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CrashPlan Support

Understanding And Troubleshooting Backing Up With Mac Spotlight

Applies to:
  • CrashPlan for Home
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This article is intended for CrashPlan for Home users. For Code42 CrashPlan and CrashPlan for Small Business documentation, read this page on our enterprise support site.


CrashPlan uses the Spotlight service on Mac OS X to monitor your computer for file changes. This article describes:

  • The technical details about how CrashPlan and Spotlight work together
  • Recommended solutions for errors associated with Spotlight

Under the hood

At a high-level, here's how the CrashPlan app coordinates with Spotlight to back up your new or changed files:

  1. CrashPlan starts to back up.
  2. CrashPlan requests a snapshot from Spotlight for all local drives.
  3. Spotlight creates a snapshot containing information on all new or changed files.
  4. Spotlight provides CrashPlan with details to access the new snapshot.
  5. CrashPlan backs up ALL files using the snapshot until it reaches a file that has changed since the snapshot was created or the backup session finishes.

This process repeats when Spotlight reports data in your file selection has changed.

Recommended solutions

There are some files and folders that Spotlight can't index or won't find. Additionally it may stop producing results.

Unable to back up files

If your backup never reaches 100%, or you see the message "unable to back up n files" in your history log, you can check your logs to find the files that are not backing up. The files or folders that cannot back up may have restricted permissions and display a red circle in the Finder. To back up the files, alter the file permissions.

Unable to back up file changes

The CrashPlan app real-time backup feature cannot detect any new or changed files in your file selection if Spotlight does not report the changes to the files to CrashPlan.

Unable to back up FileVault protected files

In Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6, the default (root) user does not have access to File Vault-protected contents via Spotlight. This means Spotlight won't tell CrashPlan about files that have changed in the FileVault-protected account.