.'"

"And on the Menu Bar, it kept showing 'Waiting For First Backup To Complete,'" continued the user, "and when I check the disk backup at Finder, nothing is there yet storage is filled up."

Some users, as spotted by MacRumors, are finding the same issue with macOS Big Sur.

A solution that has worked for some users, is to perform a fresh installation of macOS Monterey. Other users report the same issue after a clean install.

AppleInsider cannot confirm the issue. One staffer with a directly-connected SSD had no issue restoring, and a second with a still in-service Time Capsule plus a Time Machine volume configured on a Network Attached Storage appliance -- both obviously connected over a network -- confirmed the integrity of their backups.

Apple has yet to comment on the matter. At present, there doesn't appear to be an increase in calls to Apple support regarding the matter, but that may only mean that the problem is very new, or customers aren't seeking help for the issue.

Time Machine is Apple's own backup system, included with all Macs. However, there are third-party alternatives. AppleInsider suggests examining your Time Machine backup, and perhaps using a third-party utility to "clone" your important data.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    I know Apple is focusing on services so they actually rather want us to back-up on their cloud VS locally, so why aren't they just EOL'ing this thing altogether, and instead support third-party developers in providing a back-up solution?

    And who in their right mind is still "travelling back in time" by traversing through Finder or app time instances (the latter only working with a few 1st-part apps) in 2021? I mean, the Steve Jobs-era visualisation of using Z-depth for time is novel, but hardly practical.

    lkruppelijahg
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    What third party solutions are more efficient for free? 
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    I know Apple is focusing on services so they actually rather want us to back-up on their cloud VS locally, so why aren't they just EOL'ing this thing altogether, and instead support third-party developers in providing a back-up solution?

    And who in their right mind is still "travelling back in time" by traversing through Finder or app time instances (the latter only working with a few 1st-part apps) in 2021? I mean, the Steve Jobs-era visualisation of using Z-depth for time is novel, but hardly practical.

    Time Machine can use APFS disks for backup as of Big Sur.
    https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/types-of-disks-you-can-use-with-time-machine-mh15139/mac
    magman1979mwhitewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 31
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots
    How would an APFS snapshot on the same physical disk save your data from the failure of said disk?
    williamlondonmichelb76watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,555member
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    I know Apple is focusing on services so they actually rather want us to back-up on their cloud VS locally, so why aren't they just EOL'ing this thing altogether, and instead support third-party developers in providing a back-up solution?

    And who in their right mind is still "travelling back in time" by traversing through Finder or app time instances (the latter only working with a few 1st-part apps) in 2021? I mean, the Steve Jobs-era visualisation of using Z-depth for time is novel, but hardly practical.

    Time Machine can use APFS disks for backup as of Big Sur.
    https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/types-of-disks-you-can-use-with-time-machine-mh15139/mac
    @CheeseFreeze isn't talking about APFS backup destinations, but using a filesystem feature of APFS rather than the ancient HFS+ hard links (and their equivalent in APFS) that Time Machine uses now. New Time Machine backups stored on networked disks do now use APFS disk images rather than HFS+.

    athempel said:
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots
    How would an APFS snapshot on the same physical disk save your data from the failure of said disk?
    It wouldn't. However, snapshots don't technically have to be stored on the source drive. Whether APFS supports this right now, I'm not sure.

    @CheeseFreeze is completely right with his comment. TM is archaic and inefficient. A snapshot stores only the block-level difference between files, whereas Time Machine copies the entire file across again even if there's one single bit changed. For a 1kb file that doesn't matter, but nowadays with file sizes ballooning, 1GB+ files are pretty common. Change the title of that file and the entire thing gets copied across again, without the other file being deleted on the backup. So wasting 2x space for one identical file.

    Also TM is sluggish on networked disks and the UI is pretty awful. I'd much rather pick a file, see a list of previous versions of that file with previews, and maybe a diff, all integrated properly into the Finder. Not the outdated full-screen TM UI that we have now.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 31
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,454member
    I will have to try TM on my M1 Mac mini, I use CCC these days.

    BTW anyone has else noticed you can now unplug an external without ejecting first without any warnings with macOS Monetary (like Windows)  on an Intel or an  M1 Mac?  Or is it just mine?
    edited December 2021
  • Reply 7 of 31
    I encountered this Time Machine problem with Big Sur 11.6.1 on an M1 iMac.  In addition when trying to duplicate the problem I started getting this log entry: "Backup failed (104: BACKUP_DELAYED_UNFINISHED_PROTECTED_FILES)".  Using an SSD that had been erased.

    After trying one more time, with Apple Support watching, the backup finally completed without error!  And subsequent every other hour (I use two SSDs for Time Machine) backups all have proceeded without problems.  Go figure.

    I'm leery of updating to macOS 12.1.

    btw Time Machine on 11.6.1 with SSDs formatted via APFS does indeed produce backups minus hard links.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 31
    how are you all getting APFS to work with time machine? i tried this in big sur and the disk wouldn't even show up in TM preferences
  • Reply 9 of 31
    What the fuck are you people blathering about?

    I'm not exactly known for being an Apple cheerleader here, but you're out of your minds.

    Time Machine is the best backup solution I've ever used on ANY platform.  Period.  The only thing it's missing is an easy offsite solution.  Everything else about it is perfect.

    I don't give a flying fuck if a backup solution is 'efficient'.  I care that it backs up data and makes it easily retrievable.  Time Machine does that better than anything else out there at any price.

    Apple got this one right.
    scstrrfwillettFidonet127jas99MplsPmichelb76
  • Reply 10 of 31
    Time Machine had already problems starting from Catalina on Intel 2 years ago. It could not do first backup after migrating to new system and it took for some people days to do it. I suspect that Apple engineering forgot that indexing should be disabled during this period of time or at least user should be notified about need for it. A lot of things happening in backgrounds including mysterious error codes on popup window  just like in old Microsoft Windows. If you ran out of support you are stuck, but some people post solutions on external forums. One of those is you have to disable some feature temporarily on one particular model in order to have update working. Apple does not seem to be in control of QA and the only people say is "buy new one", "it is so ancient". well there you go if you treat things with this attitude and not criticize Apple you will end up with problems on brand new Apple computers and devices. You got what you asked for.
    williamlondonelijahg
  • Reply 11 of 31
    darkvader said:
    What the fuck are you people blathering about?

    I'm not exactly known for being an Apple cheerleader here, but you're out of your minds.

    Time Machine is the best backup solution I've ever used on ANY platform.  Period.  The only thing it's missing is an easy offsite solution.  Everything else about it is perfect.

    I don't give a flying fuck if a backup solution is 'efficient'.  I care that it backs up data and makes it easily retrievable.  Time Machine does that better than anything else out there at any price.

    Apple got this one right.
    It is not the best, but very good. It would be best if it allowed backup services like AWS glacier. Other platforms already have those solutions frequently built-in (NAS). Unfortunately, Time Machine started failing like crazy since Catalina more and more and new disk structure plus indexing for Spotlight. And for the record while Spotlight was top search engine 10 years ago now Windows 10/11 and Linux search engines are far better and reminiscent of old Spotlight (focused on context not returning thousands of files for no reason). things are changing and Apple is not top anymore.
    edited December 2021 williamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 31
    ubernaut said:
    how are you all getting APFS to work with time machine? i tried this in big sur and the disk wouldn't even show up in TM preferences
    Don't know about HDs but you use Disk Utility to format a SSD as APFS.  Then in Time Machine, use "Add or Remove Backup Disk" to select the drive. Do a backup from th menu bar for Time Machine or turn on "Backup Automatically".  It is easy.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 31
    No Time machine problems here with M1s backing up, other than cat unplugging the HD. 
    jas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 31
    maltzmaltz Posts: 298member
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    What third party solutions are more efficient for free? 

    ZFS is the king of efficient snapshots, replication, and data integrity.  It's a shame Apple didn't license it, or at least use OpenZFS - it's light years ahead of the APFS that Apple ended up having to write from scratch instead.  That said, APFS is capable of some of what ZFS does, and new Time Machine backups beginning with Big Sur actually do make use of APFS, and are presumably much more space and speed efficient.  Existing backups are not migrated, though.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 31
    elijahg said:
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    I know Apple is focusing on services so they actually rather want us to back-up on their cloud VS locally, so why aren't they just EOL'ing this thing altogether, and instead support third-party developers in providing a back-up solution?

    And who in their right mind is still "travelling back in time" by traversing through Finder or app time instances (the latter only working with a few 1st-part apps) in 2021? I mean, the Steve Jobs-era visualisation of using Z-depth for time is novel, but hardly practical.

    Time Machine can use APFS disks for backup as of Big Sur.
    https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/types-of-disks-you-can-use-with-time-machine-mh15139/mac
    @CheeseFreeze isn't talking about APFS backup destinations, but using a filesystem feature of APFS rather than the ancient HFS+ hard links (and their equivalent in APFS) that Time Machine uses now. New Time Machine backups stored on networked disks do now use APFS disk images rather than HFS+.

    athempel said:
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots
    How would an APFS snapshot on the same physical disk save your data from the failure of said disk?
    It wouldn't. However, snapshots don't technically have to be stored on the source drive. Whether APFS supports this right now, I'm not sure.

    @CheeseFreeze is completely right with his comment. TM is archaic and inefficient. A snapshot stores only the block-level difference between files, whereas Time Machine copies the entire file across again even if there's one single bit changed. For a 1kb file that doesn't matter, but nowadays with file sizes ballooning, 1GB+ files are pretty common. Change the title of that file and the entire thing gets copied across again, without the other file being deleted on the backup. So wasting 2x space for one identical file.

    Also TM is sluggish on networked disks and the UI is pretty awful. I'd much rather pick a file, see a list of previous versions of that file with previews, and maybe a diff, all integrated properly into the Finder. Not the outdated full-screen TM UI that we have now.
    So Time Machine in Big Sur and later does use snapshots with APFS.  It is not using hard links(nor their equivalent) like HFS+ as APFS doesn't even support hard links.  CheeseFreeze is mistaken that Time Machine is archaic and inefficient.  It was updated in Big Sur to be more modern using block based snapshots.  

    https://eclecticlight.co/2021/10/07/upgrading-to-big-sur-or-monterey-migrating-time-machine-backups/
    https://eclecticlight.co/2020/06/29/apfs-changes-in-big-sur-how-time-machine-backs-up-to-apfs-and-more/
    dewmeelijahgprairiewalkerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 31
    So Time Machine in Big Sur and later does use snapshots with APFS.  It is not using hard links(nor their equivalent) like HFS+ as APFS doesn't even support hard links.  CheeseFreeze is mistaken that Time Machine is archaic and inefficient.  It was updated in Big Sur to be more modern using block based snapshots.  

    Actually Time Machine uses APFS in several ways:
    • On an APFS-formatted system disk (pretty much the norm with SSD based Macs), local snapshots are taken at the beginning of the backup. This provides a point-in-time frozen image that's used to identify and copy changed files to the backup target. Nice touch to eliminate files changing while the backup is occurring.
    • Hourly local snapshots are kept on the source disk for up to 24 hours if they don't need to be purged for space reclamation. The idea is that you don't have to go to the backup disk to restore a file if it's available in the snapshot. You don't get this with HFS+ disks.
    • Each backup on an APFS-format destination disk is a snapshot of data on that disk. Take a snapshot of the destination, add changed data, and voila - new backup. That's how it avoids having to use the HFS+ hack of hard-linked directories.
    Also note that starting in Big Sur, the sealed/readonly system volume (boot volume) is not backed up (less data on your backup disk). This does change how you recover from media corruption or failure.


    prairiewalkerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,555member
    darkvader said:
    I don't give a flying fuck if a backup solution is 'efficient'.  I care that it backs up data and makes it easily retrievable.  Time Machine does that better than anything else out there at any price.
    Does it really? Due to the design of TM, storing a disk image on a server, disconnecting a Mac from the network during a backup breaks that disk image's filesystem and therefore the backup. That makes it far from "easily retrievable".

    Many people here seem to think their single data point means everyone else is "holding it wrong" to use the infamous phrase. You apparently fall into that group.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,555member
    elijahg said:
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots, but Time Machine still uses the legacy pre-APFS approach and has been proven to be incredibly inefficient compared to third-party solutions.
    I know Apple is focusing on services so they actually rather want us to back-up on their cloud VS locally, so why aren't they just EOL'ing this thing altogether, and instead support third-party developers in providing a back-up solution?

    And who in their right mind is still "travelling back in time" by traversing through Finder or app time instances (the latter only working with a few 1st-part apps) in 2021? I mean, the Steve Jobs-era visualisation of using Z-depth for time is novel, but hardly practical.

    Time Machine can use APFS disks for backup as of Big Sur.
    https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/types-of-disks-you-can-use-with-time-machine-mh15139/mac
    @CheeseFreeze isn't talking about APFS backup destinations, but using a filesystem feature of APFS rather than the ancient HFS+ hard links (and their equivalent in APFS) that Time Machine uses now. New Time Machine backups stored on networked disks do now use APFS disk images rather than HFS+.

    athempel said:
    Why aren't they retiring this antique approach to back-ups? I mean, they now have a filesystem that supports snapshots
    How would an APFS snapshot on the same physical disk save your data from the failure of said disk?
    It wouldn't. However, snapshots don't technically have to be stored on the source drive. Whether APFS supports this right now, I'm not sure.

    @CheeseFreeze is completely right with his comment. TM is archaic and inefficient. A snapshot stores only the block-level difference between files, whereas Time Machine copies the entire file across again even if there's one single bit changed. For a 1kb file that doesn't matter, but nowadays with file sizes ballooning, 1GB+ files are pretty common. Change the title of that file and the entire thing gets copied across again, without the other file being deleted on the backup. So wasting 2x space for one identical file.

    Also TM is sluggish on networked disks and the UI is pretty awful. I'd much rather pick a file, see a list of previous versions of that file with previews, and maybe a diff, all integrated properly into the Finder. Not the outdated full-screen TM UI that we have now.
    So Time Machine in Big Sur and later does use snapshots with APFS.  It is not using hard links(nor their equivalent) like HFS+ as APFS doesn't even support hard links.  CheeseFreeze is mistaken that Time Machine is archaic and inefficient.  It was updated in Big Sur to be more modern using block based snapshots.  

    https://eclecticlight.co/2021/10/07/upgrading-to-big-sur-or-monterey-migrating-time-machine-backups/
    https://eclecticlight.co/2020/06/29/apfs-changes-in-big-sur-how-time-machine-backs-up-to-apfs-and-more/
    That's interesting, thanks! It doesn't seem hugely faster over a network in Big Sur though (with APFS image), and transfer speeds are still sloooow. Only get about ~15 MB/sec over a 1gbps connection to a reasonably quick NAS, but multi-file copies reach 100MB/sec+. It doesn't seem to get "stuck" quite so often in Big Sur though, sometimes with HFS+ it would jam up and copy at kilobytes/sec, never really finishing the backup.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    I received my 16 in. M1 Max MacBook Pro on launch day (October 26th and I have never been abled to get TM to complete a backup. From the very first backup it has always gone about 97% to completion and then given the error message TM "waiting to complete backup" which it never does. In fact, I have now turned off automatic TM backups since it just keeps repeating this behavior over and over while never showing any time machine backups in finder but showing GB's of files in Apple>About this Mac>Storage. I contacted Apple Support over  three weeks ago and spent at least 8 hours over two days trying to resolve the problem. None of the following solved the TM issue: (1) Formatting the USB 3 TM disk as APFS; (2) Setting up and running TM in Safe Mode; (3) Creating a Test User account and running TM; (4) Trying other USB3 external HD's for TM including one brand new USB3 HD; (5) Reinstalling the Mac OS Monterey. The Apple Senior Specialist collected diagnostic information and forwarded it to Apple Engineers. She sent me an email the next day (which was about three weeks ago) to tell me that Apple Engineers admitted there was a TM problem with the new Apple Silicon Macs and that they were working to resolve it.  Since then I have heard nothing further. I am now using Carbon Copy Cloner to make backups of my M1 Max.  This problem is the subject of an 18 (or more) page thread on Macrumors. Be thankful if you have an M1 MacBook Pro and have not had this TM problem, but it is not isolated to a few users. 
    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 31
    MacPro said:
    I will have to try TM on my M1 Mac mini, I use CCC these days.

    BTW anyone has else noticed you can now unplug an external without ejecting first without any warnings with macOS Monetary (like Windows)  on an Intel or an  M1 Mac?  Or is it just mine?
    It's just you - you must have notifications turned off for Finder, etc.  Every external drive attached to any of my many Macs complain if the drive is disconnected without first ejected.
    watto_cobra
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