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[3 Ways] Speed Up Time Machine Backup on Mac

Updated on Wednesday, February 1, 2023

iBoysoft author Rivers Wong

Written by

Rivers Wong
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

How to Speed Up Time Machine Backup on Mac?

How to Speed Up Time Machine Backup on Mac

Time Machine is the default and built-in backup solution on macOS that intends to make backup easy. By creating images or snapshots in the background, users can restore a specific file or even the whole system of their Mac computers when necessary. So there's no need to resort to third-party data recovery software when unexpected data loss happens if you've set up Time Machine backup beforehand.

Generally speaking, after the initial backup, it won't take long to use Time Machine on Mac to backup because it only has to deal with the files or documents recently created or edited. However, some users report that the Time Machine backup takes too long. That's where this article comes in! Here, we offer you multiple ways to help you speed up Time Machine backup and make it smoother. Read on for more!

Table of Contents:

Why does Apple Time Machine backup take so long?

Time Machine initial backup

If you're backing up your Mac using Time Machine for the first time or using a brand new external hard drive, it may take hours for Time Machine to back up everything on your Mac computer, depending on the size of the internal disks. Simply wait until the whole backup process is completed. Don't put your Mac to sleep while Time Machine is running, otherwise, you may need to fix Time Machine stuck on preparing backup.

But if you are a constant-on Time Machine user, generally you won't even notice when a backup is taking place. Time Machine works quietly and slowly in the background. Let's say you've done the initial backup, and only make around 500MB of changes or additions per week. Time Machine will only need to copy these changes to your external drive and it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.

If you are not doing the first-time backup, but still the Time Machine backup is slow, you can try the solutions provided below one by one to see if the problem still exists.

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How to speed up Time Machine backup on Mac?

Here, we provide several solutions to help you deal with the Time Machine backup slow problem. Again, if you're doing the initial backup, you should wait patiently until the whole process is over.

Method 1: Disable disk throttling to improve Time Machine write speeds

Time Machine is designed to back up data to disk without affecting whatever else you're doing, in other words, it is supposed to be invisible. So, by default, the macOS prevents these kinds of low-priority operations from using too many system resources.

By disabling disk throttling, Time Machine can get as many system resources as it needs to get the job done as quickly as possible. Here's how to speed up Time Machine backup via disabling disk throttling:

  1. Launch Mac Terminal using Spotlight search or from Finder > Applications > Utilities folder.
  2. Copy and paste the following command line into the Terminal window, then hit Return.   
    sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0 disable disk throttling
  3. Enter your admin password and hit Return again. The characters you type would not be visible in the Terminal window, so make sure you enter the correct password.
  4. Quit Terminal and let the Time Machine finish its job. Now, Time Machine will back up your Mac at the fastest speed because it takes up as much as possible system resources.
  5. After Time Machine has done backing up your Mac, open Terminal again.
  6. Type this command in the Terminal window, then hit Return. This will help you re-enable the disk throttling on your Mac.   
    sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=1 enable disk throttling

Though it is awesome to speed up Time Machine backup by disabling disk throttling, but it is doing so at the expense of everything else. So when Time Machine finishes backing up your data, you should pull off the throttle and let it run quietly and slowly in the background.

Method 2: Back up your Mac with a faster drive

To be honest, the type of external drive you use and how fast the connection between the drive and your Mac are the most likely limitation affecting the speed of Time Machine backup. Generally, the most cost-effective external hard drives got a rather poor read-write performance.

So, in order to speed up Time Machine backup, you can purchase a drive that matches the best capabilities that your Mac has to offer. To find out what your Mac is capable of, you can check it in the System Information:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen.
  2. Hold the Option key on your keyboard, then click System Information.
  3. In the Hardware section in the left column of the System Information window, navigate to Thunderbolt/USB 4 and USB to see the maximum possible speed and the version of your USB port.
    System Information

There are countless excellent hard drives on the market that suits for use as Time Machine backup drives. All you should do is pick the most suitable one.

Method 3: Reduce the size of backup files

The less data you decide to back up, the less time Time Machine would take to complete. If this Time Machine backup slow problem is mainly caused by large backup data, then you should consider reducing the size of it.

For example, if you have some folders that are not important enough to be backed up, you can manually exclude them to speed up Time Machine backup:

  1. Launch Time Machine on your Mac computer (System Settings > General > Time Machine for macOS Ventura, and System Preferences > Time Machine for macOS Monterey or earlier).
  2. Click on Options and then use the plus "+" button to add any directories that you don't want to have backups, then click Done.exclude folders from Time Machine backups

Now, the selected items would not be backed up by Time Machine.

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Conclusion

This article tells you how to speed up Time Machine backup in three ways. You can do it by temporarily disabling the disk throttling, using a faster backup disk, or reducing the size of your backup files. Hope by reading it, you can perfectly solve the Time Machine backup slow problem.

Also, if you still have any questions, or you got some brilliant ideas on dealing with this Time Machine backup issue, please let us know! Simply leave a comment below!

FAQ about speed up Time Machine backup

A

The first backup generally takes several hours because Time Machine would back up the whole system of your Mac. After that, future backs shall complete faster as Time Machine only backs up the files you recently created or edited.

A

100GB should take around 48 hours for Time Machine to backup at 5Mbps. Actually, the Time Machine backup speed limitation is greatly affected by the type of drive you use and how fast the connection between the drive and your Mac is.