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Old May 12, 2013, 11:07 AM   #1
dmk1974
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Which is better for TimeMachine? USB drive or TimeCapsule?

In our household, we have 3 portable Macs (2 x 2012 MacBook Airs and 1 x 2010 MacBook). The practice I have been using for TimeMachine backups on each of them is to every week or so, plug in a USB 3.0 drive that has a dedicated TimeMachine partition and perform the backups.

We connect wirelessly to an Airport Extreme. I was thinking of getting a TimeCapsule (basically the same, but with the built in hard drive). Is this a better option than my current USB drive plug in method since, from what I understand, the Macs can all backup in the background to the TC? Or will it be a ton slower since over a wireless network when performing the backups?

Thanks!
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Old May 12, 2013, 11:09 AM   #2
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Take a look at a Synology NAS before you invest in a TC.
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Old May 12, 2013, 12:10 PM   #3
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Firstly, Time Machine works best when it works as designed: hourly incremental snapshots. Your Macs will store local backups when the TM drive is not available, and then transfer them when possible. But bear in mind that those backups are filling space on your hard drive (and they will get over-written if needed, so you could lose backup increments).
So it's best to have the TM drive more frequently available.

Secondly: TM does work a lot better on a direct connection, and network TM is a bit more prone to trouble. However, that would be a lot more convenient for your setup, without having to remember to plug-in the USB drive.

Thirdly, the speed of a backup transfer is not really an issue. You're not waiting for it to finish. It's a background task.
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Old May 12, 2013, 01:06 PM   #4
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Can't you just plug your HD into the AirPort Extreme and run TM backups every hour when the laptops are connected? Saves you buying a TC when you already gave the components anyway?
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Old May 12, 2013, 01:08 PM   #5
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Can't you just plug your HD into the AirPort Extreme and run TM backups every hour when the laptops are connected? Saves you buying a TC when you already gave the components anyway?
That is definitely an option I am looking at. Too bad the USB port on the AE is only 2.0 and not 3.0. The internal drive on the TC I think is the fastest at the moment. However, I do like the USB drive option because then if I restore to a Mac, I can unplug it and directly connect it to the Mac and restore much faster.
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Old May 12, 2013, 01:12 PM   #6
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USB 2 should only be an issue for the first (big) back up. After that its only small incremental ones, so you should be fine. Plus it works in the background so shouldn't really matter how long it takes.
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Old May 12, 2013, 01:33 PM   #7
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Can't you just plug your HD into the AirPort Extreme and run TM backups every hour when the laptops are connected? Saves you buying a TC when you already gave the components anyway?
That is not supported by Apple. Some people are able to get it to work fine, then for others it is erratic and troublesome. I would be very leery of this for my backups.
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Old May 13, 2013, 09:47 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dmk1974 View Post
That is definitely an option I am looking at. Too bad the USB port on the AE is only 2.0 and not 3.0. The internal drive on the TC I think is the fastest at the moment. However, I do like the USB drive option because then if I restore to a Mac, I can unplug it and directly connect it to the Mac and restore much faster.
Your wifi network doesn't run at 480 mbs. Not until 802.11ac rolls around.
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Old May 15, 2013, 05:28 AM   #9
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Your wifi network doesn't run at 480 mbs. Not until 802.11ac rolls around.
I know I won't hit 480 mbps, but USB 3.0 is usually 3-4x faster than USB 2.0 which is huge.

I just bought a refurbished Time Capsule 2 TB from Best Buy for $75. Seemed like a steal even though it says there's no warranty. Aside from the box, it looks like new. I'll now have to figure out how I want to manage my Time Machine backups...I'd like to have it constantly run in the background to the TC, but also be able to backup directly to my USB drive every week by manual plug-in to each Mac.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Time-Cap...&skuId=4020162
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Old May 15, 2013, 10:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by dmk1974 View Post
...I'd like to have it constantly run in the background to the TC, but also be able to backup directly to my USB drive every week by manual plug-in to each Mac.
You can do that with Time Machine. Follow this guide to create two backups. It just alternates between the two disks whenever you plug them in.
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Old May 15, 2013, 01:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmk1974 View Post
We connect wirelessly to an Airport Extreme. I was thinking of getting a TimeCapsule (basically the same, but with the built in hard drive). Is this a better option than my current USB drive plug in method since, from what I understand, the Macs can all backup in the background to the TC? Or will it be a ton slower since over a wireless network when performing the backups?
The main thing I like about the TC is that I don't have to remember to do backups. The first backup takes a while but subsequent sessions are fairly quick. The TC was expensive however the data is important and the hours are very full. My MBPs are backed up painlessly in the background and I can worry about something else. Other pluses are that it's quiet and doubles as my router so it's a clean setup vs. having a AE w/ USB plugged into it.
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Old May 16, 2013, 06:54 AM   #12
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You can do that with Time Machine. Follow this guide to create two backups. It just alternates between the two disks whenever you plug them in.
That's perfect...thanks! I will go that route and have both backups. When it talks about alternating, is that only while the USB Time Machine drive is attached? If I plug in the USB drive for the backup just once a week, I am assuming the Time Capsule then will backup every day and make the continuous backups until I reconnect the USB drive.
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Old May 16, 2013, 08:50 AM   #13
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That's perfect...thanks! I will go that route and have both backups. When it talks about alternating, is that only while the USB Time Machine drive is attached? If I plug in the USB drive for the backup just once a week, I am assuming the Time Capsule then will backup every day and make the continuous backups until I reconnect the USB drive.
Correct... it only alternates if they are both attached.
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Old May 16, 2013, 08:54 AM   #14
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Correct... it only alternates if they are both attached.
Thank you. One last question and then I think I am straight on the TC.

Is the TC hard drive formatted so I can also copy/backup files from a Windows PC? I read that it can't be partitioned, but sometimes for networked drives, the formatting doesn't matter. if not a separate partition, I can just create a separate file folder for the Windows PC files. Thanks!
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Old May 16, 2013, 09:06 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by dmk1974 View Post
Thank you. One last question and then I think I am straight on the TC.

Is the TC hard drive formatted so I can also copy/backup files from a Windows PC? I read that it can't be partitioned, but sometimes for networked drives, the formatting doesn't matter. if not a separate partition, I can just create a separate file folder for the Windows PC files. Thanks!
The TC drive is formatted in the Mac HFS+ format which is not usable with a default Windows install... but since it is accessed over the network, the format does matter and it can be used with Windows. Just make a folder on the drive like you mentioned and you can use that for file storage from both Windows and Mac machines.
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Old May 16, 2013, 02:48 PM   #16
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The TC drive is formatted in the Mac HFS+ format which is not usable with a default Windows install... but since it is accessed over the network, the format does matter and it can be used with Windows. Just make a folder on the drive like you mentioned and you can use that for file storage from both Windows and Mac machines.
Cool, thanks!
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Old May 16, 2013, 09:22 PM   #17
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Well, I set up the Time Capsule tonight replacing my Airport Extreme. Pretty easy to transfer settings through the Airport app on my MacBook Air. I do have to say though, I am a bit disappointed in the internal disk. Seems VERY slow...I don't think any faster when transferring files than when I had the USB drive connected to the AE. I haven't performed a TM backup yet, but if based on file speed for just a few transfers, I'm guessing it's going to take forever!

Copying a 3 GB video from my gigabit ethernet connected PC, it says it transferred at only about 29-31 MB/s. Is that normal? Seems like USB 2.0 speed even though the drive is internal.
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Old May 17, 2013, 07:38 AM   #18
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Copying a 3 GB video from my gigabit ethernet connected PC, it says it transferred at only about 29-31 MB/s. Is that normal? Seems like USB 2.0 speed even though the drive is internal.
Yes, that is what I see with just raw file transfers over wired ethernet to the TC.
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Old May 17, 2013, 09:15 AM   #19
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Yes, that is what I see with just raw file transfers over wired ethernet to the TC.
Thanks. At least it tells me that I am at the typical speed over the network and to the drive.

I have yet another off-the-wall question. If I get a Mac Mini to wire via gigabit ethernet to the Airport Extreme, can I partition the Mac Mini hard drive to create a Time Machine partition for all of the other Mac laptops on my home network? I am assuming that the wireless transfer speeds to that Mac Mini drive would be no different than to a Time Capsule unit since it is a backup drive that is hard-wired to the router.

I would then manually connect an external USB 3.0 drive to the Mac Mini and perform an entire TM backup to that USB drive, thus backing up all 4 machines to that USB drive (extra backup of course for the 3 laptops, single backup for the Mac Mini).
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Old May 17, 2013, 10:10 AM   #20
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Thanks. At least it tells me that I am at the typical speed over the network and to the drive.

I have yet another off-the-wall question. If I get a Mac Mini to wire via gigabit ethernet to the Airport Extreme, can I partition the Mac Mini hard drive to create a Time Machine partition for all of the other Mac laptops on my home network? I am assuming that the wireless transfer speeds to that Mac Mini drive would be no different than to a Time Capsule unit since it is a backup drive that is hard-wired to the router.

I would then manually connect an external USB 3.0 drive to the Mac Mini and perform an entire TM backup to that USB drive, thus backing up all 4 machines to that USB drive (extra backup of course for the 3 laptops, single backup for the Mac Mini).
Yes, you can do that by purchasing the OS X server add on in the App Store (I believe it is $19.99) then setting it up as you described.
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Old May 17, 2013, 04:11 PM   #21
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For back-ups, either will work fine, but direct connection is always better for bulk file transfers. I have a firewire drive that I gave a partition to for time machine. it works great and is quick.
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Old May 17, 2013, 09:22 PM   #22
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For back-ups, either will work fine, but direct connection is always better for bulk file transfers. I have a firewire drive that I gave a partition to for time machine. it works great and is quick.
Thanks.

I'm just trying to decide moving from my 2009 Airport Extreme to the 2011 Time Capsule is worth it. I'll probably go though the hassle of the swap and then they will come out with a new one next month.
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Old May 18, 2013, 12:22 AM   #23
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Don't do it. I have an AirPort Extreme too. Dual band, right? Keep it. The only exception I can think of is if you have a laptop and want automatic wireless backups. That is the only scenario where time capsule is worthwhile.

re-reads post: Yea, that usage scenario....time capsule would be the most practical, albeit expensive option there, but I'm not sure you can partition its drive enough to support all those macs. I know USB backup over the extreme is unreliable. Is it any better on the TC?
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Old Jun 6, 2013, 06:56 PM   #24
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I know I won't hit 480 mbps, but USB 3.0 is usually 3-4x faster than USB 2.0 which is huge.

I just bought a refurbished Time Capsule 2 TB from Best Buy for $75. Seemed like a steal even though it says there's no warranty. Aside from the box, it looks like new. I'll now have to figure out how I want to manage my Time Machine backups...I'd like to have it constantly run in the background to the TC, but also be able to backup directly to my USB drive every week by manual plug-in to each Mac.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Time-Cap...&skuId=4020162
I think you mis-understand. If you backup over WiFi, you will probably get a transfer rate between your Mac and the router of about 50 Mbit/second, and 100 Mbit/s if your connection is really good. So it doesn't matter if the router connects to the hard drive at USB 2's 480 Mbit/s speed or at USB 3's 4.8 Gbit/s speed; backup speed will not be affected at all.

If you use a Time Capsule over a 1 Gbit/s Ethernet connection, then USB 3 will make a significant difference. But over WiFi, it cannot.
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