Slow transfer to USB hard drive

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by jerH, Sep 22, 2012.

  1. jerH macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    I'm attempting to backup my iPhoto library to a 500gig WD Passport USB drive. The library is 18.37 gig. The transfer starts out great, with ~85 meg transferring in the first few seconds. Then the amount transferred starts ticking up 0.1 mb at a time, about once a second. It now estimates the time left at 5 hours and climbing. I've tried reconnecting the cable, etc. I don't experience this slow a transfer with this drive on any other computer. The drive is formatted FAT32 (don't ask). I'm on a 2012 MacBook Pro running OS X 10.8....

  2. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    USB 2.0 is rather slow, what kind of speeds DO you see on other computers? Did you try another port?
  3. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Though USB 2.0 should offer at least 25 MB/s nowadays. I get up to 37 MB/s via USB 2.0 and small amounts of big files.
    As the OP's library probably consists of thousands of files, it might take longer though, but not with speeds of around 1 MB/s and less.

    Maybe it has to do with FAT32 or the external HDD is slow or even dying or the fact, that FAT32 does not support files bigger than 4 GB and the iPhoto Library file is bigger than that, but not considered as one file by FAT32 (I do not know that), or it is an older iPhoto Library folder.


    Overview of the four major file systems (called "Formats" in Mac OS X) used on Windows and Mac OS X, compiled by GGJstudios. You can use Disk Utility to format any HDD to your liking.

    Any external hard drive will work with PCs or Macs, as long as the connectors are there (Firewire, USB, etc.) It doesn't matter how the drive is formatted out of the box, since you can re-format any way you like. Formatting can be done with the Mac OS X Disk Utility, found in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Here are your formatting options:

    HFS+ (Hierarchical File System, a.k.a. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Don't use case-sensitive)

    NTFS (Windows NT File System)
    • Read/Write NTFS from native Windows.
    • Read only NTFS from native Mac OS X
      [*]To Read/Write/Format NTFS from Mac OS X, here are some alternatives:
      • For Mac OS X 10.4 or later (32 or 64-bit), install Paragon (approx $20) (Best Choice for Lion)
      • For 32-bit Mac OS X, install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (free) (does not work in 64-bit mode)
      • For 64-bit Snow Leopard, read this: MacFUSE for 64-bit Snow Leopard
      • Some have reported problems using Tuxera (approx $36).
      • Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard and Lion, but is not advisable, due to instability.
    • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support NTFS
    • Maximum file size: 16 TB
    • Maximum volume size: 256TB
    • You can use this format if you routinely share a drive with multiple Windows systems.

    exFAT (FAT64)
    • Supported in Mac OS X only in 10.6.5 or later.
    • Not all Windows versions support exFAT. See disadvantages.
    • exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)
    • AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Time Capsule do not support exFAT
    • Maximum file size: 16 EiB
    • Maximum volume size: 64 ZiB
    • You can use this format if it is supported by all computers with which you intend to share the drive. See "disadvantages" for details.

    FAT32 (File Allocation Table)
    • Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.
      [*]Maximum file size: 4GB.
    • Maximum volume size: 2TB
    • You can use this format if you share the drive between Mac OS X and Windows computers and have no files larger than 4GB.

    You can use the following applications to benchmark the speed of your external HDD to see, if it is the culprit:
  4. jerH thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Never actually tried to measure the transfer rates I get, but I know that I recently copied a backup of a DVD .iso that was 3.88 gig and it was well under an hour...that was on an older PC laptop. The estimated time remaining for this transfer is now up to 15 hours....
  5. jerH thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    So this interesting. I got to about 500MB copied and the estimated time left was up to 20 hours. So I pulled the plug on the copy. I have another USB drive...a 2 TB drive hooked up to my router that all the computers in the house share for backup purposes. I tried copying the iPhoto library to that drive over the network and saw the exact same behavior....the first ~80 MB copy in a flash, and then the amount copied starts ticking up 0.1 MB at a time and the estimated time left starts going from ~45 minutes to many, many hours....

  6. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    What about testing the transfer speed via the tools on the bottom of my last post?
  7. jerH thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    AJA System Test said 23.9 mb/s for a 128mb file and 27.4 mb/s for a 1 gig file, so the hdd doesn't apear to be the issue.


    I just tried copying the iPhoto library to the desktop...same thing. Quickly up to 82.9 mb, then 0.1 mb increments.
  8. DurfDiggler, Jun 11, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015

    DurfDiggler macrumors newbie

    Oct 27, 2008
    Sorry to resurrect this old post...
    I'm having the same issue with a new 2014 iMac w/5K (1TB Fusion). I'm transferring my old iPhoto Library from an external USB 3.0 with a 7200rpm HDD. I'm seeing transfer speeds of approximately 500KB/s - 2MB/s burst (Activity Monitor). I really think the issue has to do with the fact it is an iPhoto Library. I think bc it has a billion tiny files in it, or something. I can transfer a large movie in less than a minute. This is particularly painful since I have waited for a few weeks for the new (to me) iMac to import new photos. It shows about 2 days left on the transfer... I guess we'll see. Oh wait, it just went up to 3 days.
    I also wonder if this has to do with File Vault. I have both the new internal and the old external Encrypted. Obviously I've entered the password for the external, but I wonder if it's causing a slow down for each and every one of those little files.
    [EDIT] So it's been about 1.5 hours, and it's gone from 2.06GB to 148.51 & counting. chugging along at 30-90MB/s. So, yeah, just be patient and it will get over that hill. It's still not as fast as the theoretical 625 MB/s, but it's much better than 400KB/s.
  9. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    If your external drive doesn't support UASP, that's why. Regular external drives that only support BOT are horrible when it comes to random I/O such as copying iPhoto libraries.

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8 September 22, 2012