How unreliable is Time Machine?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Flyby1023, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. Flyby1023 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #1
    Just when you think it's safe to stop checking up on it . . .

    This is the second or third time Time Machine has decided to stop backing up, and keep it a secret. My setup for Time Machine is pretty straightforward, a dedicated internal 500gb backing up a single 320gb with about 180gb on it. The issue is Time Machine will stop backing up when the disk gets full, but not every time the disk gets full.

    The last time I did a complete do-over with T.M. , I checked it every day for a month, then every 3-5 days for a month. Periodically the disk would fill up and truncate the older backups, you would see the "Oldest Backup" date creep forward. Then I stopped checking, until yesterday when I found it stopped backing up almost two weeks ago. This has happened before. What is really upsetting is that there was absolutely no indication that there was a problem, no "failed" in the T.M. window, no '!' in the icon, nothing. This time I opened the window and watched it. "Latest Backup": 12/29/09, "Oldest Backup": 12/11/09, and we're going to do it again in an hour. If you didn't open the window you would never know anything was wrong. Available space was almost zero (2mb) and would drop a 100k once in a while. It will be "calculating changes" for a while, stop, try it again in an hour.

    This machine does have a VM with 80gb as part of the backup which I know is a lot to digest, but this is nothing new. The latest file in the backup is an .inProgress, dated 12/29 and would appear to be holding he entire contents (180gb). It's Date Modified time is current.

    I would like to keep using it because it's drop-dead easy so I want to see if I'm doing something wrong. I realize T.M. is not a Retrospect-class backup system but shouldn't it work better than this? Or, at least tell you when it's not working?

    Thanks for any advice.
     
  2. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #2
    I've not incurred any problems with Time Machine, I would consider TM to be very reliable.
     
  3. Flyby1023 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 29, 2007
    #3
    I haven't had any problems either until it just stopped working, without warning. That's why I'm trying to find out if there is an issue I'm overlooking. It's pretty simple, give it a disk and turn it on. Not a lot to screw up.
     
  4. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

    Joined:
    May 28, 2005
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    Pa
    #4
    Try repairing permissions, and rebooting. Or start all over again. Sorry that's such a weird issue. You also might try calling Apple if you're under warranty and see what they have to say.
     
  5. akadmon macrumors 68010

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2006
    Location:
    New England
    #5
    TM has been flakey in my experience. I've had to start over many times because for whatever reason TM decided that it does not have enough space for a backup, even though the Finder was reporting 100 or more GB left on the TM drive.

    I recommend excluding VMs from TM backups (especially if they're as big as yours!), because TM will attempt to backup the entire VM every time you run the VM, even if you don't add/remove any files in the VM. Just backup you VMs manually after you've made some significant changes (like adding a new program).
     
  6. iLog.Genius macrumors 601

    iLog.Genius

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    Feb 24, 2009
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    #6
    Personally Time Machine is one of those things that is great when it works but frustrating when it doesn't. Like those who have used Time Machine, it is reliable when your Time Machine works without throwing errors. But when Time Machine can't communicate with the external HDD or when it stalls backing up, that's when the frustration sets in. Generally when that happens, you'll have to start all your backups again.
     
  7. Flyby1023 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #7
    Thanks for your input akadmon and ilog. I have tried the usual and customary fixes over the past few hours with no results. I know adding the VM was a stretch, which is why I was watching it so close. It was OK for a month or two with the VM included. It caused the history to only go back a week or two but I was OK with that.

    The important stuff on the VM is backed up with Retrospect (PC) twice a day. That program has been rock-solid on the PC side for as far back as I can remember, probably a decade. I wasn't sure how good the Mac version was, plus it's a pain to set up so I had hopes for TM.

    Looks like I'll have to put Retro Mac in and put TM out to pasture, or give it some light-duty tasks. I hope not too many people put too much faith in this, only to find out the hard way. I'm still amazed that a backup program, no matter how simple, doesn't say something when it knows it isn't backing anything up. Retrospect sends off flares when that happens.

    Anybody have any experience with the Mac version of Retrospect?
     
  8. mysterytramp macrumors 65816

    mysterytramp

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Location:
    Maryland
    #8
    Retrospect: I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure Retrospect started on the Mac, possibly 20 years ago. That might not mean much today, but it's been a solid name for Mac backups for years. If you decide to switch, you should be happy.

    Time Machine: I've only had one issue with Time Machine. The machine went to sleep in the middle of a backup, or maybe it was a power outage. Either way, there was one of those .inProgress files. I believe an update to either Leopard or Snow Leopard fixed the issue and I've no problems since. Of course, my set up is far different: 55GB internal hard disk backing up to a 500 GB partition on an external.

    Check your Console. You should see messages from Time Machine looking to see how much space it thinks it needs for a backup and whether it's available on your backup drive. It might give some clues for an alternative setup. You might consider excluding certain folders. Do you need your Applications backed up? You might be able to do without Application Support and other system folders.

    mt
     
  9. vansouza macrumors 68000

    vansouza

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    Mar 28, 2006
    Location:
    West Plains, MO USA Earth
    #9
    TimeMachine is as safe an useful as any one method or system of backing, which is not very. I use not only TM but SuperDuper, Carbon Copy and ChronoSync. Oh and DataBackup 3 on occasion.... I have learned from past mistakes... :D
     
  10. Flyby1023 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #10
    Thanks mystery, I checked console, not a peep from TM. TM is supposed to ditch the old to make room for the new, which it did for a while. So it would appear that whatever I eliminate from the backup will just push the problem into the future. Instead of getting two weeks history, I might get six months but once it runs into the same situation I'm concerned the problem will resurface. My issue here is that TM seems to have a "failure to communicate" problem. If a backup program fails, for any reason, it should let you know. There may be a flock of people out there that think TM is doing it's job. My icon gave every indication it was, until I checked.

    I feel your pain van. I'm a chronic backer-upper, with internal, NAS, and outside storage. I've used Carbon Copy, but not the others since I have only been using Mac for a couple of years. I was just trying to avoid having to go through another Retrospect setup but it looks like that is unavoidable at this point.
     
  11. mysterytramp macrumors 65816

    mysterytramp

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Location:
    Maryland
    #11
    The message will come from "backupd." It might look like this:

    Code:
    Jan 10 17:12:08 mystery-tramp-computer com.apple.backupd[1398]: No pre-backup thinning needed: 122.4 MB requested (including padding), 347.82 GB available
    If you don't see that, or something like it, you might have a bigger problem. Possibly you have an OS installation issue.

    Possibly, or it could be that TM is trying to shove 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag. It might also be that there's just too much to backup for the available space. TM won't delete your last backup, in case something goes wrong. So if your backup drive needs to be 2x your data drive.

    That it's not posting an error message does seem strange, though. To avoid a Retrospect installation, it might be worthwhile to re-install the OS just to see if the problem solves itself. Or maybe that's more trouble than it's worth.

    mt
     
  12. Flyby1023 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #12
    Sorry for the delay in replying. You're right Mystery, I was looking for the wrong process name, 'backupd' is Time Machine.

    There were more than enough entries, hundreds in fact. It's clear from the Console entries TM knew the disk space was low, but I could have told it that. It's also clear that it's index was borked, it would make a console entry every minute for between 9 and 10 hours each day, then decide the disk was full, take a breather, and pick it up again the next day.

    TM was set to backup 190gb (including the VM) to a 500gb dedicated, internal drive. Single partition, formatted by OSX, no network sludge, pretty clean as backup requirements go. There was two weeks of backup so there was plenty to truncate before hitting critical mass.

    I understand things can go wrong, I've been doing this long enough (back to days of soldering iron mods to the IIe). My major problem in all this is; if TM is registering an error every minute for 9-10 hours a day, for a week and a half, would think it's time to pop a little '!' in the icon?

    I'm bringing this out because I know a lot of people trust everything Apple, TM should be an exception. The first time TM trashed, I attributed it to sunspots. This time I checked up on it very frequently until I was comfortable it was working. As soon as I stopped checking up, it stopped backing up. This is twice now.

    I never had anything seriously important backed up only on TM, there is always a redundancy. But there is stuff that would be annoying to lose. I caught this in time so, no harm no foul. If TM is all you have, use it. Any backup is better than no backup, but check up on it.
     
  13. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #13
    i have to say that i agree with this. even after transferring my HDD from my TC to my hackintosh - i could still resume my backups without hiccups at all.

    restored quite a few times and everything seems fine!
     
  14. RichardI macrumors 6502a

    RichardI

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2007
    Location:
    Southern Ontario, Canada
    #14
    Why do you use it at all?

    After giving TM a very good test when it first appeared, I don't use TM at all for several reasons. First, I almost never delete files that I will want some time later. I don't want TM keeping copies of files that I have decided must go. I even have some files from work which must be permanently deleted per our document retention policy - we get a presentation from the legal dept. every year reinforcing this policy. Second, I don't want TM turning itself on whenever it sees fit and slowing down (noticeably) my system. My back-up disk is a firewire 800 desktop disk which makes a lot of noise every time it starts up. I use SuperDuper! to back up once per week, and the rest of the time, my back-up is unmounted, disconnected and powered off.

    Rich :cool:
     
  15. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #15
    WRT "i dont want TM turning itself on whenever" a similar implementation can be chosen with TM! turn TM off, and then backup when you see fit.

    i see this as a very viable solution for backing up. its extremely easy to restore the backup, you can do it whenever you please (i do mine monthly, lazy i know) and it just works.

    tbh, i dont experience slow downs even after month of not backing up. guess that depends though on the machine.

    not saying that you shouldnt use superduper, just saying that TM is very easy and viable for a lot of people.
     
  16. Flyby1023 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #16
    I've heard SuperDuper mentioned several times. Is this a good system?

    I've used Retrospect like forever and it's been flawless. Do two backups a day, one full drive and one critical documents only, each to it's own backup set in two different places. It's never missed a beat but is is a bit of a pain to establish a new script. I have the PC version down pat but the Mac version is different so I didn't feel like jumping on a new learning curve.
     
  17. r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Location:
    Detroit
    #17
    Since this thread is called "How unreliable is Time Machine?" I think I should chime in with my experience. I set up TM to back up to a usb drive and it worked fine. I then went out and purchased a Time Capsule and it seemed to work fine. For a while. Suddenly, it seemed TM backups were taking forever. I called Apple support and they talked me through using disk utility to mount and repair the sparse bundle file created by Time Machine on the Time Capsule. It was beyond repair and they advised me to delete it and start over. Delete it and start over. This advice comes from level 2 support of the company that claims TM is "server grade" backup. Ok. I bit. It turns out backing up to TC via wifi and having my machine sleep in the middle of a backup caused the corruption. I asked myself why anyone other than a moron would design a backup program that couldn't hold off sleep until all files were properly closed. But I bit. I had several more months of trouble free use. Then the Time Capsule itself died. I guess what I'm saying is I find TM and TC to be an excellent "first line of defense" but it is NOT my only backup strategy. I often manually copy blocks of files to either idisk or a network drive. There are a number of freeware backup programs running around. I've also thought about super duper. Super Duper's claim to fame is the creation of a bootable backup image. Big whoop. If I want to recover from a total crash, I pop in my OS X DVD and do an install and then restore from either TM or one of my many redundant network drive based backups. Some stuff will never come back, like those multi-gigabyte imovie project folders full of uncompressed video at 1080p. No great loss.

    I would spend some time at macupdate.com and apple.com browsing backup software. Focus on freeware. I don't think the pay software gives that much bang for the buck. Use TM as your hourly backup and some other solution as your weekly or monthly backup, depending on how paranoid you are about your disk taking a dump at the same time your time capsule or time machine sparsebundle file takes a dump. The odds of those 2 failing at the same time are not identically zero, but they are rather low. In my case, both TM failures occurred when my Macbook was healthy as can be. When my TC died this month, it also took my daughter's backups with it at the same time we decided to wipe and install (not archive and install) Snow Leopard on her Mac. Big whoop. She also had stuff backed up to a removable hard drive. Anybody that relies on TM alone is playing the odds. But TM plus "something else" can be a very good backup solution.
     
  18. TheHumphries macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2009
    #18
    I might recommend TimeMachineEditor.

    http://timesoftware.free.fr/timemachineeditor/

    I customize the dates/times for the backups for all my systems. I don't do enough on some systems that need hourly or even daily backups. Nice little way to save some data and time!
     

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