When to run --prepare

Can anyone give me some more info on when to run --prepare?

Can you run --prepare on another machine (after you transferred a tarred/gzipped backup)? I’ve done this both locally and remote and it seems to work, but clarification would be great.

Also, is it safe to run --prepare and still run an incremental backup on the prepared data or must you keep the data unprepared until you restore and roll forward all the incremental backups?

Yes, it can be done remotely. You can do a --prepare and then do incrementals afterwards, but you need to do --apply-log-only in that case. References:

http://www.percona.com/docs/wiki/percona-xtrabackup:xtraback up:prepare (I’m updating this to help answer this question for others)
http://www.percona.com/docs/wiki/percona-xtrabackup:xtraback up:incremental#preparing_the_backups