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James Hong

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Does your iphone take FOREVER to sync/backup?

Mine was too.. i searched around the web and found this.. worked like a charm! Enjoy :)

"Extraordinary long backups are caused by an error when an app (or apps) was installed or updated, particularly if you have ever installed or updated using the App Store on the device itself rather than iTunes. Even if you were never aware that there was a problem, they can arise and will cause problems with the backup process. Maybe you did have a problem during an update or install. Maybe the update stalled, or the App Store crashed. These issues are very likely what have been causing your long backups and you didn't even know it. During the backup process these errors cause it to drag and pause for a very long time before it gets moving again. From your view, you just see a normal backup that is taking hours, and undoubtedly annoying you to no end. On the inside, iTunes is trying desperately to get past a roadblock that it doesn't know where it came from.

This is how to fix the problem. This is not a quick fix, but it is an effective fix. And it is a FIX, not a band aid. Depending on how many apps you have installed, this can take several hours to complete. You will also lose all game scores and any other data stored in your apps. You will be starting fresh. It is an inconvenience, but in the end, you will be rewarded with quick, efficient backups, the way Apple intended. And you will never have to dread the
iTunes backup again.

The Process:

1. Open iTunes, go to Edit>Preferences>Syncing and remove all previous backups. Also click "Disable automatic syncing for all iPhones and iPods"

2. In your system file structure, locate the backup files for iTunes.
On Windows: C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup
On a Mac: Users/YOURACCOUNT/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup
Delete ALL files and folders inside the Backup folder.

3. Plug in iPod. On the Applications tab, uncheck sync apps. iTunes will ask if you want to remove the apps from the iPod, say yes. Click sync. This will remove all apps on your iPod, it will also backup the ipod. This backup will be very fast, and will recreate the backup folders you deleted in step 2.

4. After the sync is complete, if there are any apps left on your ipod, touch and hold the icon until it starts to wiggle, then touch the X to delete the app. Delete all apps left on your ipod. Then sync again.

5. After the sync is complete, disconnect the iPod and do a hard restart by holding down the sleep/power button until the slider appears, slide to power off. Wait 5 seconds and push the power button again and wait for the ipod to boot up.

6. Connect your iPod again. Now begin adding apps back to your ipod one by one. On the Applications tab, click "Sync applications" AND "Selected applications". Make sure all apps are unchecked.

7. Check one app and sync. After the sync is complete, right click on your ipod under Devices in the left column of iTunes. Click "Back Up" and allow the backup to complete.

8. Repeat step 7 for each app you want to install. Keep the previous installed apps checked, just check one more app each time. Be sure to backup after each install. As you add more and more apps, the backup will take longer and longer as the process scans apps for changes. An initial backup can also be long for a particularly large application. However, ONLY the initial backup after you install an app will take a long time. Subsequent backups are very quick. Even these "long" backups are just minutes long, sometimes up to 15 minutes in my experience.

9. When you are finished installing and backing up all apps, go to Edit>Preferences>Syncing and enable automatic syncing for all iPhones and iPods.

10. Unplug and plug your device back in just for kicks. Let it back up and sync. Better?


The very first time an application is backed up, all critical data is written to your hard drive. This is why the backups are so long the first time. Afterward, only data changes are written, so backups are much shorter.

Backup times will continue to vary based on how many apps were altered since the last sync. If you've used one app since the last backup, your backup will be very short. If you've used 20 apps, the backup will be longer. But you will be rid of the dreaded hour (or more) long backup, that is a promise.

Now that your apps are installed and backing up correctly, the number one rule is to never, ever install or update apps through the App Store on the iPod. ONLY install and update through iTunes, and backup after every install or update. The App Store on the iPod is still unstable and can cause lock ups, crashes and freezes. And it is the culprit in these long backup times. Avoid it until the bugs are ironed out.

Also, do not be tempted to disable backups using programs or code edits available online. Your backups are crucial in the event of a restore. Backups contain all of your personal data like game scores, notes, icon arrangement, application data, etc. And it's not a matter of if you'll have to restore one day, it's when, and you'll be glad you have a backup when you do."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's Better!!

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much - you saved me!

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks - you saved me too. Just bought the iPod Touch and was very annoyed when it seemed to hang during Sync at the Backup stage.

Apple better fix the App Store bug soon!

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!! Thank you for posting these detailed instructions. You're right: it's a bid of a tedious initial process, however, my sync/back-up time just went from nearly two hours to approx. 2 minutes!! I'm so thankful that I found your blog. I've been to the Apple store twice, reset, restored, etc., etc., all without any result except for my wasted time. I have printed out your instructions and will keep them for a rainy day. Thanks again!

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, that seriously makes me happy!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Great post. One thing that was STILL making my backups take forever, was all the photos in my Camera roll. Once I backed them up to my desktop and deleted them from my iPhone, backups were super fast. If I want those photos back on my iPhone, I can simply sync them from my desktop like any other folder of photos- this way they don't form part of the backup.

3:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James!! You're a star. Thanks a bunch buddy!! My Iphone was taking an hour or more to back up and giving me an error message it's all done in a few minutes.

Well done. Much appreciated !!!

12:01 PM  
Blogger EMJAY said...

Thanks! That helped a lot :)

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love you

thank you so much!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you ARE GOD!...enough said.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my god i love you and want to have your children. my backup was taking 4 hours, and would still give error messages, and i couldn't find help anywhere. THANK YOU!!!!!!

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wowzers. That was awesome! Thank you so much I appreciate it a lot. You don't even know!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you so much! My syncs/backups were taking well over an hour and now they are under two minutes. I have no idea what the problem was until I googled it and your blog came up.
Your instructions were simple and easy to follow. It did take a couple of hours to do, but it was time well spent. Like you say, its a fix, not a bandaid.
From now on, I will only get apps and updates through the iStore on my computer and not through my phone.
Thanks for putting the fun back in my phone!

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This worked like a CHARM

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am completely iphone/computer illiterate. and this worked like magic.
T H A N K Y O U!!!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Sheena LaShay said...

YOU ARE AMAZING. I wish i had found this three months ago when things like this first happened. Goodness. You have no idea how grateful I am. I'd bake you brownies or chocolate chip cookies if you were my next door neighbor. Thank You so so much!

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks alot! I wish I had found this website right away. Great! Thank you.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the same issue, using this as a suggestion I found a quicker fix. I get 90% of my apps directly from my iPhone, and delete from there as well. I found that my iTunes still had copies of these deleted apps. All I did was go to the sync page and see what apps were not selected, those where the apps deleted on my iPhone but not in iTunes. I deleted just those apps in iTunes and my backup zipped right through, and is now less than 1 minute.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Breakpoint said...

Dear god. Thank you so much. I am an iPhone DEVELOPER, and the problems this was causing were very likely preventing me from GETTING MY APPLICATION TO MARKET. Much, much appreciated.

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Mahmoud ElGammal said...

Useful post, thanks a lot. I just would like to add that I tried your steps without repeating step 7 for each app and it worked for me. I suggest trying it first, as it might save you a lot of time.

Thanks again

7:51 PM  
Blogger Jim Hofeling said...

Thanks so much! I was unable to update to the 3.0 software because I was not able to get a backup. This has solved my problem and I now have the 3.0 installed!

11:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you very much. It was really a good step-by-step instructions.

Mohammad Towfiq

4:57 PM  
Blogger ian said...

I wish I had noticed earlier that this was posted a year and a half ago. I've now removed all my apps and am just thinking should I try restore from the most recent backup and get back all the data for apps that don't sync with anything or just lose it? Most of that data is for games which I play too much anyway.

3:18 AM  
Blogger ian said...

It seems now Step 2 that seems to prevents restore even when the backup is moved back into the original folder.

I think Step 6 is also no longer as relevant because "Sync applications" AND "Selected applications" is not applicable.

So I have lost all the data and am doing a fresh start. Nevermind it's only a month of progress on various games really. I think everything else is synced through websites and my computer.

3:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or you could just delete the crash log files - In Windows Vista or Windows 7 they're here:

%AppData%\Roaming\Apple Computer\Logs\CrashReporter\MobileDevice\YOUR_IPHONE_NAME

Delete, start iTunes and sync away - fast again :)

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quick note as of 6/23/10: Updating my iPhone 3G to iOS 4 was getting stalled at the 5% mark of backup. It sat there for over 4 hours without budging. This was when using the Update button from iTunes.

The tip I found worked was to cancel the update, do a regular sync. This creates a full backup and it does work. Then instead of clicking the Update button click the Restore button. It will wipe the phone clean, install the new iOS 4, and restore everything as it was.

Well, at least it worked for me!

- Philip

10:43 AM  
Blogger Suzanna said...

I fixed my lengthy backup / sync problem. Mine turned out not to be due to apps (alas I lost all my Angry Birds progress finding this out ;-)) but was due to photo syncing.

Unlike many people who have found that a high number of photos on the camera roll would cause problems, my problem was not the amount of photos (I don't sync more than about 200), but some kind of corruption in the photo folder (tree) that I was syncing.

Simply pointing iTunes to a different folder in the same tree didn't help (the folder I was syncing was deep in Pictures > subfolder1 > subfolder2). So I made a new folder in a 'higher' location (Pictures), moved photos there, redirected iTunes to sync the new folder and - hey presto - it synced in a flash! Note: I let iTunes delete all my photos on the iPhone when it asked if it should.

Oh, and as you may have guessed from the folder structure, I don't use iPhoto - if I had things may have been different.

Hope this helps some others.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is absolutely fantastic and really solved my problem. Thanks so much for sharing this!!

One question: do you HAVE to put the apps back one by one or could you put maybe three or four at a time. It's taking me ages (purely because of the amount of apps I have) to add each one, then sync, then backup for every single app. It's only a small problem compared to the problem before, but just wondered if you have added more than one at a time. Thanks

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the same problem, but uploading OS 4 seemed to fix it. It was taking about two hours to back up previously (or more). I uploaded OS 4, and the back up took two hours as usual. But now that OS 4 is up and running, backing up takes about a minute. Perhaps OS 4 contains a fix, or maybe I've just rebooted it in the process of installing the new operating system. Not sure. Just happy that it works.

7:32 PM  

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