Slow Time Machine with Time Capsule – SOLVED!

Let me guess — you bought a new Time Capsule, set up your Time Machine to back up half a terabyte of family photos and home videos, and expected it to be “hands-free” from then on? Then you got this progress bar saying that it will take 563 days (or some such rediculous number) to sync?

Your next step was to trawl Google, which would have shown you that you are not alone. You would have tried disk utility to repair your Time Capsule disk, disabled Spotlight indexing, connected your Mac directly to TC etc. Nothing has helped so far? Fear not, here is what you need to do.

First of all, launch your software update pane from your system preferences on your Mac.
Mac Software Update
Ensure that you have this update, which specifically addresses this problem.
Mac Software Update

Here is what Apple says about this update:

About OS X Lion 10.7.5 Supplemental Update
The OS X v10.7.5 Supplemental Update is recommended for all users running OS X Lion v10.7.5 and includes the following fixes:

  • Resolves an issue that may cause Time Machine backups to take a very long time to complete
  • Addresses an issue that prevents certain applications signed with a Developer ID from launching

If it is not installed, click on the “Scheduled Check” tab, and install it. Note that it may be installed as bundled with other updates. So, as long as your Mac is up-to-date, you don’t have to worry too much about missing this particular update.

In all likelihood, this update is all that you will need to fix your slow Time Machine on Time Capsule To verify, restart your machine and launch Time Machine. Give it a few minutes and see if the speed is acceptable (about 10-20 MB a second on your wired Gigabit network).

If it is not, or if you have other reasons for not installing the update, there are a few other these tips you can try.

  • QuickSilver and Dropbox iconsQuit applications that may be indexing the file system. Dropbox, QuickSilver etc.  Find them on your menu bar. Right click on the icons and select Quit.
  • Finder optionEnsure that Finder is not set to show all size. Open a Finder window, hit Cmd-J to bring up these options, and ensure that the Calculate All Sizes is not ticked (despite the fact that it is shown ticked in the screenshot here).

    Note that it is not under the usual Finder preferences, which you would bring up using Cmd-I.

  • Kill FinderThe last thing to try is to kill and relaunch Finder. Click on the Apple logo on any menu bar, select “Force Quit…” to bring up the window show, select Finder and hit the Relaunch button

The last step (of killing and relaunching Finder) has been touted as something that definitely works. So do give it a try if nothing else helps. Another way of killing and relaunching Finder is to issue the command killall Finder from a terminal window.

If these tips didn’t work, you are pretty much out of luck. There are still one more thing you could try, which probably will not work. It certainly didn’t, for me, but gave me a sense that I was “fixing” the problem.

Connect your Time Capsule (TC) directly to your Mac. In order to do this, follow these steps.

  • First, connect your TC to your network, and set it up using the Airport Utility.
  • Disconnect it from your network. (Disconnect the ethernet cable.)
  • Disconnect the ethernet cable from your Mac, and connect TC (one of the three output ports) to your Mac.

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