Time Machine is the preferred backup system of most Mac users. This is because it is easy and convenient to use, and only needs minimal setup. Once you’ve set it up, you can configure it to automatically create backups according to your preferred frequency and schedule. Then you can forget about it.
Time Machine usually works efficiently and quietly in the backup. You won’t even know when it is currently making backups because it was designed to be non-intrusive. But this becomes a disadvantage when an error occurs.
If Time Machine stopped working for some reason, you won’t be able to check what happened unless you open Time Machine itself or you get a notification (which doesn’t happen most of the time). The only way to discover that there’s an issue with TM is when you launch the app to check.
One of the errors that are easily missed is the Time Machine snapshot could not be created for the disk “%@” or Time Machine could not create a local snapshot to back up from. This error generally occurs when Time Machine automatically creates backups of your files but fails to do so.
What is Disk %@ in Time Machine?
Disk %@ in Time Machine is the drive where the backup files are saved. In short, it is the backup drive. It can any be of the following:
- External drive connected to your Mac, such as a USB or Thunderbolt drive
- Network-attached storage (NAS) device that supports Time Machine over SMB
- Mac shared as a Time Machine backup destination
- AirPort Time Capsule, or external drive connected to an AirPort Time capsule or AirPort Extreme Base Station (802.11ac)
When users get this error, it means that Time Machine cannot save the backup files on that drive, hence the error message. If the error happened some time ago, you’ll notice that Time Machine has stopped backing up your files when the error happened. This means that your backup is outdated and you can’t afford to have a computer emergency because you will lose your most recent files.
What Causes the “Time Machine could not create a local snapshot to back up from” Error?
In most cases, Time Machine errors happen due to insufficient storage on the backup drive. If there is not enough space on the drive, Time Machine won’t be able to create new files. The same is true if the drive is corrupted or does not have sufficient permissions. Time Machine won’t be able to save new files to the drive.
It is also possible that the error is caused by an outdated Time Machine app. This is most likely if you have recently upgraded to macOS Big Sur or you haven’t updated your apps in a while. A conflict happens between Time Machine and the system, resulting in the “Time Machine could not create a local snapshot to back up from” error.
Aside from these common factors, you should also consider malware infection and corrupted files when determining the cause of this error.
What To Do If You Cannot Back Up Using Time Machine
Before you try to troubleshoot this error, here are some checks you need to perform first:
- Ensure that macOS is updated.
- Reboot Mac and check if the Time Machine is working again.
- If you are using Airport Time Capsule, update the firmware on the Airport Time Capsule.
- Check if your Mac is connected to the same network as the backup drive. For example, if you are trying to backup data using the AirPort Time Capsule or the server, make sure you are connected to the same device network.
- If your drive is connected to a port on your Mac or AirPort Extreme Base Station, make sure that the drive is switched on.
- Connect the drive directly to your Mac. Do not use a USB hub.
- If you’re backing up to an external third-party drive, make sure the drive’s firmware is up to date.
If everything looks good and Time Machine is still getting the same error, then you can try the solutions given below.
Fix #1: Make sure you have enough storage space for the backup.
Although Time Machine deletes old backups regularly, there are times when the deletion cannot catch up with the rate of backing up. To make sure you have enough storage for your backups, clean up your drive using a Mac cleaner. This tool deletes all unnecessary files so you have enough space for your Time Machine backups.
Fix #2: Remove the /Volumes/com.apple.TimeMachine.localsnapshots directory.
This is a hidden directory that you should try deleting if you’re encountering issues like this. You can use the Terminal to delete this directory as long as you have sudo or root permissions.
To do this:
- Open Terminal from the Utilities folder or by searching for it via Spotlight.
- Type in the following command: sudo rm -r /Volumes/com.apple.TimeMachine.localsnapshots
- Press Enter.
- Delete the local snapshots using this command: sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshots /
- Press Enter.
- Restart Time Machine and check if it is now working correctly.
Fix #3: Delete the Time Machine Preferences.
Sometimes you need to reset Time Machine in order to resolve backup errors such as “Time Machine snapshot could not be created for the disk “%@” or “Time Machine could not create a local snapshot to back up from”.
To resolve this Time Machine backup issue, perform the following steps:
- Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Time Machine.
- Turn off Time Machine.
- Go to Macintosh HD > Library > Preferences folder.
- Delete com.apple.TimeMachine.plist.
- Start Time Machine from System Preferences.
- Add your external drive as a Time Machine backup destination.
- Create a backup to the drive.
The newly created backup file should now be accessible. The above steps will help you to resolve the Time Machine corruption error that was preventing backup in Mojave.
Fix #4: Re-launch Time Machine.
The last step to fix any Time Machine backup error is to reset the backup process manually. You can do that by following the steps here:
- In the Finder window, navigate to /TimeMachineBackupDrive/Backups.backupdb/Backup Name.
- Here Backup Name is the name of the backup drive.
- In the backupdb folder, search for a file with the extension, .inProgress and delete the file.
- Quit Time Machine and restart your Mac.
Once your Mac restarts, check if Time Machine has started working properly again.
Time Machine is an integral part of macOS because it is what you rely on during emergencies. If your files get corrupted or your Mac gets bricked, you can immediately get back on your feet using your backup. Hence, it is important to keep Time Machine functioning properly at all times, especially since it runs backups automatically in the background. If you encounter any error with the backup process, just follow the steps above and they should be able to resolve any Time Machine problems.