Time Machine: Slow backups

As soon as Apple released Time Machine for OS X (now macOS) I was a convert, the ability to simply back up your machine and easily recover files was fantastic. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to delve back in time at home and at work where I’ve inadvertently deleted a file, or saved something over a current version unintentionally. Having Time Machine has saved my bacon, literally.

The several times that I have migrated from one machine to another Time Machine has also been a godsend. Where the process of setting up a new machine within the Windows environment used to be a 6 hour marathon for me, with Time Machine setting up a new Mac with my old environment and files was roughly 1.5 to 2 hours and no work on my part.

To say that Time Machine is painless though is perhaps a falsehood, I have had my fair share of problems with it over the years. On my first Mac, a MacBook Aluminum (2009) I used to have problems when plugging in a USB-based Time Machine drive, the drive would just stop backing up after a time. Eventually I gave up and moved to a Firewire 800 based drive, it made all the difference, for some reason Time Machine didn’t like USB.

Now, two Macs later (MacBook Air 2013 now), I am again using a USB-based drive as my Time Machine drive, although this drive is actually a 512GB solid state drive that was once in my previous MacBook Pro. Backups on this drive are a dream, usually.

Today I went to backup in preparation for migrating to macOS given it was launch day by Apple, as I had backed up only a week ago I didn’t have a large amount of data for Time Machine to get through, just 15GB. After 1.5 hours this morning my Mac still hadn’t finished, I just couldn’t understand what was going on, it never takes this long. I abandoned this attempt as I had to head off to work, yet my subsequent attempt upon returning from work also went super slow.

Frustrated, I hit Dr Google for solutions and initially went to Apple’s Support website, its solutions didn’t have any effect whatsoever. Another link on Google did however have an effect which sent Time Machine’s speed into warp territory, going into terminal and typing the following:

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0

Thank heavens for Dr Google, I now have a solution and my backup was completed within a matter of a minute and a half.


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