How to check that your Mac’s Time Machine backup is working

Updated June 15th, 2019.

It’s great that your Mac has a Time Machine backup. (It doesn’t? Here’s how to set one up.) Maybe you even check, from time to time, that your Mac’s Time Machine backup is running– here’s how. But what if your Mac’s Time Machine backup is set up, running– but not working?

Here are two ways to check.

The first way is super-easy. Just hold the Option key down, then go to the Time Machine menu, and choose “Verify Backups.” Then wait. (And wait some more. This can take a LONG time.)

If the Time Machine menu isn’t showing, go to System Preferences, then Time Machine, and then check the box that says “Show Time Machine in menu bar.”

Verifying Time Machine backups, from the Time Machine menu

The second way is also easy. It uses an app called The Time Machine Mechanic which the developer makes available for free.

The Time Machine Mechanic icon
The Time Machine Mechanic icon

Start The Time Machine Mechanic, choose the number of hours back you want to check (remembering that Time Machine backs up every hour, if it can), and then click “Check Time Machine.” Nothing to it. With luck, you’ll get a report that says something like “No error messages found.”

Time Machine Mechanic log
Time Machine Mechanic log. Time Machine is working!

If you do get an error message, Time Machine Mechanic’s Help file will help you understand it. (Remember how to quickly access Help, for any app, from the keyboard? Here’s the shortcut.)

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