Fix Slow Time Machine Backups on a Mac
The amount of time it takes to complete a Time Machine backup depends on a variety of things, like the amount of data being backed up, the destination drive speed, the speed of the internet connection if the backup is going to a Time Capsule, whether it’s the initial backup or a delta backup of changes made, amongst a variety of other factors. You’ll typically get an idea of how long a Time Machine backup should take to complete after it has ran a few times on a Mac, so if you discover suddenly that the Time Machine backup is taking an extremely long time or is backing up unusually slow, follow the troubleshooting steps below to speed things up.
How to Troubleshooting Abnormally Slow Time Machine Backups
1: WAIT! Are you sure the backups are going slower than usual? Let it run over night if in doubt
This may sound a little silly, but are you sure the backup is abnormally sluggish? Is the backup actually going unusually slow, or is there simply a lot of data being backed up? This is particularly important for the first backup a Mac has made, or a notable amount of time has passed between backups. It’s also true if you download or create a lot of media on the Mac, which can take up many GB of disk space, and as a result can take a while to backup.
If you aren’t certain about this, or you have any doubt, just let the Time Machine backup run overnight.
2: Stop & Start the Backup
Sometimes simply stopping, waiting a few minutes, and starting the backup to Time Machine will remedy speed issues.
- Pull down the Time Machine menu bar item and choose “Cancel Backup”
- Wait a few minutes, then go back to the Time Machine menu item and choose “Start Backup”
If you check on the elapsed data transfer and time remaining to completion, and things look like they’re cruising along as usual, then you’re good to go.
3: For Time Capsule Backups, Connection & Distance Matter
If Time Machine is unusually slow and the backups are being completed over wi-fi with a Time Capsule, you’ll want to insure the wi-fi connection is strong and that both devices are reasonably near one another.
Often this means simply placing the computer in the same room with no obstructions between the devices, so that there is a strong connection and minimal interference.
4: Reboot into Safe Mode & Back Again
Another trick to remedy sluggish Time Machine backups involves booting the Mac into Safe Mode, then rebooting the Mac back into regular OS X mode, and starting the backup again:
- Reboot the Mac and hold down the Shift key after you hear the startup chime, this will force the Mac to boot into Safe Mode
- Let the Mac boot into safe mode as usual, when the desktop appears let it sit a moment for everything to continue loading, then reboot the Mac again this time as usual, by going to the Apple menu and choosing “Restart”
- When the Mac boots again into regular mode, start a backup manually with Time Machine
This is a bit of a weird solution to abnormally slow Time Machine backups but it often works when there is seemingly no particular issue causing the backup to be slow in the first place. The trick has been around for ages since the introduction of Time Machine, and since it still works to this day suggests something.
Know of any other tips to speed up unusually slow Time Machine backups? Let us know in the comments.