iPhone 3G backup really slow again, now on iTunes

Posted on 2009-03-31
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
A while ago, I had a problem where my iPhone 3G 8GB would take ages to sync with iTunes, particularly when it got to the "backup up" stage. I somehow fixed this, but I can't remember how.

Recently, iTunes upgraded itself to version, and now my slow backup problem is back!

Can anybody tell me how to speed up the backup process?

I don't want to turn it off, but it used to do it so much quicker. It currently takes at least 5 minutes to backup, even though absolutely nothing has changed on iPhone or PC. I also don't want to have to reset my iPhone and install everything again.

My computer is a PC running Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit.
Question by:JimR123b
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Expert Comment

ID: 24037584
What software version are you running on your iPhone?

The latest version is 2.2.1

LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 24041154
As pcrpb has already said please make sure that you are a running latest iPhone firmware. It is a known problem with older versino of firmware that backups are long...

Author Comment

ID: 24044810
I've got firmware 2.2.1 (5H11) on my iPhone.
I recall now that I think it was upgrading the firmware that fixed the problem before.
Obviously this isn't a possible fix this time around as I already have the latest firmware (and the latest version of iTunes).
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LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 24058736
Can you create a new user account under Vista and try to do the backup again..
Do you get the same error...?

Author Comment

ID: 24066849
...but won't sync'ing under a new user remove data from my iPhone (such as Apps not installed in iTunes, etc)?
LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 24067325
Not if you set the iPhone to manually sunc. Any way you canjust then sync it with the other account when you get back..

Author Comment

ID: 24111161
1. Created a new Vista user.
2. Ran iTunes (and waited for it to install itself properly).
3. Connected iPhone.
4. Forced a sync by pressing the "Sync" button. Does it in about 1 second.
5. Right-clicked on my iPhone under the "DEVICES" list on the left, and chose "Back up".
6. Still waiting for it to finish. Progress bar is moving slowly, and looks like it's going to take some hours.
I guess I would actually expect it to take some time in this scenario, as I'm using most of the iPhone's memory, and presumably, it's backing up most of this data to the computer, so effectively it's downloading about 6 or 7GB.
So what am I trying to prove or discover by doing this?
Is it possible to discover what data is actually getting backed-up, and therefore what it's taking a long time on?

Author Comment

ID: 24112436
After about 5 hours, the progress bar made it to the end, and then the following error message appeared:
iTunes could not back up the iPhone "My iPhone" because the iPhone disconnected.
The iPhone was still physically disconnected, but the screen on it had gone black.
I had not been watching the process the whole time, but occasionally looked at it, and up until it got right to the end, it looked like everything was working fine, just taking a long time. The iTunes progress bar was progressing, and the iPhone appeared to be in its usual "syncing" state.
iTunes still seems to recognize that the iPhone is still connected, as it still appears under "DEVICES" on the left of the iTunes screen, despite the error message saying that it is disconnected.
After clicking on the OK for the error message, everything seems normal.
In "Edit | Preferences | Devices", a new backup called "Unknown" exists, with the unusual timestamp of "01/01/2001 01:00".
I can start the backup again, but it seems to be doing the same long process again, so have cancelled it.
Please help!

Expert Comment

ID: 24116548
In regards to your error:

"iTunes could not back up the iPhone "My iPhone" because the iPhone disconnected."

I had a colleague that was having a similar issue on his PC. This may not be the case for you but for him he was using a non-Apple link cable. Once he started using the Apple link cable that came with his phone he had no problems. We aren't really sure why a non-Apple cable specifically made for the iPhones would be any different than the Apple link cable but it did in fact solve his problem and he is now able to successfully do backups and syncs with his iPhone on his PC. Also, he did have a 1st gen phone. I've never tried using a non-Apple link cable with my 3G phone so I don't know if they have the same problem.

As for the long backup times, I would need to know a little more about your iPhone setup. Since you have the most recent firmware installed I would have to assume that it is one of you apps that is creating the issue.

The iPhone only backups stuff on the phone that has been marked as changed or not present on the computer you are backing up to. This means that if you have an app that stores a lot of user data, then it could be coping this data over ever time making your backups take longer.

One example of where I have seen this happen on my iPhone is with the OmniFocus app. This app can create quite a large database, especially if you have photo or audio attachments on your tasks. Every time you open this app it marks the entire database as changed and therefore it has to backup the whole database next time you sync. I think OmniFocus has fixed this issue but it is possible you are using some other app that does something similar. I have also read about several file storage apps that turn your iPhone into a portable hard drive having issues causing long backup times.

Also, one way to determine how much space on you iPhone is being used by what is to connect it to iTunes and then go to the Summary tab of your iPhone. At the bottom you can see how much space is being allocated to what (i.e. Audio, Photos, Video, Apps, Other - Usually where your user data from apps are stored).

Accepted Solution

JimR123b earned 0 total points
ID: 24117505
I am using a genuine Apple link cable, which came with the iPhone.
I think I may have resolved the problem myself, after reading something about the error message.
I went and reset the sync history (Edit | Preferences | Devices | Reset Sync History), and then forced it to do a backup. It took about 2 hours the first time, but since then has only been taking about 3 or 4 minutes.
It could be quicker, but at least now it's actually usable.
LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 24121830
Glad you fixed it..

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