[REQ ADVICE] Time Capsule 4th Gen - replace HD or retire

I have a 4th gen Airport Time Capsule 3TB that has worked flawlessly backing up 6 Macs since 10/2013. Starting last week I started getting errors on my main Mac, and when I started checking all the various family Macs - t hey also had errors. The drive itself still indicates it “verifies” and really just errors out on a generic error without any specific details. I realized that the drive is 5 years old and probably operating on borrowed time.

I stopped using the wireless and network functions last year when I replaced it with a Ubiquiti Amplifi HD, so at this point, it is basically a NAS. I was thinking I could just pull the drive and replace it with a new HD in no time flat and probably be good to go, but I thought I would ask the consensus among MPU users as to whether I should replace the HD or just replace the whole unit with a standalone 3TB drive. I can get the bare drive cheaper.

My only concern is the finished product should be as seamless and invisible as the previous TC for the other users in the house or they will never use it. I personally would dump TM for a full CCC backup regime - but I fear that will cause problems on the various family machines.

Thoughts and advice appreciated!

Replacing the drive may or may not fix the problem. Here’s what I would do:

  1. If you are backing up over wifi, try a backup while connected via ethernet cable.

  2. Check the console utility to see if it has more details about the error. Click your computer under 'Devices", click “All Messages” in the menu bar and search for “backupd”. What error message do you see in Time Machine and Console?

  3. If you have a spare drive handy, you could try swapping it out. If it’s an external drive with a USB interface, you can plug it into the TC’s USB port and avoid having to open up the TC.

  4. Replace the drive. Interestingly, external drives have been cheaper than bare internal drives. For example, Best Buy has been intermittently running a sale on 8TB easystore drives for $149.

If you get an external drive, you won’t have to open up the TC and the external drive can be easily re-purposed when the TC does finally die. I don’t think you’ll see any performance penalty using an external drive vs an internal drive.

One final thought, if one of your Macs is on all the time, it can be your Time Capsule. Any Mac running High Sierra or later has Time Machine Server built-in. You can point Time Machine to an external drive so it doesn’t tie up your internal storage.

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Thanks for advice.

  1. The TC and most Macs on the network are ethernet.
  2. I did check the console last week and also today and there are NO ‘backupd’ entries - which I find odd in itself.

I do have a MacMini that sits right next to the TC and serves as HTPC with Plex. I would be concerned about TM on that machine dragging down the video streams - which often number 1-4 simultaneous streams.

I guess I could just tail an external HD off the TC - but I kind of hate to keep it around for what basically boils down to a glorified USB port.

I did check the console last week and also today and there are NO ‘backupd’ entries - which I find odd in itself.


I think the MacMini with an external drive is a good choice as a TM server.

Watch the cpu, memory and disk utilitization while Plex is running 4 streams. Plex can be CPU intensive if it’s transcoding. But Time Machine is not CPU intensive and disk IO will be on an external drive. Assuming you have gigabit ethernet connection, I doubt Plex with 4 streams will saturate the network.

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I have tried to open a couple of these 4th gen Apple Airport Time Capsules and it’s quite a chore. These things are built like a vault. You can connect an external drive to the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD base and share it over the network. Make sure you get a decent external drive with enough cooling so it doesn’t die prematurely of overheating.

You could also opt for aSynology NAS but that might be overkill if you just want to have a network attached drive for Time Machine Back-Up.

You can connect an external drive to the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD base and share it over the network.

If that works, it’s a good option as well. I read somewhere that the USB port on the Amplifi wasn’t active, but maybe that’s changed with the recent firmware. It’s worth trying.