Fixing Time Machine: Backup failed with error: 11

Got the dreaded “Backup failed with error: 11″ with Time Machine. Actually, I only got the dreaded message from the Console – the application itself, just kept failing silently with no suggestions (Apple, this is your cue to make Time Machine a little more useful). Nothing in Apple’s knowledgebase. Nothing seemingly useful come up in a Google search (i.e. something conclusive)

Solution? Delete:

/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/nameOfComputer/date.inProgress

It’ll ask for your password, and be gone with the file. Now the backups should start working again.

An example of what the Console showed:


13/08/2008 12:51:57 /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[4946] Error: (-43) copying /Users/byte/Library/Application Support/Adium 2.0/Users/Default/Logs/AIM.bytebotdotnet to /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/lovegood/2008-08-13-125154.inProgress/424A6617-37A5-4C20-8845-764D9167E317/Macintosh HD/Users/byte/Library/Application Support/Adium 2.0/Users/Default/Logs
13/08/2008 12:51:57 /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[4946] Copied 702 files (169 KB) from volume Macintosh HD.
13/08/2008 12:51:57 /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[4946] Copy stage failed with error:11
13/08/2008 12:52:03 /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[4946] Backup failed with error: 11
13/08/2008 12:55:31 com.apple.launchd[73] (0x10dbd0.Locum[4961]) Exited: Terminated

  • http://blog.heimic.net Michael Fox

    My wife and I have a 1Tb Time Capsule and its been a pretty good unit. Of course the odd issue after a machine has been rebuilt, but thats the perfect time to start it over again.

    My wife’s MacBook Air has been backing up since the day we got the unit. She has an oldest backup of Apr 11th 2008.

  • Al

    Look in Activity Monitor and see if ATSServer is grabbing lots of CPU.
    If it is, your problem is not your respective backup drives; it is a combination of SpotLight not having had your external drives added to exclusion lists and ATSServer trying to do font substitution on PDF documents.
    Turn both off an you’ll be better placed to diagnose the error – but it’s usually this. Just poor design, and why they don’t fix this long standing issue I have no idea.

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  • EldRick

    A couple of weeks after disabling Spotlight, mine started giving error 11 on the following file:

    May 18 20:35:55 my-mac-mini /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[174]: Indexing a file failed. Returned -12 for: /.DS_Store, /Volumes/Capsule 1/Backups.backupdb/My Mac mini/2009-05-18-130134.inProgress/7E63C514-FA9B-4293-A658-1BDF220214AF/HardLife/.DS_Store

    Re-enabling Spotlight (ugh) and forcing it to re-build its index cured the issue, but now I’m not comfortable disabling spotlight again…

  • EldRick

    I’ve since discovered that Spotless will reproducibly re-create the problem. As a result, I’m selling my Time Machine, and will use SuperDuper to an external drive as my backup.

    It’s a no-overhead solution, creates bootable backups, and has no software dependencies that force me to use Spotlight.

    • http://www.bill.eccles.net/bills_words Bill Eccles

      @EldRick–

      The one thing that SuperDuper does not do (that I know of, anyway, even as an owner and user of it) that Time Machine does with any drive, Time Capsule or not, is keep… whatchacallit… hmm. For lack of better term, let’s call them “snapshots” of the drive in time. I know there’s a proper term, but I can’t think of it at the moment.

      Anyway, SuperDuper keeps one copy of the drive as it was last backed up. If you need a file that was deleted before your last SD backup, it’s gone. If a file gets corrupted, it’s corrupted on your SD copy. Only manual management of multiple backups can deal with this.

      Just food for thought.

      /Bill

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  • Don

    I’ve gotten error 11’s with Time Machine for as long as I’ve been running it and they’ve never been more than a nuisance. Usually immediately having Time Machine do another backup solves the problem. If not, I do as the hint says and kill the in progress files left behind.

    On my machine it is always dot files (invisible files whose name is preceeded by a period, i.e., .DS_Store) which cause the problem.

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  • Al

    Look in Activity Monitor and see if ATSServer is grabbing lots of CPU.
    If it is, your problem is not your respective backup drives; it is a combination of SpotLight not having had your external drives added to exclusion lists and ATSServer trying to do font substitution on PDF documents.
    Turn both off an you'll be better placed to diagnose the error – but it's usually this. Just poor design, and why they don't fix this long standing issue I have no idea.


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