iPhone iOS 4: Backup Very Slow – A Common Problem

By Jamie Pert - Jun 21, 2010

As you have probably noticed iOS 4 has now been launched for iPhone and iPod Touch, obviously whenever a major software update is released there are bound to be ‘teething’ issues, however one thing that has surprised me is the lack of support Apple have offered.

We have now had hundreds of reports of problems, and I am sure there are probably tens of thousands of frustrated users out there, therefore I feel that Apple could at least offer obvious links to their support forums for iPhone owners.

Therefore I thought I would do my best to help users out, and point them in the right direction, firstly lets start with the backup problems people are reporting.

If you are installing iOS 4 you could perhaps still be backing up your handset, many believe that the back up is not working, however members of Apple’s support forums suggest that the process is extremely slow, and could perhaps jump up rapidly. My advice is to leave the backup running for up to 2 to 3 hours, if the backup is obviously making no progress perhaps close iTunes, disconnect your iPhone and try again following these instructions, also check out this page.

If you are eager to get the update installed asap you should perhaps delete any unnecessary photos/videos/audio files etc, the more data on your iPhone the longer the backup will take, lets face it if you have had your iPhone for a couple of years there will be a huge backlog of files, settings and apps which need to be backed up, therefore it is no surprise that this may take some time.

I understand that this post does not really clear up exactly how to rectify the problem, however if Apple have not revealed information regarding this problem most fixes and workarounds are educated guesses based on other consumers experiences.

If you have any iOS 4 problems check out the Apple Support Forums, as we hear of more detailed workarounds and fixes we will do our best to keep to up-to-date.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

Also See: The iPhone Tracker: Apple are still watching, Consumers Still Unaware

  • Mike

    Do a hard reset first, and then make sure you use and official apple cord that can carry the data

  • kgleas111

    What is up with this? Turned off contacts and photo's, project to sync. I only have 17 contacts (as this is a brand new program) and I've been syncing for the last 5 minutes. Can this really be real?

  • If you have SLOW backups with iOS4, then something is wrong with your iTunes or your device.

    1) delete the backup of the device (edit, preferences, and devices)
    2) reboot the device and back up right after a reboot. That why the device has as much free ram as possible (probably not needed on an iphone 4)

    Lastly, IMO, iOS4 should never have been released for the 3G (or ipod equivalent of a 3g). My roommate has one… and still has slow back ups and slow issues with it. I have NO issues with iOS4 on my 3GS… the phone, backups, etc are all VERY VERY fast (like I said in prev posts)

    IMO, if you have a 3G, downgrade to 3.x.x or upgrade your phone/ipod to a 3gs (or equiv) or 4 level.

  • Keep in mind if you have a 3.x device and are upgrading to ios 4, itunes will make a FULL backup prior to the upgrade for YOUR safety… on a phone this can take 4-9hrs and up to 15 on an ipad.

    iTunes NEVER backs up your apps – Only the app data and what apps you have.It also backs up the device settings, preferences, etc. It also backs up your camera roll. It does NOT even back up your photos because those are already on your computer. Basically if it's synced data, it doesn't back it up – no point.

    But apple still hasn't answered the question. If so little needs backing up.. why are iOS3 back ups so slow? I suspect itunes has to go through and manually search for apps installed and find their save files and settings. iOS4 must have a way to keep all this data in a central location for quick backups. This is just my educated GUESS as I have not poked around a jail broken ios4 system. Now that the courts have ruled jailbreaking is LEGAL. I just may do that to understand ios4 better

  • iOS4 .be it on a 3g, 3gs or 4 backs up a phone in less than 5 mins.. even if it's a full (non incremental backup). My ipad doing a full backup on 3.2.2 takes 15 HOURS. My 3gs to 9 hrs under 3.x. Once I upgraded my 3gs to iOS4, backups now take 5mins for a FULL backup and 30s for incremental. Once I installed ios4 beta on my ipad, backups dropped from 15hrs to 15mins for full backups and 1-5mins for incremental backups

  • Gerardo

    my iphone is really slow also i downloaded an app it it took 15 minutes, Also it downloeads videos really slow!!!!!

  • Hannah

    My iPod's been backing up for five and a half hours and it's at about 40% done… there is progress (it's not staying on 20% the whole time or whatever), but it's superbly slow. I have 14.2 gb free space on my ipod (I have a 32 GB 3rd gen one)… is this normal?

  • Diane

    Backup your phone first VERY IMPORTANT!!! Then restore to original settings. Do the update only to 15 minutes. install on your phone. Then you have to UNPLUG your phone , plug back in and it will restore from your previous backup….
    Otherwise if you don't unplug and plug back in you keep getting a restore to original settings choice only.
    So the KEY here is to unplug and plug back in.

  • Emma

    my itouch had been backing up for 10 hours and the progress bar is barely 15%..very slow. How can i fix this?

  • Xitiz Bhatia

    I had just disconnected the wireless internet but backup was still very slow. But after disabling the wireless network adapter and local area network adapter on windows backup speeds up instantly. Hope this helps. (Thanks to Phil06 for pointing this out)

    Reconnect to the internet as soon as backup is done otherwise the update process will fail.

  • Eric

    My sinc is going pretty fast. Half an hour into it and the progress bar is almost at 3/4 done. But then again, I have an iPod with 5.2GB/8GB used, so it may be all because of the small memory.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for this! My phone has been “syncing” for hours and the progress bar isn’t even moving. I was tempted to start over, thinking it wasn’t working at all…and it would have put me right back at square one. I’m waiting it out, though it kinda sucks not to have a phone all night…

  • Paul

    July 17, 2010
    8:54 am

    I Have The New iPhone 4 And i Downloaded The New Update 4.1 To My iTunes And Started Installin It And It Was Stil Doin It About 2 And A Half Hours Later So I Pulled The Connection Out And Now My iPhone Now Wont Do Anything Wont Even Turn On Or Off ???

  • DeepPurple

    The backup problem is a real rampage. I can not upgrade to OS4. And I can even not sync music on the iPhone.

  • SpawnyWhippet

    This fault is not limited to upgrades; since I upgraded every time I sync my iphone it now takes >15 mins, as opposed to the previous 1 min or less with firmware 3.1.3.
    This is unacceptable when I sync several times a day in order to get calendar updates, as my iphone cannot get calendar updates from Exchange directly

  • Phil06

    That's it! Disconnect from the internet and it backs up quickly. Took me awhile to find disable network adapter in Win7. Thank you Ruben!

  • Rob

    Why upgrade a 3G phone ? Any ideas ?

  • Calvin

    same problem…been backing up for 10.5 hours now

  • Bob

    Here's the fix. After IOS 4.0 downloads, and the backup starts (and hangs), STOP the backup, then do a manual backup with iTunes. Next on the main iTunes screen, do a RESTORE to factory settings. This will wipe your iPhone, load IOS 4.0, and then give you the option to either "set up as a new iPhone" (DON'T do that!) or "Restore from backup" — that's the one you want. Click on it and the phone will restore, then start a sync which loads all your apps, data, music, etc. back in. It took about 45 minutes start to finish on my 3G. Just don't forget to do the manual backup first, and DON'T click on the "new iPhone setup" option, whatever you do! LOL!

    Everything works fine afterwards, on IOS 4.0

    • lc360

      wish i saw this post before i upgraded. it was excruciatingly slow… but I managed to let it finish and all appears to working fine 🙂

  • After more than 2 days attempt, and refusing to use the "restore" button, I did the clean-up thing manually – removing songs, photos and videos, as well as apps which I felt could be reinstalled without much problem (as in not losing some details – highest scores etc), I tried one more time this afternoon.

    It worked. I managed to back up within minutes only and installed the new iOS 4.0.

    Happy news for me, right?

    The photo albums got screwed up. I had to sync the photo albums several times to get them right. Sigh.. So much for upgrade.

  • KayA

    When I first tried to update my 3Gs, it took almost two hours to get 3/4 of the way finished with the backup process.. Eventually it just stopped moving. I quit the process and closed iTunes. I tried again a couple hours later, but I DELETED all my Apps, synced my contacts to my computer, and copied all my photos just in case. Then I removed all my email accounts from the settings option, and connected my 3GS to my computer, hit update, and within 10-15 minutes–if that–, I was completely done. Deleting almost everything save music and contacts seems to be the best way to get it going. Hope this helps someone else. (:

  • Oliver

    had the same issue trying to get the ios4 update… after many attemps and 3-4 hours wait each time I found a way to get it updated … Try to restore your iPhone first. Then update should go trough easly, took me only 1 hour for restore and update to ios4 !
    Hope this will help others too.

  • Ken

    Part 3
    Summary of suggestions I got from reading this forum:
    Disconnect from internet before starting
    Do a full backup outside of the upgrade process
    Then uncheck all the data intensive backup operations, audio, video, photos, e-mail, apps, etc,
    Then start upgrade process
    Then depending on how it goes, restore what you want on your phone from the earlier backup

    If I missed anything feel free to add or correct as needed

  • Ken

    Part 2
    At this point I regret doing the upgrade and if Apple does not indicate that something will be done about these issues I will likely move back to the last OS version. Further I am at a point I can upgrade to a new iPhone 4 and am now reconsidering that is really the right move at this point. Hope many of you have better luck. If you have a iPhone 3G version, I would not recommend doing this upgrade at this point and never unless Apple is able to improve it for this model. Both my wife and daughter have 3Gs version and I have not upgraded theirs yet, but I am hoping I do not have similar issues when I do, I will try doing theirs without the internet connection and see if it goes more smoothly. Thank you all for your comments I will try to make use of them as I do the other two phones.

    • angelbex

      Trouble is you have to update to the new version to transfer everything over to the new iphone 4

  • Ken

    Part One:
    I upgraded my 3G version on the evening of the day of release, it took about one hour to back up and install the 4.0 software. Phone stats are: Audio 18 MB, Photos 66 MB, Apps 107 MB, Other 223 MB, Free 6.5 GB. So as you can see I did not have that much on it. While the upgrade time was annoying (obviously not as bad as many of you have experienced) the real annoying part is how slow and glitchy the phone is after upgrading. It has slow transitions when going from one operation the next, sometimes pauses while entering text. Generally it is much slower and less smooth in its operation than it was before I upgraded.

    Also not much benefit for the trouble on a 3G version. Interesting that in some of the posts listed here that disconnecting from the internet greatly speeds up the process, this concerns me, why Apple is using the internet during this process, what information are they collecting during this process? I have rebooted the phone and it helped marginally.

  • Cindy

    Removed a lot of game apps, and now it's finally starting to move.

  • Manal

    First my computer started recognizing my iphone 3gs as a camera and itunes did not recognize it either. That took me three hours to fix. It finally worked and I wanted to update to iOS4, the initial download of the update took around a minute, however backup took ages, I got bored after waiting for an hour so I decided to call it a night. This morning I went back and still no progress has been made! So I tried again and again by resetting however nothing works, and all it seems to be is a green blocks running through the progress bar!!! This is absolutely awful and a complete waste of time, now I have spent 5 hours since yesterday trying to fix it and a whole night of sleep waiting for it to upload. I am considering not actually getting the iPhone 4 now!

  • John

    I am having amazing trouble simply doing the backup – it is shocking how slow it is. I have been trying to upgrade my 3G for the last two days with no luck yet. Starting off I updated iTunes, then downloaded the update. All good.

    I then recorded what size everything was – Audio 7.45GB, Video 32.1MB, Photos 111.7MB, Apps 98.6MB, Other 391.2MB and Free 6.24GB. Let it attempt the backup which ran all night to no avail (8:22pm to 5:03am) and still only one bar on the progress scroll bar 🙁

    Then reduced it to No Photos, No Music, and only four apps – Audio 204.5KB, Photos 80KB, Apps 104.8MB, Other 296.7MB, Free 14.05GB, and again ran all night (5pm to 5am) to no avail (last good backup was four days ago, before latest iTunes).

    Now removed everything except three apps, and it has been running for an hour and a quarter and looks like it might finish in a few more hours …

    PC is WinXP SP3 Quad Q6600 4G and a 2TB drive …

    Phone is unlocked, not jailbroken, and runs faultlessly and is as fast as I expect also. Very weird. If this fails I’ll blow it away and blank install.

  • Definitely definitely DEFINITELY disconnect from the network. It'll speed up like crazy.

    • Rob

      Thanks for the solution. I've been backing up for 4 hours now with nothing happening. I turned off my WIFI card and I see progress within 2 mins. AWESOME !

  • Travi5

    I backed up my 3gs 2 days ago, and it took 36 HOURS!!
    I have 650 pictures (2gb) in the camera roll, and about 2gb of music and 2gb of video. Thankfully I did the backup first because I would not want to wait 36+hrs again to get ios4. The 2nd backup has only been about 15-20mins since nothing has changed on the phone.

    Somehow I managed to get the backup to run as a background process so I could still use the phone and txt message too.

    I'm also thoroughly disappointed in apple and its ability to back up swiftly.

  • s10001in

    Guys..unchecked all music, Videos, photos.
    Also remove all configure mail accounts.
    Clear cookies, caches and History.
    remove all unnecessary apps and connect.
    It took 5-7 second me for back and now it is in last stage..
    and done..total time taken 12 min..

  • Natalie

    My iphone has been backing up for 6 hours! 3 bars left.. but verrrry slow!!!!

  • Third attempt now. First try, I gave up after 1.5 hours and had to go to sleep. The backup bar was only half. This is on a 3GS with about 29GB of data on it. Second attempt was also 1.5 hours before I left it at half, returned about 1.5 hours later and the message was "you have insufficient memory".

    I cleared 9GB from my laptop and removed 17GB worth of videos and we are in half an hour and the bar is 1cm (with the Internet on).

  • frank

    i just cancelled mine and restared it when i did that it said it will have to continue withoute backing up but will delete all my stuff so ive just dont continue so i hope it works

  • frank

    what the hell i left mine for about 4 hours so i cancelled i dont think it even did anything :@ anyone know the solution?

  • IowaBaconKing

    This is my 4th try to load the iOS4 software, still on the "Backing up" stage after almost 2hrs….redic.

  • anon2020

    quit itunes
    defaults write com.apple.iTunes DeviceBackupsDisabled -bool true
    in terminal
    connect iphone

  • TOM

    It took 57 Minutes to backup and install ios4 on my 3GS. BUT My 3G is now in it's 7th hour……..

  • Andy

    Quickest way to update is to sync and backup you iPhone first then hit the restore button. Backup is not carried out and provided you have backed everything up it should be done in about half an hour. Mine is nearly finished. 15 mins after initial sync all done. Just copying from previous back up and is looking good.

  • Final time count for my backup and install was 6 hours and 16 minutes. I have a 3G and it seems to run a little slower and I noticed it's taking up a bit more room on my phone. I'm glad I'm upgrading to the new phone on thursday.

  • iDiot

    Started the update expecting it to last long so I left home for 2.5 hours only to find out that it aborted without any message. Its never ending crap like this that makes empty phrases like "it just works" sound like lies.

  • it took 10 hours to backup and install iOS4 on my phone…

    yep. 10 HOURS!!!

  • iCantBelieveIt

    3 hours into the backup now and just over half way. I am using work PC and I have to go home in an hour! Can't leave the phone behind – DILEMA! Seriously Mr.Jobs, get your shît together – this screams of Gates-ism!

  • Frustrated

    I've started the install/backup at 4PM…it's 11:14PM and the status bar is about 3cm out of the starting point.

  • Brutal – wish I read some of these comments before starting. Mine was 2 hours into "Restoring Music and Pictures" and I received a call. $%*@$#d the whole process… just switch into Airplane mode and starting again. If I did it again, I'd remove music and pics first…

    This is painful!

  • BBilly

    After 3 hours my status bar moved on by only 5 pixels. I stopped the update process since the night is not long enough for the upgrade. I wanted to buy an iPhone 4, but Apple won't have my bucks another time. I'll look for an Android: Google is ever soooooo fast!

  • moozs

    I have read that OS 4 will make backing up a breeze (relative to what we facing right now). So I just hope it is worth it , just the process is like shedding skin or larvae in a cocoon. But I doubt my iphone 3G will be able to fly. LOL.

  • Spence

    In the midst of reading this article after waiting for three hours, frustrated and anxious for the “back up” to complete, I was ready to click the stop button once again when the phone screen went black. I thought something was wrong. But iTunes popped up and said it was “Extracting Software.” So, be patient and wait it out…

    FYI the status bar had only moved an 1/8 of an inch in the last few hours. I thought I would have to wait till tomorrow, but it finally started working.

  • NeutronTon

    Good night iPhone OS 3 and RIP. iOS4, you better be there in the morning or you're getting blended for iPhone4 is on it's way.

  • david

    Tried updating, waited 4 hours while it made no progress backing up. Deleted nearly all my apps, now it's at about 2% in an hour. This is ridiculous.

  • Rob

    I am in hour 4 – its currently at 95% – but has not moved in the last 30 odd min. I have had a posit note on my screen to assure myself it is actually backing up and has not crashed.

  • KGabb

    Thanks for the post. I stopped the backup the first time through because I figured something was wrong. I've had it running about 60 minutes now and it finally made some progress. Crossing my fingers that the actual OS 4 isn't half as painful to install as the backup has been!

  • Jen

    I'm glad I'm not the only one having trouble with this–I thought something was wrong with my phone. I'm at about 90 minutes of attempting to backup right now after the download only took three minutes. I've read a couple other places about restoring, installing the update, then re-installing all your apps. My worry is about the photos I have on my phone. I did a backup right before installing iOS 4, but I didn't check to see if the photos backed up correctly … I guess I'll wait it out a little longer before doing the restore.

  • Jon

    After an hour i had 0 progress on my backup. I removed 1000 pics from the phone and we're moving right along now,

  • Stephen

    I started the upgrade to iOS 3 hours and 40 minutes ago. So far, iTunes has backed up 240 MB of my 16 GB iPod Touch, and the progress bar is less than 10% complete. That works out to a transfer rate of about 18 KB per second. Is iTunes backing up my iPod to a server that only has a dial-up connection? At this rate, I'm going to have to leave my iPod connected for two days just to get it backed up. I wonder how long it will take to do the upgrade once the backup finally finishes?


    Disconnect the computer from the Internet. For some reason the Apple services use the Internet connection while backing up your phone. Disconnect from the Internet and you will see how it will speed up the backup process.

    • AndyD

      Yes disconnecting from the internet does enable back up to be completed much quicker, but reconnect immediately while itunes is extracting from installer or it will quit because it has lost the communication with itunes server!

    • Allison

      Thank you thank you thank you! My backup was taking 2-3 hours and now only takes a few minutes without being connected to the internet.

    • Doug

      You don't have to disconnect from the internet. You can mark a setting in ITunes where it will always ask you if you want to submit information to apple, and you can, politely, decline. Just make sure to uncheck the box that says "Don't Ask Me Again" when you decline the request, so the box will pop up again next time, giving you the option to decline again. Unfortunately, I forgot where the original setting is to tell iTunes to ask if you want to submit information to Apple. I'm sure you can search the web and find it. Good luck.

      • Tony

        wow disconnect the internet and it will speed up the backup. Thank so much for the tips

  • saad5990

    lol i dont know wats up with u guys trust me i had downloaded the fim of 300 sumthing mb for abt 20 mins and trust me it took less then 10 min to back up and 10 min to install lol now im playing with ios4 umm yea its pretty cool

  • slow

    me too! 2.5h now…

  • itc

    I too am having a slow backup. The odd part is, I did a full backup prior to starting the upgrade and that only took a few minutes. I can see it is doing a backup. It looks like it is doing an odd network backup to I see in my Windows taskbar that .5% of my network connection is in use and running a netstat -n shows a bunch of local host connections. Why can't I skip the backup when I can do a full backup outside of the upgrade with no issue. Watching my appdata/roaming/apple computer/mobilsync/backup directory, I can see the slooooow writes.

  • HWisthewebname

    A user elsewhere suggested removing songs video and apps from your iPhone before beginning the update. I'm giving that a try, seems like a good idea.

  • Blah

    Waiting on the 5th hour of "backing up iPhone" … … I was excited about iOS4 at first. But now iYawn.

  • fredphoesh

    WOW, I am shocked at how LAME Apple's info/service/preparedness etc has been. I plugged my phone into the computer, it said there was a new version, do I want to update, I said yes, and it took ages to download, then told me it failed to upgrade the software, I had to RESTORE the phone, ie WIPE IT!!! WOW, that is really pathetic Apple! Luckily I have backed up my wife's phone, so now I am restoring it, but boy, this is nowhere near as fluid as it is for me when I burn a new ROM to my android… Ive done that DOZENS of times with no problem ever. I was considering buying the iPhone4 and am now really starting to think Apple have lost even the edge for ease of use.

  • Seth Bivens

    The only way I could get it to work is if I restored it to factory settings, then it installed the software, and it's restoring from the backup of last night. It's still working on it, about 10 mins left, but the software's installed for sure. It has the bubbles background on the screen. Try that. 😀

  • roger

    i've been backing up for about 3 hours now, this is a joke.

  • Mine finished. For those of you with the backing up taking hours, wait it out. Mine finished after two hours. It stayed at 3% for most of the time then quickly jumped to about 75% toward the end and finished up. Hang in there!!

    • Phillip

      georgeangelo, which iPhone version did you have, and how much data did you have on there (e.g. ?% out of X GB)

  • peeved_iphone_owner

    This seems to be a regular problem with iPhone users. What’s up with Apple? Seems that they’ve gotten too big for their customers. I was thinking of the iPhone 4, but the new Droid is replacing it. No support == no $$

  • LZS

    Thanks for your post — it certainly would be helpful if Apple made the process less mystifying. My phone has been "backing up" for some three hours or so now, with no visible sign that anything is happening. Nothing in the progress bar at all. The first attempt at backup was interrupted when I received a call after just a few minutes, so I started it again. But so far, the phone just says "Sync in Progress" but there's no evidence of what iTunes is doing (or not doing).

  • GJH

    well, very slow backup indeed. Notice that it is only using 350kb per second of the hard drive write when checked in Activity Monitor. That's very poor performance considering USB2 should easily produce 8,000 to 10,000kb per second.

  • Black pearl

    Downloaded in a few mins but the backup locks at about 10%. Left it for ages, re-started the iPhone 3G/PC and tried again – over two hours later and still the same.

    I'm getting an iPhone 4 on Thursday but i'd have liked to play with the new software to keep me from going crazy while i wait.

  • Gavin

    I got bored and stopped but it was backing up, I went to the mobilesync backup folder and watched files being added. there were 1200 after about 15 mins. my guess is i need a spare 2 hours to do it and that will need to be tomorrow now
    good luck

  • Stefan

    It's beyond my comprehension how a company (Apple) that takes pride in great software is unable to fix the problem with slow backups after years of reported problems. The rest of the world is using differential sync protocols such as rsync which can easily backup a fully loaded iphone in less than 30 seconds if there are little changes since the last backup.

    At a minimum; apple could provide some sort of progress guidance during the backup process with suggestions for how the backup time could be minimized (such as transfer all your photos off the iphone).

    I love the iPhone but I hate the iPhone backup process. It's a disgrace and seriously bring down the iPhone user experience.

  • J. Terraz

    Argh. Why did I choose to upgrade just before bedtime? It's been over an hour, and it's not even a quarter of the way finished. I want to sleep, but I don't like leaving my laptop/iPhone on during the night. But at this point, I've already wasted this much time, so I don't want to cancel the process. Fuck you, Apple. But thanks for 4.0.

    • Brianna

      i did the same thing!!
      now im about 1 1/2 hours into it and i cant leave or cancel it now!

  • Thanks you for addressing the issue. My download took less than 5 minutes, it has been backing up for 1 1/2 hours making little to no progress. I am leaving it for now but not looking forward to having to leave it here at work and come back later tonight to see what it's been up to. For the record, the status bar IS moving, just extremely slowly. It's not even 1/4 of the way across the status bar at this point. Will update later.

    • Mine as well, thanks so much for this article.

    • Pamela

      I tried last night and left it running on overnight and it was still not backed up by morning – I just cancelled the backup