My Time Machine server using virtualization

My current computer setup is:

  • Windows 10 Desktop (used only for gaming) with two 512GB SSDs inside. One is for Windows 10 + games. The other is a backup drive for game screenshots, game settings, etc.

  • Macbook Pro with 256GB storage. My primary device. Has all of my files and used for everything non-gaming.

I found I wasn’t doing backups for my Macbook. If my Macbook died today, I would lose projects, years of financial documents, and a large music collection. I had an external hard drive (for Time Machine) but noticed I never connected it because I was always on the go. Using Virtual Box on the Windows desktop, I created an Ubuntu server and gave it 1 processor (out of 8) and 1GB of RAM (out of 16). The server now runs on one of my internal 512GB SSDs and my Windows backups now go to the external hard drive that’s attached to the desk.

Using the Netatalk package on Ubuntu, I was able to create a volume for Time Machine. Then my Mac can see this drive on the network. Now, anytime I’m at home, it performs backups automatically. This server is cheap to run, even when playing PC games. The server also continues to run even if the desktop is locked. I can also SSH into it to perform updates without the need to be at the desktop. You just have to set the network settings in Virtual Box to bridge connection.

You could also do this with a single large hard drive on a desktop as the Time Machine backup stores itself within the VDI file that Virtual Box creates for the server. You could even use a large external hard drive and run the server off of it through Windows/MacOS.

I hope someone gets use out of this. I wasn’t being good about backups, but now with this and Backblaze, I am successfully following the 3-2-1 backup strategy.

I would also love if anyone great with security can tell me if I have any issues here. As far as I can tell, you can not access this server while not on my home network, which is what I want.

I used this guide to get the server set up for Time Machine:



That’s an impressive feat of engineering!
I’m sure you sleep better at night knowing your data are backed up.

Great set up, if it works. The proof is restoration. Are you able to open access Time Machine from your Mac and restore files and folders?

It does work after testing over a couple of days, but I do fear the possibility that it’s more suspect to failure over a basic USB external hard drive. I’m not too concerned because I do have the Backblaze backup.

Thanks. The reason I asked is my own experience with Time Machine on a external device on my network – in my case, a Synology NAS. After configuring, running Time Machine, and having it perform backups for several weeks – on two occasions macOS reported that that Time Machine was no longer usable an I had to start over. After the second time, I stopped with the Synology and now do TM on an external SSD via USB. All diagnostics on the Synology check out with good health, so I lay this up to trying to do TM on a “non-Apple” drive.

My Synology TM setup has worked well, on both backups and restores.
My laptop occasionally complains, as it backs up over WiFi, but my iMac Pro doesn’t have any trouble over Ethernet.