Time Machine and spotlight troubles

Time Machine Privileges and Access Problems.

Time Machine logo

When Time Machine backup is working properly it's a great tool provided to you for free by Apple in OSX, when my old iMac died on me it saved my life, I did not have to go manually copy over the backup files one by one like in past IT projects. But if you use it long enough you will encounter problems some where along the way. For me the most common problem is a corrupt permission or login preferences in the time machine folder. If you are a using a Time Capsule or external drive as your time machine backup, you can just reformat the drive and start over again, or just mount the drive, log in and delete the offending backup and try again.

If you ever click onto the Time Machine icon in your file manager to see what is inside, the folders should look something like the image below, there are no privelage restriction alerts on any of the folders. You should be able to freely navigate between all of the folders and even remove the backup sparse bundle.

The problems started when you try to actually delete a large file, when the Time Machine Backup finishes the backup cycle the sparse bundle will automatically unmount and your attempt to move, copy or delete any of the files will fail.

To fix this problem you will have to manually go in and mount the volume by login in to the NAS (Network Attached Storage) and mount the volume, then manually move, copy or delete the files.

Time Machine - Normal


Before you can start to view and navigate inside of a Time Machine sparse bundle, you will need to do a few things first.

  • Turn off Time Machine
  • Make all hidden files visible, you can use MacHelpMate, or Hidden Files to view the invisible files in the sparse bundle.
  • Enable AFP or CIFS in your NAS to login to the sparse bundle.
  • Turn off any functions in Energy Saver that allows the computer to put the computer to sleep.
  • If you have any problems, I recommend you visit this website its a great resource.
Time Machine - volume

A To View the files inside of the sparse bundle, you will see a icon in the File Manager on the left hand column.

Time Machine - preference panel

B Go into the Time Machine Preference Panel and turn off Time Machine, this way Time Machine will not run a backup while you are inside the sparse bundle

C if there are any errors you will be able to see the problem.

Remove Spotlight folder

Several problems can occur in Time Machine that will require you to remove the spotlight index folder, you will look for a folder called ".Spotlight-V100", this folder contains thousands in some cases millions of individual files, no matter what you do it will take time to delete all of the index files in the folder. If you get a message stating "Waiting for index to be ready" or you try and enter time machine and nothing happens, this means there is a corruption in the time machine backup and you have to go in and delete the spotlight folder.

1. If you fail to enter time machine, you can navigate to the mounted time machine folder and see the red dots, this means you no longer have access to the sparse bundles

Time Machine - problem

In some cases, Time Machine will choose to remove a out of date backup of your existing time machine sparse bundle and create a new one. I have encountered corrupt permissions while the backup is crearted, resulting in you no longer being able to access the backup. This means you will have to take the time and delete the entire sparse bundle DMG and let Time Machine start over. If you choose to do nothing, time machine will still be allowed to access the sparse bundle but you will not.

Some people like to make copies of the sparse bundles, you will still need to delete the Spotlight index folder to gain access to the folder that contains the sparse bundles. If you are skilled enough you can use the MAC OS X terminal app to perform the same delete functions.

2. When you are able to view the invisible files, you will see the ".Spotlight-V100" folder as well as the (3.) sparse bundle folder.

Time Machine - problem

In order to access the Time Machine folder in your NAS you will need to have the actual Time Machine Login and Password that the NAS uses to access Time Machine. Most of the time this will not be the admin password for the NAS itself, I am using a ReadyNAS Duo, so it by default has a separate login that I can't change for Time Machine. If you have not done so, you will need to go into the NAS Admin tool and enable AFP or CIFS file protocol to access the Time Machine Bakcup on your NAS

4. Once this is done, login using the Time Machine folder, then you should see a bunch of files all of which are related to Time Machine. Click on the Sparse Bundle DMG and it will mount. If you want to delete the sparse bundle DMG you can delete it during this step instead of mounting it, since the bundle will be very big, it will take time to delete the file.

Time Machine - preference panel

5. After the DMG (Disk Image) file is mounted, you will be able to access the ".Spotlight-V100" folder, simply delete the folder and wait until the process is complete. There are millions of invisible files in this folder, so it will take many hours to complete, regardless of what method you use, it will take time. I click delete then went to sleep, a few hours after I got up the delete process was complete.

Time Machine - invisible files

6. and 7.When the delete process is complete, you will have to eject the folder and unmount the sparse bundle, then go back to the Time Machine preference panel and turn Time Machine back on. You should be able to access time machine or create a new backup of time machine. When you are done, you can go back and make invisible the hidden files.

Time Machine - Proper

If it is working properly you should see the no red dots on the visible files.

Time Machine - Normal