Saturday 26 October 2013

Aperture Vaults, and Backup speed to Apple TIme Capsule

Today I wanted to backup my Aperture photo library.  Easy, but not entirely obvious how best to do it quickly...

First you need to create a "Vault" in Aperture.  Then you need to Update the vault (because it is empty initially despite the message you see at creation).  This means clicking the refresh icon (bottom left of Aperture window, next to the name of your vault).

Now, after quitting Aperture, I thought it would be easy to just drag and drop the Vault I'd just created, so that I had a copy on my Time Capsule.  Fine, except the predicted copy time was a couple of hours!

On closer inspection, the Aperture Vault is not one file.  Rather, it's a directory tree containing (in my case) 6.3 GB spread over 19,000 files.  This explains the slow speed of transfer to the Time Capsule.  The underlying network and disk transfer speed isn't bad, especially over Gigabit Ethernet, but creating tens of thousands of files is always going to be slow on a consumer-grade NAS.


  • open a Terminal window
  • cd to the folder where you made the Aperture vault
  • tar -czvf aperture-vault aperture-vault.tar.gz
Now, copy the .tar.gz file onto the Time Capsule.  Very quick.

In my case, the .tar.gz file was about 6 GB.  It took a minute or two to copy over to the Time Capsule, which is pretty decent.

Apple ought to sort this out.  OK, it takes more disk space (at least temporarily), but I can't see why they can't make Aperture invoke 'tar' automatically at the end, so that you end up with one big file to archive off, not tens of thousands of files.

BTW, are you protected if the hard disk in your Time Capsule fails?  If not... Buy a cheap external USB hard drive.  Format it on your Mac as a normal Mac volume.  Now, plug it into the USB port on the Time Capsule.  Fire up the Airport Utility app on the Mac.  Press the Archive button, and the Time Capsule will copy its own hard drive on the USB drive.  Simple!


  1. Have you done a full restore and partial restore form this method? I am concerned that there is meta-data or HFS+ extended attributes that are not compatible with tar-gzip. BSD tools have a reputation for trouble on HFS+. If others are interested, I'm trying this with a symmetric password in GPG next (tar.gz first) and then TARSNAP, a "more" trusted online backup. Client-side FOSS encryption and dev security lead for FreeBSD, located in BC Canada.

  2. No I haven't. That's an interesting question.

    BTW, I just read that Aperture and iPhoto are both EOL (apart from, perhaps, a point release to match OS X Yosemite). Apple is said to be replacing both products with Photos for OS X (and for iOS) which will be able to import Aperture databases.

    I am just wondering if there is a cross-platform FOSS alternative I should be looking at. I only do simple stuff but I'd like to keep my photos organised as my children grow.


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