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How Long Does Time Machine Take to Prepare Backup

How Long Does Time Machine Take to Prepare Backup

Time Machine is the best tool for backing up your Mac’s data. While the tool is easy and does not have many settings, it may not be happy to find out why it is acting unexpectedly. With the Time Machine tool on your Mac, you can back up your whole system and save everything on an external device.

If time machine backup is slow on your Mac and you are looking for ways to improve the backup speed, this article is for you.

If you are looking for how long does time machine take to prepare a backup depends on how much data you have on your drive. Computer systems with a lot of files and apps will take a long time to back up.

If your Mac is new and you don’t have a lot of data on it, preparing a backup shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. It only took us around 10 minutes to wait for Time Machine to finish its initial backup of a 10 GB file on our system. Regular backups add up and don’t take much time if you schedule them.

So, How Long Does Time Machine Take to Prepare Backup? Let’s find out…

How Long Does Time Machine Take to Prepare Backup

How long it takes to do a Time Machine backup depends on the following factors:


The Number of Files and Their Size on the Primary Storage

How long does a time machine take to backup 500GB? With all factors being the same, it is evident that 500GB will take longer to back up than 256GB. And it doesn’t matter how big the drive is. What matters is how much data the disk contains.

And iit’snot just the size. The disk that has 10,000 files will take longer to back up than the drive with 1,000 files assuming that they take up the same space in both cases.

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The Priority of the Backup Process and How To Adjust It

The Time Machine app was designed to work in the background. The idea is that if the Time Machine is set to run automatically, the last thing you want is to use a lot of CPU while working on something important. So, by default, the backup process is a low priority one, and it should remain so.


User-friendly approach

There was an app called ProcessRenicer from eosgarden, which could do it visually without having using the Terminal app. Unfortunately, the app is not being maintained anymore. So, I am not sure if you can make it work on the latest macOS versions. However, if you are still on older OS X versions, it might work for you just fine.

Both approaches described above have some limitations. While we could eliminate the wait time and make sure that Time Machine is working as hard as possible, this may not be enough.

The backup process is reading data from one disk and writing it on another in the simplest form. So, the backup speed depends on the primary storage’s read speed and the backup drive’s write speed. Also, in the case of AirPort Time Capsule or NAS, it depends on the network speed.


The Speed of The Primary Storage Drive

The speed of the primary disk on Mac varies widely from one model to another. Generally, MacBook Pro disk is faster than MacBook Air, models with SSDs are faster than HDDs, and newer Mac models are faster than their predecessors.

You may say that that the disk in the Mac cannot be replaced. ThatThat’s necessarily true. It is valid for MacBooks Pro built after 2015 and MacBooks Air built after 2017, but older models are upgradeable.

What’What’s is that besides getting a larger disk, you get insanely fast speeds as well.

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Let’s mean on the example of upgrading my MacBook Air 2014. Currently, it has a 128GB disk, and the read performance is 314 MB/s.

There are multiple storage upgrade options on the market. Two brands are among the best in particular: OWC and Feather.

For instance, this 512GB Feather SSD compatible with my MBA increases read performance up to 3100 MB/s. That’s aThat’sncrease in speed!

And a little bit more expensive 480 GB SSD from OWC boasts you read speeds up to 3200 MB/s.


The Speed of the Backup Drive

The good thing about upgrading primary storage and improving its read performance is that Time Machine is not the only thing that benefits from the upgrade. Every app runs faster (possibly 10x faster) now.

However, when it comes to the backup process, the biggest bang for the buck is choosing the right external hard drive.

For instance, I tested the difference in performance between backing up on an external hard drive and a thumb drive.

Didn’t you didn’t it is possible to backup on a flash drive? Yes, you can. Flash drives work the same way as external hard drives. The difference is usually the speed: flash drives are usually way slower (sometimes 10x-30x slower).

Here is the difference performance:

It took 59 min (almost an hour) to back up 20GB with Time Machine on a cheap flash drive.

On the other hand, it took 38 minutes to do the same backup on Toshiba external HDD (35% less time).


We reviewed several ways to speed up Time Machine backups.

Some of them didn’t requiredidn’tinancial investments: manipulating backup process priority.

Others require purchasing extra hardware, and they generally provide long-term benefits.

If you need recommendations for the best external devices for Time Machine, you can find them below. But even if you decide to go with drives other than I recommend, please go with well-known brands.

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Never buy hardware with a name you can’t pronounce, can’tas Junlipu or Shenmazan. Note: these are not real names, I just made them up, but you get the point.

I am just amazed at how unknown brands get thousands of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and I try to stay away from those.

Remember, losing a backup may be more costly than investing in a more expensive but reliable brand.

This Article is Updated.

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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.