Can a Time Machine drive be switched between Airport connected and USB backups?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by pmostoff, Aug 14, 2015.

  1. pmostoff macrumors member

    Jul 21, 2015
    TL;DR: Is it possible nowadays to plug my USB drive directly into my MBP and then switch to plugging it into the back of my Time Capsule (and vice versa) to CONTINUE the backups wirelessly?

    I’ve been searching around the web to find something along these lines and haven’t found anything concrete so I apologize if this had been answered anywhere else.

    I want to keep my Macbook Pro backed up regularly. As I’m sure many have experienced, I had a bad hard drive failure a couple of years back and wasn’t prepared so ever since then I’ve used Time Machine to back things up. I find it somewhat comforting that using iCloud, I can keep most of my important info, pictures, and even a good amount of documents synced up to the cloud. This is nice because I can essentially log into a fresh Mac and get most of that sucked down out of the ether. Unfortunately this solution isn’t robust enough and I’m the type of person who likes a backup plan. No pun intended.

    So I have a new-school vertical-style Time Capsule that I use most of the time as both a router and a Time Machine backup location. My issue is, I’m still in school and live on campus. I managed to actually find a way to use my Time Capsule in my dorm which is great because I also get a LAN to myself for things like Airplay and game console smart apps. So I’ve been using that setup. Macbook Pro is connected to my own private island of a network and backs up regularly.

    Here comes the issue: I packed up and left campus for the summer, abandoning my system. I spent part of the summer living at my sister’s and then flew several states away to spend some time with my grandparents for the second half. For the most part I simply didn’t want to worry about integrating my Time Capsule into an existing foreign network but I also didn’t want to bring it with my during the flight. So I haven’t backed up in a while. This is fine. I haven’t had any problems and don’t plan on it. As long as I can last a couple more weeks there isn’t a problem.

    This got me thinking, though. In the future when I travel, either for short trips or extended ones, I’d really like to be able to backup on the go. So I’m considering buying a 2TB drive, partitioning it to use half for backups and half for random storage. The storage size shouldn’t be an issue at all for my needs. This way I can take the small drive with me on trips and just plug it in to backup.

    And finally, my question! Is it possible nowadays to plug my USB drive directly into my MBP and then switch to plugging it into the back of my Time Capsule to CONTINUE the backups wirelessly? Needless to say, the constant plugging in and unplugging to perform backups can be annoying. I did that at one point. It isn’t the end of the world but it’s inconvenient. I’d like the convenience of the Time Capsule with the ability to pick it up and go. I ask mostly because I remember trying this sort of thing in the past and not having stelar results. I’m hoping that maybe over time and revisions of both hardware and software, this is now easily possible.

    Now, I am aware that I could continue to use my Time Capsule and set up the external drive as a secondary Time Machine backup location. Honestly, I’d rather just not. I’d much rather be able to use the one drive so that I can keep it completely up to date.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post for such a simple question. I’m bad at not including background. Many thanks for anyone who can give me some insight into this situation. It would be much appreciated!
  2. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    No it is not. They use a different format. You can read about it here. On that page there is a work around if you wanted to day do the first backup to a local USB disk, then move it to a networked backup. But it is a hassle and you would not want to do it all the time.
  3. pmostoff thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 21, 2015
    Ah, thank you. Well I can't say I'm surprised. I knew that this is how it used to work but hadn't given it a go in years. I was hoping that for some reason it had changed.

    This really is unfortunate. As I said, I really want the ability to easily take my drive with me and to be able to back up when my Time Capsule network isn't available but it's also hard to beat the convenience of the Time Capsule. Being able to just connect to wifi and forget about it is so nice. I've messed around with computers for long enough to not really have the patience for those sorts of workarounds and the last thing I want to be fiddling with is the file system of my full backup, so I'll probably avoid that. Ah, well... I suppose I might just try to use both, remembering to make a wired backup before leaving for any trips. That should sort of solve the issue.

    Sad news to hear.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for your help!
  4. Taz Mangus macrumors 68040

    Taz Mangus

    Mar 10, 2011
    What you can do is setup Time Machine to do automatic backups to the Time Capsule and if you plug in a USB drive it would backup to the USB hard drive. I use this type of Time Machine backup scheme with my MacBook Pro.

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