I'm trying to copy a large amount of files from a hard drive to a time capsule. Around 200 GB. Normally copying files in OSX is quite fast and simple, but I found this unmanageable, as before it starts copying it prepares to copy the files, And the number of files to copy slowly increases.

Normally this stage is over in the blink of an eye, but because of the large volume it took more than 20 minutes, I gave up after that. What exactly is it doing in this time? Why does it need to do that, when I'm simply copying one folder (there is just one folder in the root level of the hard drive) so it knows that all the files are in there.

Is there anyway to skip this process, as it is actually faster, although more time consuming for me, to copy smaller chunks of it, one after the other?

Why can't it just copy all the 1s and 0s across without any of this preparing?

  • It does the same with zipping large numbers of files as well: "Preparing to compress". Seems quite odd, as far as I know the underlying commands don't do this?
    – Harry
    Oct 5, 2016 at 11:09

2 Answers 2


Not sure what the 'preparing' stage actually does. I suspect it could have something to do with verifying that the destination doesn't have files/folders that are present in the source (leading to it having to ask you what to do about the conflict).

In either case, if you are comfortable with Terminal, you can use rsync which begins copying immediately and gives you feedback right away.

I would use something like:

rsync --partial --progress -av ~/Desktop/MyFolder /Volumes/MyTimeCapsule/
  • Actually, the above command doesn't start copying right away.. It says "building file list ..." followed by a count of the number of files it has seen, incremented 100 at a time.
    – Michael
    Dec 27, 2012 at 15:01
  • if you want to speed things up, don't use the -v verbose flag.
    – Raptor
    Oct 29, 2021 at 1:47

As @Harv suggests you can use rsync to copy files instead of the Finder, but if you use the rsync version (2.6.x) that Apple includes with Mavericks, it will want to build a file list before copying anything, which is what you're trying to avoid in the first place.

Version 3 or newer of rsync can apparently build the file list on the fly, according to an answer here: https://serverfault.com/questions/208494/rsync-is-just-hanging-building-file-list

To use rsync 3 you'll have to get a newer version from somewhere; here's a blog post that talks about some options: http://blog.brettalton.com/2013/08/05/how-to-speed-up-rsync-on-your-mac-and-stop-the-dreaded-building-file-list/

  • 1
    brew install rsync can be used to get rsync 3. Jun 27, 2017 at 1:59

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