Warm Southern Breeze

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How to FINALLY fix sparsebundle errors on Apple’s Time Capsule/Time Machine

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, June 7, 2013

IN AN EARLIER ENTRY I’d written that I had successfully resolved sparsebunlde errors on the Time Capule/Time Machine which I use to back up my computer.

At the time, I thought I had.

However, when I examined the disk, I found there was a duplicate sparsebundle.

Typically, unless the file name is changed by the user, on the OSX (Apple’s Macintosh Operating System) duplicate files are indicated by the presence of an Arabic numeral (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) following any file name. Because the sparsebundle, and any errors arising from it are created by the system, they are therefore not available to be changed by the user. Thus, the file names would be appended with a number as explained.

However, problems can be readily noted because either the backup fails to occur, or because the system may report that the disk cannot be found.

In order to understand why the problem occurs, it’s necessary first to understand a bit about the sparsebundle.

The sparsebundle is simply a disk image of sorts, that points to an area where data is collected. In some sense, it’s like an alias. The information contained in the sparsebundle is actually a directory containing numerous files that are called “bands,” each which are approximately 8Mb in size.

Because the bundle itself is a directory, it is only updated when it changed, either by addition or deletion of the files themselves, or the items contained therein.

Since the file directory system is used, it is an inherently efficient way to store data.

Longtime computer users whom are familiar with Microsoft’s Windows operating system may recall “defragging” their computer’s disk drive to increase it’s speed & efficiency.

The reason defragmentation was necessary on Windows was because of the way that operating system stored files.

On an Apple Macintosh, defragmentation is NOT needed, because the files are NOT split up.

Because of that reason, Apple’s OSX remains an inherently efficient, and superior operating system by comparison.

But back to the sparsebundle.

Sparsebundle errors are most often created because of an incomplete disconnection from the disk image. That is, when the image shows up in the finder, it appears as an ejectable disk. Whenever the disk is in use, it appears in the finder. When it is not in use, it does not appear. Whether or not data is being transferred to or from it is of no consequence. It the disk image appears, it is being used. The only time the disk is NOT being used is when it is disconnected.


If you’re using Mountain Lion – which is OSX 10.8 and above – there are some additional steps necessary to correct the problem of sparsebundle errors.

First, download Apple’s AirPort Utility 5.6.
(Available here: https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1482)

Second, open/extract the file (AirPort Utility 5.6) using Pacifist, and save it to your Utility folder.
(Available here: http://www.charlessoft.com/)

Third, open AirPort Utility 5.6 and select the disk being used as backup.

Fourth, select “Disks” at the top of the box.

Fifth, select the disk name as it appears in the selection box.

Sixth, select “Disconnect All Users.”

Seventh, unplug the disk’s power.

Eighth, reconnect the disk’s power. Once the disk has power, it should reappear in the Finder. (If it does not, open Finder Preferences, and select General, and under “Show these items on the desktop:” check all four items – “Hard disks,” “External disks,” “CDs, DVDs, and iPods,” and “Connected servers.”) When it appears in the Finder, select on the duplicate sparsebundle and drag it to the Trash. (It may take some time to delete the file. Be prepared to wait.)

Ninth, open System Preferences and select “Time Machine.”

Tenth, turn ON Time Machine, choose “Select Disk,” and click on the disk you want to use to store your backups.

Depending upon the size of the files to be backed up, it may take some time to prepare the disk for backup, and to actually back up the files themselves. But the best part of it all, is that the additional sparsebundle file that was mistakenly created, will be gone.

Additional helpful information may be found here: http://pondini.org/TM/C12.html

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