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Either Time Machine or it's FireWire drive slowing/crashing Finder and Dock

1589 Views 14 Replies Latest reply: Jul 29, 2009 6:21 PM by Pondini RSS
grtgrfx Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Jul 21, 2009 12:05 PM
My 2008 Mac Pro is running slowly, application launches delay (bouncing icons) or dock freezes in the open position, apps display "application not responding" in the dock, and the machine generally hesitates.

I've noticed this when the Time Machine icon is spinning, and if I turn the Time Machine drive off, everything catches up and unlocks in a few seconds. This Mac seems to run more normally if the Time Machine drive is not mounted. The actual backup disk verified in Disk Utility with no errors when I turned TM off and tested it. The drive itself is a 3 month-old 1TB Maxtor in a new MacAlly FireWire case, connected to a 4-port FireWire hub. This is a new problem, it did not occur a month ago.

Anyone else seen these symptoms of TM causing slowdowns?
'08 2.66GHz Intel twin Dual-Core Mac Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.7), 6GB RAM, 2.6TB HD, BT, NVidia 8800GT, Boot Camp w/Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Lyssa Level 6 Level 6 (14,780 points)
    Have you tried connecting the drive directly to the computer to see if the behavior changes?

    ~Lyssa
    13" White Macbook; 160 GB black iPod Classic ^_^, Mac OS X (10.5.6), iBook G4 1.07 GHz (10.4.11); 3G iPod 15 GB (4.5 years running smooth!)
  • Txau-me Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    I have what looks to be the same problem. I have an external drive with firewire connection with two partitions, one of them for Time Machine Backups. Everything works fine while I am there.

    Nevertheless it seems that once the Mac enters into sleep mode, Time Machine can not wake up the disc and stands there, freezing all operations. The disc is no longer accessible (although the icons remain in the desktop). It can not be unmounted.

    The system has never recovered on it own. I have tried via activity monitor to kill all non-responsive processes, but to no good. In the end I have to manually power down the computer.

    I am trying to use the drive via USB (it has both connections) and it seems to be working OK. I'll leave it for more time to be sure, but it seems the conflic appears when three issues are present: Firewire connection, Time Machine launching a backup and the mac being at sleep.

    I am going to test also whether the problem appears also if I disconnect Time Machine.

    More to follow as soon as I have more information.

    Regards
    iMac 2,4Ghz Core2Duo, 4GB RAM, Mac OS X (10.4.3), Leopard 10.5.7
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Txau-me wrote:
    I have what looks to be the same problem.


    Actually, it seems different.

    Nevertheless it seems that once the Mac enters into sleep mode, Time Machine can not wake up the disc and stands there, freezing all operations. The disc is no longer accessible (although the icons remain in the desktop). It can not be unmounted.

    The system has never recovered on it own. I have tried via activity monitor to kill all non-responsive processes, but to no good. In the end I have to manually power down the computer.


    That's not good. Any time you do that, there's a chance of damage to the file system on any connected disk. Run a +Repair Disk+ (not permissions) on your TM drive (both partitions) via Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder).

    Also, if you did a forced power-off, run a +Verify Disk+ (not permissions) on your internal HD. If that shows errors, you'll have to boot from your Leopard Install disc and use it's copy of DU to fix them. Post back if you need to do this but aren't sure how.

    I am trying to use the drive via USB (it has both connections) and it seems to be working OK. I'll leave it for more time to be sure, but it seems the conflic appears when three issues are present: Firewire connection, Time Machine launching a backup and the mac being at sleep.


    You must mean, TM launching a backup after the Mac wakes up, as it won't start one while sleeping.

    A few things to try:

    Un-check the +Put the hard disk(s) to sleep ...+ option of System Preferences > Energy Saver. Most external disks ignore this, but yours might not, and it might fix the problem.

    See if there's a separate sleep or "spin down" feature of the drive that you can disable.

    Check with your drive's maker for any firmware upgrades for your particular model. A couple of the majors have done this recently, and it's fixed this sort of thing.

    Also . . . how old is this disk, and how long have you been using it with Time Machine?
    iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • Txau-me Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hi, Pondini,

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    Pondini wrote:
    That's not good. Any time you do that, there's a chance of damage to the file system on any connected disk. Run a +Repair Disk+ (not permissions) on your TM drive (both partitions) via Disk Utility (in your Applications/Utilities folder).

    Also, if you did a forced power-off, run a +Verify Disk+ (not permissions) on your internal HD. If that shows errors, you'll have to boot from your Leopard Install disc and use it's copy of DU to fix them. Post back if you need to do this but aren't sure how.

    I know it is not good at all, but I had tried everything. I have done all 'post disaster' corrective and preventive actions. Now everything is OK again, at least regarding these issues.

    You must mean, TM launching a backup after the Mac wakes up, as it won't start one while sleeping.


    Thanks again, this I didn't know. The point is that whenever I activate the Mac I see the Time Machine wheel turning and everthing is blocked. It could be due to the fact that the screen goes to sleep in 5 min and the whole system only after 15min.

    A few things to try:

    Un-check the +Put the hard disk(s) to sleep ...+ option of System Preferences > Energy Saver. Most external disks ignore this, but yours might not, and it might fix the problem.

    See if there's a separate sleep or "spin down" feature of the drive that you can disable.

    It could be that these two issues do the trick. I have succeeded in reproducing the problem but realized that the problem is not the mac going to sleep (15 min), but having been sleeping for much longer (around 1 to 2 hours). This makes me think it is something related to the external drive going to sleep.
    Check with your drive's maker for any firmware upgrades for your particular model. A couple of the majors have done this recently, and it's fixed this sort of thing.

    This is another issue: my external drive is an IDE Macpower Pleiades FW + USB. For what I have seen it is no longer in catalogue and I haven't found much support in Macpower's Knowledgebase. I do not know if it has a sleep feature on its own and how to deactivate it. I'll continue investigating on this line if the "uncheck 'put hard disk to sleep'" is not working.

    Again, thanks for your time.

    Best regards
    iMac 2,4Ghz Core2Duo, 4GB RAM, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    grtgrfx wrote:
    The behavior is the same after doing a direct connection. Processes freeze until you shut off the external drive, then they free up and things go on. I'm sure constant disconnections are fragging my time Machine backups too...

    So, through troubleshooting, it could be...

    a) drive problem communicating with case and/or system
    b) good drive, but external case having trouble communicating with system
    c) software (Time Machine) having trouble communicating with system and hogging cycles until popped back out by drive shutdown


    Try the suggestions in #D2 of the Time Machine - Troubleshooting post at the top of this forum.

    If none of those help, it's possible you have something unrelated going wrong, but it doesn't affect your performance too badly until a TM backup gets started. This could possibly explain the sentence in your first post: +"This Mac seems to run more normally if the Time Machine drive is not mounted."+ If you mean it's not really "normal" even when TM is not running, perhaps that's a clue.

    If it seems slow under normal circumstances, first make sure you have at least 15% of your internal HD free. OSX needs this to work well; under that, things begin to slow down, and the less free space there is, the more strangely your Mac will act.

    If that's not the problem, use the Activity Monitor app (in your Applications/Utilities folder). Select +All processes+ in the toolbar, click the CPU column so the highest number is on top, and click the CPU tab towards the bottom.

    Normally, things will "spike" up and down, so watch it for a while to see what's consistently using a lot of your CPU. Also watch the +% Idle+ number at the bottom.

    If the % Idle is consistently small, and/or there's a process consistently using a lot of your CPU unexpectedly, you'll need to investigate.

    If not, watch it when a TM backup is running; the *Process Name* will be backupd. It should take some of your CPU, of course, but not a huge amount. If it does, get the TM Buddy messages (see item #A1 in the Troubleshooting post) and post them here.
    iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    grtgrfx wrote:
    Thanks for your suggestions. My observation is that Time Machine is not slow or hanging, rather the Mac's other applications are exhibiting that behavior, primarily while Time Machine is running -- especially the Finder.

    This being a recently upgraded boot drive, it is about 65% available, with over 350GB of free space.

    Activity Monitor shows, on average, 85+% idle, with backupd using less than 1% of cycle time. The most cycle-hogging process is TechTool Pro Directory Protection, hovering around 15%.


    15% is a lot, if it's consistently in that range.

    I'm not quite sure what that is, or why you need it in addition to Time Machine, but there are reports here that it causes rather large TM backups of the files it keeps. You might want to look at this file/folder: +~/Library/Application Support/TechTool Protection/Macintosh HD+

    It's my understanding that it can add several GB to each TM backup. If you don't need this backed-up, use TM Preferences > Options to exclude it.

    I'd also suggest turning it off, at least temporarily, to see if that's the cause of the behavior.
    iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    grtgrfx wrote:
    The 15% usage I noted is only during TM backups. When no backups are running and I'm not doing anything complex, CPU Idle is closer to 98%. The TechTool protection keeps a running record of the file trees of all mounted drives so that, in case of a disk crash, data can be recovered more easily. Apparently it's triggered by backups as well as normal file accesses.


    Yes. And I'm not sure why you need it if you have Time Machine running. And I really wonder if it handles the unique structure of TM backups properly -- most 3rd-party apps don't.

    Take a look at this thread: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2096127&tstart=0

    There are some other issues there, but take a look, then try turning the Directory Protection option off for a while to see if the behavior stops. At the least, exclude your TM disk from it, if you can. I suspect it will either stop entirely or be much less severe. There's potentially a whole lot of disk contention going on.
    iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • Txau-me Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hi, grtgrfx

    grtgrfx wrote:
    While not really helpful to my particular problem, I am compelled to ask you: since you have a drive unit manufactured by a well-known maker, have you called their support line to ask for technical assistance? I'm always amazed that people don't call the manufacturers FIRST, and use the forums when no other solution is available. If I were you, I'd be troubleshooting with MacPower. Maybe they'd even give you a new drive unit.


    You have to understand that, from my point of view, the problem started with Time Machine icon turning after the imac's woke up from sleep with the finder completely dead. It has been only after some exchanges of opinions here and some tests that the diagnose seemed to point at the hard drive, as initially I thought my problem was the same as the title of this post.

    Yesterday I changed the drive into another external box of the same manufacturer and the issue seems to have been solved... and I say seems because I have not tested it thoroughly. At this point, I think it does make sense to contact the manufacturer, not before.

    I will keep you update with the outcome of all this.
    IMAc Intel Core 2 Duo, 2,4Ghz, 4Gb RAM, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    grtgrfx wrote:
    I should also note that TechTool Pro is protecting drives that I want to be recoverable, not just my boot drive, and it does not record or protect the Time Machine drive.


    Are you sure? Your description of how it suddenly takes 15% of your CPU during a TM backup certainly sounds like it's doing something there. And one of the other threads about this reports having files in a +*/Library/Application Support/TechTool Protection/<TM partition name>*+ folder.

    But of course it's your call whether the CPU and disk usage is worth it to you.

    Like plenty of other people, I prefer not to put all my backup eggs in the Time Machine basket.


    I don't trust my backups to a single app or location, either. Like many here, I use a clone (I use CarbonCopyCloner) in addition to TM; plus some things go to iDisk daily, others weekly via Backup; still others are on CDs/DVDs in my safe deposit box.
    iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)

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