iPhone Backups Slow? How to Speed Up and Fix a Slow iPhone Backup

Jun 21, 2010 - 74 Comments

iphone backup slow There are several reasons why backups can take forever on an iPhone, so here are a few tips you can try that should increase the speed of your iPhone backups and restores. Yes, these tips work on Mac OS and Windows, and for iPod Touch too.

Fix slow iPhone backups by deleting photos

If you have a large camera roll on your iPhone, you might be really slowing down your iPhone backups. This is because the iPhone backup process will copy all your pictures regardless of whether or not there have been any changes made to them. The solution? Regularly backup your iPhone photo’s and then delete the originals from the iPhone.

  • Launch iPhoto (or Image Capture or whatever app you use to backup photos)
  • Copy ALL images from your iPhone to your computer
  • Ensure that you have backed up all your iPhone photos to the computer
  • Delete ALL of the originals from the iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Proceed to backup as usual through iTunes

Your backups should now go much faster. It is no coincidence that this tip is recommended by Apple Support, because it works.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical of this solution until I tried it myself; I had 1,728 photos saved in my iPhone camera roll. After I backed them all up into iPhoto and deleted all the originals from the phone, my iPhone backups speed improved dramatically – I went from a painfully slow four hour backup process to a more reasonable 45 minutes with this tip alone.

Delete old and unused apps from your iPhone

If you aren’t using an old app anymore, delete it, there’s not much reason to keep it around on your iPhone anymore. Deleting these ancient apps can help to speed up your iPhone backups too, since there is less data to transfer at each backup or restore.

Remove unused media from the iPhone

Old apps aren’t the only thing that can slow down backups, so can media. We already discussed deleting photos from your iPhone and the big improvement that makes in backup speed, but deleting other media can help too. If you find yourself never listening to some ancient albums, or watching those old TV shows you copied over 8 months ago, just go ahead and delete them from the iPhone. Deleting video files seems to be particularly effective.

Regularly backup your iPhone

Allowing too much time to pass between backups can really increase the amount of time necessary to backup your iPhone. Try to keep regular backups of your iPhone, just get in a habit of making one full backup once or twice a month. I have noticed a direct correlation between the length of time a backup takes to complete and how often I perform full backups: the longer time that passes between backups the slower the backup will be.

I’m trying to install iPhone OS 4 and the backup and install is really slow, help!

Many users are reporting very slow backup and install processes for updating their iPhone and iPod touch to iPhone OS 4. If you are experiencing this problem, I would highly recommend letting the backup and install run during a time you will not be using the phone for several hours, ideally overnight. Just start the iPhone OS 4.0 install and backup process and let it run while you sleep, you will wake up to the new OS4 being installed and you will have made a recent backup, which will speed up future backups and installations as well.

My iPhone backups are still extremely slow, help!

If you’ve tried all these methods and your iPhone backups are still extremely slow (and by extremely slow I mean well over a few hours, I’ve heard reports of up to 9 hours… yikes!) then you can try the last resort: Restore your iPhone to it’s original factory settings. Remember that by doing this without a backup you will LOSE ALL DATA ON YOUR IPHONE including all media, music, apps, phone numbers, notes, everything, so be absolutely certain that you don’t mind restoring to factory default settings without a backup. This almost always resolves the slow backup problem, but if you don’t have anything to restore to then you will have a completely blank iPhone with nothing on it. There are some suggestions that restoring the iPhone is necessary when there has been a filesystem corruption, which can lead to extremely slow backup speeds and other strange behavior. Again, you will lose all your iPhone data so this is a last resort.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Troubleshooting

74 Comments

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  1. [...] echt mijn vriend. Met de juiste keywords is een oplossing snel gevonden. In dit geval vond ik op OS X Daily een blog post over het verkorten van de backup tijd en ook Apple Support bleek een waardevolle [...]

  2. egon says:

    I just went through this today when installing iPhone OS 4.0 since the install has to backup the iPhone first. Removing pictures and videos helped speed up the update a lot, so thank you.

    Total time was about two hour for OS 4 update.

  3. Matt says:

    Well over 9 hours, last time I backed up my iPhone it took over 15 hours. I really should switch to Android.

  4. Anton says:

    I have had to uninstall and reinstall itunes because of a corrupt file in mobile me. And then download OS4 and install again. Painstaking!!

  5. Russ says:

    I have left my phone do its backup for about 20 hours and it is only about 3/4 way through. No way i can let this go any longer, its my work phone!

  6. Jason says:

    I have left my phone for backup overnight. After about 9 hrs, the green bar barely moved. .. Give up for now, until a better solution is worked out

  7. Joe says:

    I left my iphone updating all night. I read to unsync the apps to remove them all, and if any remained they were corrupt to delete them so I did. none remained and it took me forever to get them back on, the phone still wouldnt back up and i had to cancel the backup process just to be able to sync and put the apps back on my phone. When I do try to manually backup I never even get a progress bar, its always the diagonal lines in the progress bar like when itunes is connecting. So then I read maybe my old backup file is corrupted, so I deleted it, and my phone still wont back up. Apple should really fix the problems with backups or offer some easy to get to free tech support

  8. Phil says:

    Same thing here… 10 hours to get to 3/4 of the back up and then completely frozen… Not even a fraction of a mil on the progress bar in the next 2 hours… My 1st and last Apple product… Which I m unfortunately stuck with for another 18 months…fix your crap before releasing new product Mr Job…

  9. Ted says:

    I gave up trying to upgrade my 3G to os4 after several aborted attempts to back up data. Spending 4 hours at a time waiting for the back up progress bar to move 1/10th of an inch to the right is not what I consider user friendly.

    I’ve spent the past week researching the Droid X as a replacement for my 3G. I was going to purchase the new 4G but now I’ll wait until July 15th before making my decision.

    Apple, take better care of your customers!

  10. Felim says:

    Have to agree with Ted. Apple deliver continual disappointment via their cranky servers/locked-in mentality. Bad experiences with iPhone 3g and, separately, with mobileme so far. Considering the jump to Android phones. Google works.

  11. Robbi says:

    After 3 hours, it looks like my son’s iPod touch is about 85% of the way backed up – a long tedious process in order to get OS4 (which I hope will behave better than this!). He has a lot of applications that were downloaded directly onto the iPod rather than through iTunes, so it sounds like this is the main culprit. It would have been nice to have been notified by Apple of this bug in one of their many marketing emails! Apple, respect your customers’ valuable time by sharing whatever information you have that can benefit them!

  12. Fiona says:

    It’s rediculous… Im on my 4th attempt at trying to get it to back up. I left it for 5 hours this morning and it only had 2 bars. Then I gave up… I can’t be without my phone for hours and hours.
    I remember last time it took a fair while… but considering before updating it said it would take about 1 hours… this is so unbelievably annoying. A real fail on apples behalf considering so many people are having this problem. I first typed it into google last night to see if there was anyway of getting it to work or speeding it up, and I was extremely shocked to see the thousands of other people all complaining of the same problem.
    I to have downloaded most of my apps straight onto my iphone and not through itunes… so could unstand that this may be the problem… I also hadnt backed my phone up for a while… but apple should have considered this when making the software available. Crap absolutely Crap

  13. John Kantor says:

    I back up my 3g every day – and let the update run for 5 hours, but it still was only about 5% along.

  14. Greg says:

    It’s ridiculously slow. I wonder why apple doesn’t have a fix.

  15. Jan says:

    Same thing on mine. Two separate, long, annoying backup/OS upgrade attempts. Won’t try again ’til Apple fixes it!

  16. Peter says:

    9 hours? I let my phone backup for 12 hours and it wasn’t even 1/2 way done with the backup.

  17. Kristi says:

    OH MY — have tried numerous times! Over night, during the day and nothing. This is ridiculous!!! My phone only took about 1 hr to backup/upgrade to OS 4. However I’ve been trying to backup/upgrade my husbands for a week now and NOTHING. It really shouldn’t take that long to back things up. I’ve also tried EVERY suggestion you have listen above and nothing has worked. Any think else?

  18. d.spears says:

    removed all apps (after i synced them) left the photos on there, deleted text messages, and phone backed up in 4 minutes….after the new software installs i will then sync my apps back on……LUCKY ME…HEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE :) YOU ALL SHOULD TRY THE VERY SAME THING :)

  19. Gail says:

    same thing here. have tried several times for several hours and only got 2 bars on the progress bar. i only have about 44 apps and 75 pics on my phone. it is practically empty and i still cant get it to backup even over night. this sucks!! i know some people with more things than me whose worked fine in an hour or two. its ridiculous and disapointing!!

  20. Darrin says:

    I finally decided that it’s faster to reenter all my information by hand than to back it all up with Apple’s broken software. I disabled the backup a long time ago using iPhone Backup Switch (http://microseconds.com/?page_id=395) . I updated to iOS 4 without a backup (which is essentially a factory restore) and just reentered my contacts. Just make sure to get all your photos off first.

  21. Gene says:

    I use to plug in my Iphone 3gs on Friday night and it would still be backing up late Sunday. Obviously, things were not right.

    My 3gs is 8gb and only had about 4.5gb on it.

    I started with deleting all the pictures. That didn’t change anything.

    I contacted Apple tech support, who suggested deleting all the apple software off by computer [vista], and then reinstalling it. They sent me a detailed instruction to follow. That didn’t change anything.

    Then I read a blog that said if Iphone users had added apps from the app store app on the phone, as opposed to adding apps from ITunes, that may cause a problem. I had added all my new apps directly from the app store on the phone, so I tried that angle.

    I downloaded all my apps from ITunes first. Then, I deleted all my added apps off my IPhone. Then, I tried a backup. Low and behold, the backup took 60 seconds. In the synch that followed the backup all of my former apps were installed.

    Since that time I’ve always added apps from ITunes, not the app store on the phone. I’ve got tons of pictures. I’ve got more than 40 apps on my phone. Each backup takes about 60 seconds. Updating to v4 of the software took no time and all and the succeeding backups all work in 60 secs and I have no issues.

  22. Craig says:

    SAME problems 10+ hours. I have not tried any of these solutions yet, but I will. I can’t understand why they would have an ap for downloading aps if the f-ing ap corrupts the phone! Apple is so user friendly my arse!

    • Gene says:

      Amazing isn’t it?

      At least now it works. I added a dozen songs and 2 apps last night and with the backup it took all of 3 minutes

  23. varun says:

    Before i just wouldnt even see my bar move – i left it on for hours thought my itunes froze or something. But then after some snooping around i figured i have way too much stuff on my phone. This is what you should do –

    sync all your photos to your computer or iphoto.
    see what apps you have – if like me you dwnld em straight to your phone then either write em down, or sync em to itunes. if its takign too long, screw it. just write em down. delete all the music on your phone. you can always sync that up later anyhow. then when you have atleast 60-70% of your memory free on your phone, go for the update.

    It only took me an hour or so after that. Compared to the days it wouldve taken otherwise.

  24. [...] If you have any tips feel free to post them in the comments below. Otherwise all I have to offer is what I typed above and this link I found: here. [...]

  25. Raianne says:

    I findit very ammusing how I am reading this and am waiting for my moms iPhone 3g to finish backing up. Not even half way there …this might take awhile , but i just dont understand my iPhone 4g workedout fine in just seconds why isher’s taking so long!!

  26. Noor says:

    i have a 3gs 16gb iphone and started the OS4 download from 9am and its STILL running (11.18PM)….What the hell is all this?

  27. Noor says:

    14HRS already!!!!

  28. kinshi says:

    Over 20 hours for each attempt X 3… Do we really need to backup? what is the liklihood that we’ll lose data upon upgrade?
    …to think, all of this for a bit of multi-tasking (that should have come as standard).
    Im thinking Android is the way to go in future too :S

  29. russellhobbs says:

    I was suffering with the same symptoms everyone else mentioned and was well into my 4th hour of backing up my 3G when I cancelled it and followed Gene’s reply. I backed up my phone (app free) in about 2 minutes–music, photos, and all. Resync-ing with my apps from iTunes took only about 10 more minutes. Thanks Gene.

  30. marsel says:

    @gene: thanks for the tip, I will surely give it a try. But what about the data that is associated with the apps? Will I lose that?

  31. snapnhiss says:

    Thank you! I had no idea deleting the photos would speed up the process but it’s working like a charm. Much appreciated.

  32. snapnhiss says:

    Me again. It’s done already!

  33. george says:

    same problem to me. i tried several times last successful backup size is around 700MB for as long as overnight. now, it is worst, the backup freeze around 50MB.
    it tried several method, reset warning, delete crash log …..
    it was good a week ago! how come?

  34. Philip Bishop says:

    Gene’s fix may be cool, effective and welcome but it doesn’t change the fact that you should be able to download apps via the app store app and back up your iPhone in no more time than it takes if apps are downloaded from iTunes on a PC. Clearly there’s a serious bug that needs fixing.

  35. laura schmedler says:

    yeah i had to uninstall and reinstall itunes today just to get itunes to recognize my iphone….i have had it for 2 years and it was never a problem. ipod showed up in list no problem, plug in iphone, no device. seriously. SO NOW, 8 hours later and a 30$ apple tech bill i am still backing up. really? i hafta delete all my pics? hmmmm….this is the best we can do with this technology?? i’m just trying to finish this sync……then get the new OS….delete my apps? and pics? im gonna try it…..if this back up ever finsihes…..

  36. Cheryl says:

    I am in the middle of figuring out this really long back up problem. I am frustrated too. But I have to mention a few words to all of the people who seem so extremely disappointed with Apple because of this problem. This is a relatively new technology. I can’t be all that upset. I just feel lucky to be able to have this cool piece of equipment- bugs and all. It is cutting edge. That means they are making the new path- that means there were no devices before this that had all these amazing apps from 3rd party developers. This is relatively BRAND NEW. We should expect problems. I think someday it will get better, but I can understand how the people who deleted apps before the new update had a faster experience. All these different apps have all these different codes and (I am not a tech person) I can imagine the update having to go through all these different bits of information written by Joe and Susy and Citibank and whoever else thought they should make an app. Someday hopefully soon, it will be fixed. Until then I am blessed! Only 60 years ago I would be thinking this technology would never be possible. Thanks Apple and all of you out there trying new things and not worrying about the backlash so much that you are stifled into not creating anything. This is progress.

  37. Bob says:

    My backup on my iPod touch takes up to 24 hours!! I am going to try these methods, and hopefully I will not have to restore.

    – iPod touch 1st Generation 8GB
    – iOS 3.1.3
    – 20 something MB of free space

  38. mike cline says:

    I don’t have a goddamn thing on my ipod touch that I actually care to back up. Actually the only thing that I have of any real volume is music, and why would I want to copy that back to my computer, when that’s where it was stored in the first place? I wish I could just skip the backup, but pressing the “X” button to cancel the backup also cancels the OS upgrade. aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghh!!

  39. junkjunk says:

    facebook app didn’t work..
    after 1 hr at at$T, and calling techsupport.
    apple said to backup iphone, and install facebook
    from itunes..

    so mabye installing apps via phone is glitchy!
    dunno, will try tonite..need iphone for work during
    day time..

    fyi. backup last nite 9pm – 7am..
    75% done. and was only backing up the apps
    and nothing else!

  40. I had the same problem with slow back up – I never managed it as I had over 3000 pics on there, 5 apps and no songs. It would sit all night trying to back up but never did. I basically held off on the OS4 update for ages but decided to get it sorted once and for all tonight as my phone had been running like crap all week – If you clicked on pics on the phone it would take over 15 seconds before showing the gallery – very frustrating.

    I did the following: Copied all my photos from my iphone using ‘Image Capture’ (free utility on all macs located in applications folder). Then deleted all my pics using the same utility. Then picked up my phone and deleted the 5 apps manually by hand. I then went in to itunes on the summary tab and clicked ‘restore’> ‘restore and backup’.

    It worked! Backed up in less than 5 mins and the OS4 software installed in about 10 mins. Restored in 5 mins.

    Its friggin annoying that Apple don’t sort things like this out. I liked having lots of shots on my phone, I would look through them and reminisce when I was traveling or bored. The phone has the memory space but it seems the software was not geared up for the job.

    A night of my life that I will never get back!

  41. Chuck says:

    Just switched to Google Nexus S. It makes me sad as I’m a very loyal Apple customer. A nearly 48hr “back up and sync process which locked down my phone and desktop for 2 days!!!! threw me over the edge”. It’s very nice not to be required to theater yourself to a desktop via a wire in the 21st century. To be fair I’m not on the new 4, and understand there are some OTA improvements there, but you still need to run iTunes. OTA on Android ROCKS! what a concept – (Steve I hope you’re taking notes from Andy Ruben). ULTRA fast data access, especially via contacts which was always terrible on the iOS. Apple, thanks for showing us the way, and Google, thanks for making the concept much better.

  42. [...] How to speed up slow iPhone backups * Find the location of iPhone backups and access the files [...]

  43. Susan says:

    So the “solution” to normal/fast backups is just “delete most of your data”????

    What an awful “solution”.

    Why can’t backups just work… just like they do on other devices I back up???

  44. KarenM says:

    I waited over 15hours one day for syncing before upgrading (at which point i had to cancel)! I tried the removing pictures and music which made no visible difference however I found it to be removing all apps from my phone 1st that reduced the sync to shorter than an hour! I lost some app saved stuff and settings but the new operating system i think is worth it.
    It took me so long trying to figure and get 4.0 I have gone straight to 4.2! Only with the help of this website!

  45. Rob says:

    Read Gene’s post. Transferred all my purchases to itunes and then deleted all the app store apps from my phone. Backup then took less than a minute. Started upgrade to 4.1.2 which was then almost done by the time I finished reading all the posts after Gene’s. Lousy way to function, but I’m not losing anything because everthing is backed up on my itunes. after upgrade when I sync all my apps will be restored. Thanks Gene

  46. Francis Ron says:

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  47. Schmedley says:

    I’m over the iPhone. Tried to update to os 4 for months. Even left it overnight. The lack of flash and locked in to only apple apps is stupid. The androids are open, faster, use flash, removable batteries and sd cards… It’s a nobrainer to ditch this phone and AT&T.

  48. Syahmi says:

    LOL! i can update my android 1.6 to 2.1 in abt less than 1 hour! now im updating my dads iphone… i dont have problems but still the backup is slow. besides, i realise that the update file was more than 400mb! so big? wadting my time

  49. Syahmi says:

    wasting*

  50. CHT says:

    This is an APPLE problem and Apple needs to fix it. You’d think that one of the “improved” versions of iTunes which are released almost weekly, would address and fix the slow backup problem ALONG WITH the useless chunk of “Other memory” that clogs our phones. Hmmmm, I wonder if Other Memory is the location of the spyware user info that Apple acquires and “never uploads” to its servers.

  51. sara says:

    i leave mine on for awhile and it freezes then has an error on the back up!!! i cant even leave it overnight!!!

  52. shawn says:

    ??what?? serious? i have a 3gs 16gb and even when i downloaded ios4 ive never seen more than 30mins to backup-instal-register whatever. normal sync takes 2mins tops ….what r u guys doin with ur phones? and r u using mac or pc? i have 4 year old mac mini 2gb ram/100gb hdd(44gb free)/1.66core duo OSX10.6.7 . ive also read many problems with itunes.i have none (knock on wood) perhaps the people with problems r using PCs?? i use a pc sometimes n they anoy me cause they r EXTREAMLY slow n jittery. idk just asking

  53. David Chun says:

    Wow, I thought mine took long. Mine only takes about 45 minutes. Long but short compared to the ones in the comments.

  54. Len says:

    Apple just sucks. I’ve been trying to update my phone for over a year. It never works. I just deleted all my texts, photos and apps. It still refuses to update. I have a 3G, 16 GB with 9 GB of audio. Should I just delete all my audio files? I read somewhere that Apple should change their name to Lemon. It makes perfect sense. Even their computers are lemons.

  55. Bob Glenister says:

    Hi Everyone

    Had the same issues, the workaround was to cut the photos and save them to my PC’s hard-drive and secondly to delete all my mail in all the folders. The backup only took 10 minutes after that. (this was after waiting almost 30 hours for the backup bar to not move an inch.

    Hope this helps all those frustrated users out there, was ready to throw the phone in the trash :-)

  56. Carol says:

    I should have to delete ANY content off the phone to perform a backup. The backup routine should be smart enough to do a delta from the prior backup and not try to backup everything. What’s the point of having 16GB of capacity if you can’t take that much content around with you? Hours to back up a phone is ridiculous and a rock bottom customer experience. Seriously peeved at this point.

  57. John says:

    I have tried repeatedly to update to OS 4, but the backup is taking hours. After 4 attempts at leaving on before bed only to find still backing up, I have deleted many apps on phone. The only thing left is to upload all photos to pc, synch all phone based purchase apps, and upload songs purchased on phone to itunes. The only fear is to lose the valuable photos stored on phone. I have a PC based system, and all advice is for apple based computer. Is it possible to delete all info from phone and not lose the data? _FRUSTRATED!!!!

  58. Steve says:

    Well have been trying to back-up a friends contacts/info/files from his iphone 3g as hes having an iphone 4 tomorrow. And cant even get the bloody thing to sync with itunes at all. Just freezes on ‘syncing mail accounts’

    Tried to backup the phone. Waited ten mins and no sign of life… (i get impatient after 10 mins) Started task manager and Itunes : Not responding. Tried again, several times. Reinstalled itunes. Updated itunes. Restarted phone. Reinstalled itunes. Nope – its cack. Cannot get it to work.

    What a completely useless system this itunes/iphone OS is. Am very unimpressed that I had to install itunes on my pc to begin with. Am very unimpressed that it wont back-up. Apple you need to sort your act out.

    I own a Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.2. Works and reacts like an iphone4, looks like iphone4, same spec as iphone4… but Google have definately got the odds in their favour when it comes to writing good software.

    How to backup your iphone : Install itunes. Sync your phone (if you can). If not, disable auto-syncing… Then click back-up. Then wait for 3 to 30 hours to backup a measely 9gb of data. If it fails to backup after 30hours, delete all of your personal data from your iphone including apps and photos. Then click back-up. (Think to yourself – W.T.F. is the point of backing up an empty phone?!?) Then wait while apple takes a leaf out of microsofts book and wastes a bit more of your time. Fail. Go on Google to research why it takes so long to back up. End up here. Booooo….

    How to backup an android phone : Plug in USB cable. Browse phone like a Disk Drive. Copy all files and folders from phone to a convenient spot on your PC. Wait 8-10 mins for it to copy EVERYTHING and your done!

    We wont go into how easy it is to update the OS on a Google-based android, either, as it may upset a few iphone owners…

    All in all – i think you can tell, im unimpressed with apple at the minute. So glad now, that i signed up for the £18/month galaxy S instead of the £35/month iphone4…

    Iphones have just received a serious thumbs-down in my book.

  59. [...] I then started to look at tuning my backup to speed it up. I had to delete data and apps in stages as if I didn't leave around 30 seconds before the phone [...]

  60. shivang says:

    gotoc/program files(86)/apple/device support and delete appple mobile backup exe. and apple mobile backup.dll

  61. Mitch Damnit says:

    Hey, Just to let you guys know, there is a way to update without the back up process! Just ctrl+alt+del to open task manager, find a program near the top of the list called applemobilebackup.exe and end process. YOU MUST DO THIS AFTER THE BACKUP PROGRESS BAR APPEARS! when you end this program, itunes will just skip to the next part of the process. The only downside is that the Ithing in question will be restored to factory settings. Shortly after you end applemobilebackup.exe you will get an error message saying something like “itunes could not back up XXXXX’s iPhone because back up session failed” or whatever. Just ignore and hit OK.
    Hopefully Apple will fix this issue in a future update but untill then, stay strong.

  62. Terry says:

    Backup/restore time is beyond description! If apple doesn’t fix this problem SOON, this will be the last dime I spend on iPhone!

  63. J says:

    Seriously ?
    Check your OS. Are you up to date ? SYNC. Problem ? Restore to default. SYNC. Back-up.

  64. Guest says:

    > correlation between the length of time a backup takes to
    > complete and how often I perform full backups: the longer
    > time that passes between backups the slower the backup
    > will be.

    That would be true of an “incremental” or “differential” backup… but why would a *FULL* backup be any faster or slower if you did it “more often”???

    Full = Full

    The only thing that should matter is “how much data is being backed up”.

  65. js says:

    Thanks the tips worked

  66. harshil says:

    heres the solution:
    in windows. just click and hold the pop up restore progress bar and keep moving it around the screen. the trick is to make sure itunes keeps running

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