We’ve gotten a couple of emails from readers wondering how to get Time Machine to work with an AirPort.
Well… theoretically, getting the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour on a long stretch of tarmac would probably be fairly straightforward. Take a base 0-60 time of 8.8 seconds, factor acceleration curve for 60-88mph, account for deceleration while swerving around the occasional 747, and you’ll need about …
… What? You meant using Time Machine via an AirPort Base Station?
That’s something completely different – and a lot easier to talk about.
In early 2008, Apple introduced Time Capsule, which essentially combined an AirPort Base Station and a 500GB-1TB hard drive. At first glance, replicating this setup with a AirPort Extreme Base Station would seem to be fairly simple.
First, you attach a drive (such as a NewerTech miniStack, which stacks nicely underneath) to the USB port on your Base Station. Then, mount it on your desktop like you would any other remote drive. Finally, select it as your TimeMachine backup disk and let it run. After the initial (lengthy) backup, Time Machine will mount the drive remotely when connected to the network, run its backup, then disconnect – just like with Time Capsule.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way. I’ve had this exact sort of setup for the better part of two years now. I started out with a pair of miniStack V3s (the built-in USB hubs allowed me to connect multiple drives and a printer at once), but when those got too full, I repurposed them elsewhere and switched a larger RAID unit I got on sale.
However, looking back on things, it really hasn’t been the most reliable route to take. Since I added that RAID unit this summer, I’ve had to rebuild my Time Machine drive from scratch at least 3 or 4 times (hint if you’re crazy enough to try this – hooking your computer to the AEBS via Ethernet will speed up the initial transfer considerably).
Apparently, I’m not the only one to experience this. OWC Jamie had this to say on the subject:
They do not work reliably – it may work at first but they are NOT RECOMMENDED. I tried doing it at home on my wife’s machine and had to cease. Worked fine for a month or more and then stopped working – would always fail backing up after that.
I put the same drive on my Mac mini entertainment center, set it as her backup volume, and it’s been rock solid since.
That kind of lines up with my experience; it works fine for a short while, then runs into trouble. And we’re not the only people who have tried it – there’s a great thread in Apple’s discussion forum regarding just this.
It’s kind of interesting, as I remember that being part of the marketing of Time Machine – it works with Time Capsule or an AirDisk. And while it does work with Time Capsule, there’s a problem with Time Machine and AirDisks for some reason, and Apple no longer supports it as an option.
So as far as backing up Time Machine to a network drive, Apple’s recommended options are either Time Capsules or shared internal disks on a Mac with Personal File Sharing or Server running. As Jamie’s example above shows, an external storage solution attached to a networked computer also seems to work.
Just so you know…
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