Why Your Time Machine Icon Isn’t Spinning in the Status Bar

time machine status bar icon spinning
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You may have noticed that you can hear your computer being backed up via Time Machine, but then you look at the Time Machine icon in the status bar, and it’s not rotating, leading you to wonder “huh?” Here is why your Time Machine icon no longer rotates or spins in your status bar.

First, exactly what Time Machine icon are we talking about, and what do we mean by ‘spinning’?

Time Machine status bar icon
time machine status bar icon not spinning-1

As you can see below, when the Time Machine status bar icon looks like this (and when it wasn’t spinning), it meant that your Time Machine wasn’t backing up at that time.

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clicked time machine status bar icon

 

When Time Machine was backing up, that icon would rotate (spin).

time machine status bar icon spinning

 

But now it’s not spinning, even though you are pretty sure that Time Machine is backing up. What’s going on?

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Here’s the story.

Starting with OS X Mavericks (i.e. OS X version 10.9), Apple did away with the spinning Time Machine icon in the status bar.  Mavericks is the penultimate version of OS X as of the time of this writing, the current version being OS X  Yosemite (OS X 10.10).  Mavericks was released in October of 2013, but given the hit-or-miss nature of being right at your machine when Time Machine is backing up, and then having to actually look at the icon, let alone having to notice that it’s not spinning, you can be forgiven for just having figured it out now, even if you did update to Mavericks back in 2013.

So how can you tell if Time Machine is backing up? Here’s how.

Starting with Mavericks, Apple replaced the obvious rotating icon with a much more subtle indicator that Time Machine was working on a backup.

new time machine backing up icon in status bar

 

how to tell time machine is working

If you click on the Time Machine icon when it is displaying the extra little triangle, you will see that Time Machine is in fact working away diligently, backing up your data.

time machine is backing up

 

Yes, yes, we know. We miss the spinning icon too.


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9 thoughts on “Why Your Time Machine Icon Isn’t Spinning in the Status Bar

  1. just updated from snow leopard (which was a great OS) to el capitan and having time machined my snow leopard installation proceeded to do same with el capitan.

    I’d bought new Seagate drive for the purpose, which came pre-installed for windows, so needed formatting, and guess what… no spinning time machine icon in el capitan. What could possibly be wrong? Just what I needed… 2 simultaneous unknowns… new OS and new drive.

    APPLE… if it ain’t broke don’t fix it… you’re turning into Microsoft and look where they are now.

  2. Thanks for writing this! I couldn’t imagine why the icon wasn’t spinning when I knew it was backing up. I have to agree with Drew, I’ve been a Mac user since the beginning but these little annoying changes just for the sake of change are driving me bonkers.

    Still, when I go back to Linux and realize that an entire subsystem has been replaced and I have to learn something completely new, when it was not necessary, I will stick with the Mac OS.

  3. Thanks for explaining this. I absolutely hate the decisions made at Apple over the past few years, changing things for no good reason other than just to change them. This spinning icon was such an obvious and easy way to know that time machine was backing up. I miss Steve Jobs, and Jony Ive is not as good a designer as I once thought he was.

  4. Thanks very much. I’m no longer so perplexed, having just upgraded from Snow Leopard to El Capitan I was confused.

  5. Thank you Anne,

    I have been puzzling that for ages (now on El Capitan)

    Now well explained – pity Apple could not have done same.

  6. Thanks for the short, concise answer to this question that came up today on my new Mini.
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