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I recently started getting this error message in Time Machine:

Unable to complete backup. An error occurred while creating the backup directory.

My configuration: Unibody Macbook Pro 15" (circa September 2008) & Western Digital Passport 500GB (USB HDD), OS X 10.5.7 (up-to-date).

I couldn't get rid of this problem through unplugging/replugging my external HDD, and eventually rebooted the machine. The problem is gone for the time being but I'd like to find a better solution than "reboot and pray".

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I've had the same issue as well and a bit of tinkering like you've said seems to "fix" it for a while. I'd like to know the cause of too. +1 for your question. – Pauk Jul 28 '09 at 21:52
What shows up in Console? Specifically anything from backupd or is that the error from Console (/var/log/system.log in this case)? – Chealion Jul 28 '09 at 22:52
I'm sure there's more details in Console? – Arjan Aug 7 '09 at 16:57
up vote 1 down vote accepted

What is in your Console log, if you filter for "Backupd". Can you post the last dozen or so lines, that will give us some more information to make an educated decision on.

Please keep in mind, failure messages in Time Machine could simply be that a document was unable to be copied. Time Machine is very binary, the backup either completed 100% or failed. So an archive file from NetNewswire (*.html) page not being backed up, means that it failed...

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The console log showed that I was getting "error 11". I noticed that several files in my Movies folder were erroring out just before the "error 11". I excluded the Movies folder from backups and it works fine now. (Obviously not an ideal solution, but I don't have any original content in there currently.) – pix0r Oct 9 '09 at 16:51

I think I had this error once a while ago. If I remember right, I got frustrated with it and just reformatted my time machine drive and re-setup time machine and I have not seen the error since. If you dont mind losing the old backups, it is an easy possible fix.


Yes, I tried rebooting. I didn't mind losing my previous backups at the time, so did not get too deep into the issue though. Have not seen an error since that day.

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Did you try rebooting? =P I really don't want to lose my Time Machine data. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of using Time Machine in the first place? – pix0r Jul 28 '09 at 22:03

Do you repair permissions often?

If not try it: Disk Utility -> Repair Permissions.

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When I had this issue, I made a copy of my Time Machine backup file to another external hard drive and then I formatted my Time Capsule and started fresh on it. If I need to go back to something from the previous backup file it's still available on the other hard drive.

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