Time Capsule disk is DEAD - Can I add external disks?

My rather expensive Time Capsule disk is DEAD. The router is still working but it looks like the disk is dead.

I’d still like to use it for back up and I’m wondering if I can add a couple of external disks and still use the time capsule to do backups. I’ve googled … but that’s just confused me!

I’d love some advice. And thank you in advance!

Note the last sentence: “Your base station might also support using Time Machine with that disk.”

Also, there are articles online that show you how to replace a Time Capsule HDD (of course that won’t help you if your HDD controller is dead).

We considered a Time Capsule back in the day, but discovered that if the disk died, Apple would replace it but your data would be lost. The problem appeared to be that the disk was likely to die due to the heat from the base station part. So instead we went for separate base station and NASes. Time has passed and there may be better solutions, for example bus powered SSD. It may help if you let us know how much data / how many machines you are looking to back up.

It really irks me that Apple refuses to officially support any NAS (except Time Capsule which, of course, is long gone) as a Time Machine destination. Come on, Apple, step up to the plate!

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@Clarke_Ching, I probably should have asked: Do you still see the disk in Airport Utility?

I use a NetGear ReadyNAS. It has 4 x 2TB disks. I got it when I had an iMac with a 2TB HDD - 2x for Time machine and 2x for RAID. Now I have a 1TB MBP and an external 1TB media disk so the backup requirement is the same.

The downside is that the RAID is connected by wired ethernet but my MBP can connect wirelessly and when it does the wireless drops regularly for reasons that remain to be determined. Then the Time Machine backup fails and when it does, it declares the Time Machine backup corrupt and its only solution is to delete the existing backup and start over, negating any benefits of Time Machine over a clone.

When I stay on wired ethernet, I don’t have this issue - but another household iMac with a permanent wired connection also encounters the same problem requiring starting over with Time Machine.

Nevertheless, you need two types of backup:

  • if your disk fails, you need to back to work now, you need a clone. For that you need Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper with a disk the same size as each disk you want to clone.
  • if you accidentally delete a file or make edits to it that you subsequently regret, you need Time Machine. The Time Machine backup should be 2x the size of the disk you are backing up, and if it’s a RAID it also needs to be another 2x bigger, allowing a redundant disk to fail without losing your data.

Before using CCC, I had HDD failures multiple times and had to recover from Time Machine. It’s possible but takes a long time, whereas with a clone you just boot from the clone and get back to work right away. Although Time Machine has its uses occasionally, I find clones more immediately useful. Also, iCloud backup may be cost effective compared to personal hardware solutions. For example a 2TB SSD costs about the same as 3 years of 2TB iCloud.

@jec0047, it’s unfortunate but I can understand Apple not wanting to support something as mission critical as backups with third party solutions outside of their control.

Apple doesn’t make routers any more either, but their products don’t have any problems connecting to third-party routers.

Apple needs to publish the specs in sufficient detail (and, yes, possibly polish up some of their software) such that vendors can implement reliable solutions. My wife’s MBP backs up to our Time Capsule, over wireless, with nary a hiccup (and via a third-party router). There’s no reason Synology or NetGear or anyone else shouldn’t be able to do the same.

Apple does allow Time Machine backups on a NAS; they just don’t want to support them.

FWIW I keep a number of TM backups on my NAS. They seem as reliable, or not, as our Time Capsule. I think their good for grabbing a file mistakenly deleted; otherwise, cloned drives are a better solution for recovery from a disk failure.

They allow it but it’s not reliable. All over this forum and others I’ve seen examples of good performance and examples of poor performance, all using the same NAS hardware. @Diane‘s example is typical. IMHO if you’re gonna provide a feature (e.g. Time Machine to a NAS), it should work; otherwise you should either 1) Work with users and vendors to make it work, or 2) Discontinue that feature.

BTW I agree with you and @Diane that Time Machine should be only part of one’s backup strategy.

Yes I do! It says the drive has an internal error. I tried, a while ago, a few suggestions I found on the internet, but none of them worked.

(Sorry for my delay in replying …)

In that case, try erasing the drive and starting anew. But you might want to start looking into alternatives.

I tried that and it failed. (And thanks for the suggestion)!

By alternatives, do you mean with a USB drive attached, or trash the whole time capsule unit?

Well, if it was me:

  1. Try installing a new drive in the Time Capsule,
  2. Look for a Time Capsule on (e.g.) CraigsList,
  3. Find a Mac Mini and set it up with Time Machine Server.