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How long does Time Machine Backup take ( Speeding Up Process )

How long does Time Machine Backup take

MacBook owners can never underestimate the advantage of the Time Machine to take backup of the Macbook. The function of this tool is clear from the name, but sometimes it misbehaves, and that’s why we are going to discuss in this article what to do if time machine backup is slow and how you can speed up the backup process.

How long does Time Machine Backup take

Let’s see How long does Time Machine Backup takes and how you can make the process faster.

Total Files and Their Sizes

The speed of the backup process depends on how many files there are and the size of each file. For example, if you take a backup of 500GB files, how much time should it take? Compared with 256GB, the data that consists of 500GB is going to take more time and, more important than the size of the file, the biggest thing that matters is how many files are actually in that drive.

A backup of 500GB with 10,000 files can take much more time than a backup of 500GB with only 1,000 files in it. Therefore, the bigger the number of files is, the more time it will take.

How to prioritize the backup

Well, you can start the backup process, and the time machine keeps running in the background, and that’s how it is designed by default. But, when it is running automatically behind the scenes, you would wish that it use a lot of CPU when you are already consuming too much of it, like when you are working on more significant projects. That’s why the backup process gets slower because of the low priority, but that’s fine because it should be on second priority while your priority is to use the MacBook for other activities.

There are a few scenarios where you would want to immediately take the backup, like installing the new macOS operating system, or testing, which should be done carefully with your machine. Then, you should expect your Macbook to take the backup quickly rather than waiting for too long.

But, the Time Machine is designed to operate slower, but you can change the settings of the time machine to take the backup faster than usual through some methods that I am going to discuss with you.

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Remove Throttling for low priority processes.

Facebook uses artificial Throttling to prioritize the processes. By default, they have given the Time machine the low Throttling, which means that it’s a low priority process; therefore, low priority processes behave differently than traditional processes with higher priority.

That’s what allows you to get more CPU usage for gaming or streaming on Netflix or Youtube without interruption while the background processes are running smoothly.

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Now, let’s look at how we can control this to speed up the Time Machine to make the backup quicker, or we will see how to override the MacOS behavior.

That can be achieved through the following process

1- Start Terminal App

2- Copy and paste the following text in the terminal

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0

You will be asked to enter the admin password during this process because an administrator can only perform these commands. The best part is that you can set the password through System preferences > users and Groups.

After that, hit enter, and the command will start working correctly.

3- Start the Time Machine and initiate the backup process

4-Once the backup is completed, make sure the set the priority back so that you can get the maximum CPU for your prime applications and do that through the command given below.

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=1

Doing this process will bring the backup time from 11 hours to only 55 minutes, and that’s worth it.

If you are taking the backup for a small portion of data, don’t bother changing this setting as you won’t notice the change. But, the change feels when the backup is being taken for more extensive data with many files.

Note: This command applies to all system processes, and not only the time machine but other processes will also start using more CPU as well, so changing it back should also be your priority.

If you somehow forgot to undo the changes, reboot the Mac, and it will start in the default situation.

User-friendly approach

Some people can get annoyed to see all the code and terminal interface. So, a super user-friendly option for those people is to use the App Tamer program that, as the name suggests, can accelerate Time Machine Backups, and it comes at a bit of cost, however.

Change the priority of the backup task.

To change the priority of the Time Machine, there are a few other things you can do, and I am going to show you that.

In a Macbook, using a technique called niceness, you can control the priorities of different tasks from higher to lower, and there are only two commands for that: friendly and renice.

The excellent command allows you to set the initial priority, while the renice command allows you to do the opposite of excellent command to the running process.

So, let’s take a look at the process of changing priority.

1- Go to Activity Monitor

2- Ensure that the PID column is showing. Then View > Columns menu from the menu and enable process ID.

3- Sort processes by name and locate the backup process.

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4- Put these commands in Terminal

ps -fl -C <PID>

PID is the value of the backup process that you can take from the activity monitor.

ps -fl -C 5200

Now the value under the NI column.

Now, you have the control to change the priority from higher to lower, and the range is -20 to 20.

Higher priority means lower number, and the lower priority means higher number.

So, to make the priority higher, you can set the value to -20 through the following command.

sudo renice -n “-20” -p <PID>

Keep in mind to replace the PID with the actual process value.

User-friendly approach

Suppose you don’t like to deal with the coding stuff or are annoyed by this whole mess. We have got your back through another more intuitive method in which you can use a program called ProcessRenicer from eosgarden.

The beauty of this program is that it can work on any macOS, although the app isn’t maintained anymore.

So, now that you know two methods to reduce the wait time and make the machine backup faster, it’s time to implement these processes.

The concept of the backup process is straightforward. What’s happening in the background is that the process reads data from the disk and writes to another, and therefore, the speed depends on the storage type and the writing speed of the drive. Other data backup methods are AirPort Time Capsule and NAS, but they are network-operated processes, and they depend on the network speed.

Primary Storage Drive Speed

There are a plethora of storage devices with different speeds. One in the Macbook is generally faster because they are SSDs that are much faster than HDDs, and that’s why Mac Models are usually faster than regular laptops.

MacBook disk speed can range from 81.7 MB/s on a Mac mini to 1885 MB/s on a MacBook Pro.

MacReads, MB/sWrites, MB/s
Mac-mini 201281.793.5
MBA 13-inch 2014314.6698.1
MBP 13-inch 2015582.51361.3
MBP 15-inch 20161885.22146.5

Many people think that the storage disks cannot be replaced on Mac, 2017, and older models can change the disks.

Having a large disk in your Macbook can incredibly make it faster.

Among the popular storage options available in the market, you should go with the OWC and Feather.

For instance, this 512GB Feather SSD gives you 3100 MB/s, and if you want 3200 MB/s, you can go with a 480 GB SSD from OWC.

Don’t worry about the replacement process; it is super easy.

Don’t forget to read about the SSD compatibility, and the best part is that the feather SSDs comes with a chart on them that allows you to quickly find this information that which Mac these SSDs are compatible with.

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You can also visit the website to see what options you have regarding upgrading your storage disk.

Backup drive speed

Now, the disk on which you are writing the data is the essential primary element in this whole process. Therefore, when you have upgraded the primary storage, chances are your process will get 10x faster than expected.

The backup drive, which usually is an external hard drive, should be the faster,t and don’t try to store it on a thumb drive as they have the slowest writing speeds.

Although you can take a backup on a flash drive but come on, we are talking about making the process speedier, so you should go with a faster external hard drive.

An excellent option for you can be Toshiba Canvio Basics 4TB EHD.


Now that you have learned how to make the Time Machine backup faster, it’s time to implement these things.

This process is susceptible as you will play with your data, but it’s more accessible, and there isn’t any other cost involved.

So, all you need to do is get a decent external storage drive to get the long-term benefits of your backup.

I would suggest you get a faster and more reliable external storage disk for Time Machine.

This Article is Updated.

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Robert Smith
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Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a technology lover and loves to write about laptops, monitors, printers, tablets, Apple products and anything that's related to computers and games. He is passionate enough that he maintains this blog regarding tech updates on a daily basis.