Time Machine + My Book Live = molasses

In today’s posting, I present some simple performance data for My Book Live when used to backup Mac OSX using Time Machine.  Spoiler alert: your initial backup might take a day or three – and that’s no exaggeration.

But if you have the patience to wait, I’ve found so far that it’s a good substitute for the $500 Time Capsule that comes with the same drive space (3 terabytes).

My Book Live (MBL) is a great product if you just backup files here and there.  But, power users need to have some patience.  While it’s reliable Network Attached Storage (NAS), it’s not made to chew on mounds of data quickly.  If you keep your data backups to under a couple gigabytes a day (max), you won’t be disappointed with its performance.  But any more than that and it might be worth looking around for a more enterprise NAS solution if you want to see your backups finish quickly.

Now if only Western Digital had a My Book Live version that came with 2GB (gigabytes) of memory, they’d have a sure fire winner of a product on their hands … I’m convinced.

I have been noticing my Time Machine backups for my Mac have gotten considerably slow when backing up to My Book Live (MBL).  I’m guessing … only guessing … that it’s because the MBL only comes with 256 megabytes of memory.  That makes the MBL a quite a bit underpowered for its advertised task.   Especially when you’re me and you need to backup several gigabytes a day.

At any rate I thought I would share some simple benchmarking results.  I calculated these numbers manually – by timing backup rates with a stopwatch.

The Time Machine backup is very slow.  I’ve isolated the problem to the Time Machine server running on the My Book Live.  Here’s how:

  1. My mac and the MBL NAS are connected to a switch using hardwire … no WiFi involved.
  2. I transferred a 1 gigabyte file manually from the Mac (Mountain Lion 10.8.2) to the Public shared drive on the MBL.  Took 54 seconds.  That’s pretty good.  That’s 8 billion bits in 54 seconds, or about 148 megabits per second.
  3. I can get similar rates when I transfer from the mac to a time machine that is hardwired to the same switch.
  4. I have the iTunes and the other media server off on the MBL.
  5. The MBL is set to not sleep.
  6. When backing up with Time Machine, the rates drop significantly:
    • took about 7.25 minutes for the drive to allow the mac to connect to it and prepare the backup.
    • The backup numbers in Time Machine seem to stall … just when you think the service on MBL has stalled, the numbers tick up rapidly for a time, then stall again.  When backing up to Time Capsule, the numbers don’t stall that much.
    • I timed a Time Machine backup and watched it for six minutes.  714 megabytes were backed up in 6 minutes.  That’s 5.7 gigabits in 360 seconds, or 16 megabits per second.

The overhead the Time Machine server gives us when running on My Book LIve is pretty big, 148 megabits straight file copy drops down to 16 megabits for Time Machine.  I haven’t run the same comparison for overhead for an Apple Time Capsule yet.

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3 thoughts on “Time Machine + My Book Live = molasses

  1. I’ve had the slow backup issue with my MBP and the MBL3 since day one. And, it does take forever to make the first backup. But, the big issue is I get “verification error” reports every few days and it wants to start over with a new backup. These days I’m only using ethernet but still it takes a long time. Rebooting the MBL3 seems to help for a while. I’ve shut down the iTunes server, the Twonky server and turned of the Energy Saver which puts the disk to sleep. But, it seems there is a persistent network connection issue. Any ideas?

    • I should update that post. The processing power of the MBP is just too low for any serious NAS work and backups. So, I went out and bought several thunderbolt versions and daisy chained them. Works much better!

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