Home Apple "System" Critique

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ZGXtreme, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. ZGXtreme macrumors regular


    Sep 19, 2008
    In light of a near crash and loss of data this week with my 2010 MBP my interest has been rejuvenated in creating a system of complimentary Apple products to share data capacity as well as backup a few crucial files.

    On my current MBP this is where I stand;


    As you can see, iTunes takes up most of the space as I'm sure it does for many others. Over the past few days I've mentally drawn up this plan which I'd like to get opinions and suggestions on.

    Beginning, the MBP would be sold and replaced with a 13" 2014 MBA with a 256GB drive and 8GB of ram.

    To offset the reduced storage space, would upgrade my current AirPort Extreme with the 3TB AirPort Time Capsule. For Time Machine purposes I'd partition 500GB of of the internal drive. The remaining 2.5TB I'd partition for iTunes library use as there are many movie purchases I've yet to download (purchased 100+/-).

    I have very few truly critical files, so what I do have I was going to make a secondary backup utilizing a Micro SD Card in a tray from The MiniDrive.

    To free up additional space, decided I could also maintain my photo library within iCloud Drive once it goes live. My financial documents; Excel, could be copied using Office 365 Personal.

    Are my bases covered or do I have a hole which I cannot see? I know I may need to backup the iTunes library but most can be re downloaded so at this time it's merely and inconvenience rather than catastrophic.

    To round out the system; will replace our iPhone 5's with 6's (Me: 32GB, Hers: 128GB if confirmed). Same with our iPad minis.

    All in all, trying to find a streamlined setup with data redundancy, while logically sharing data across the board to make best use of the SSD drive size, and minimizing the data streamed to her iPhone and iPad while on cellular.

    What would you change?
  2. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I have recently been down that road - my primary computer is a 2013 MBA with the 512gb ssd. When my iTunes library grew beyond 300gb, I needed a new plan. I put my iTunes library on a 2TB time capsule and it worked, but there were some caveats.

    The problem comes if you lose the connection to the time capsule while iTunes is running. Lots of things can cause that - for example, closing the lid of the computer without quitting iTunes, then waking it up somewhere else. I ended up with a corrupt library several times and had to fix things up.

    Backing up your library is another problem. I used carbon copy cloner to backup to an external drive attached to my MBA. The backup software has to run on the MBA and all the data flows over wifi, which can take awhile (about 30MB/s). I ended up getting an ethernet interface for my MBA, but the time capsule tops out at about 50 MB/s.

    So it works, but you have to be careful to avoid crashing iTunes or corrupting the library. After awhile this bothered me, so I got a Mac Mini for an iTunes server. You could also use an older Mac, I know a lot of people use core2 duo machines. This setup also lets Apple TV's and i-devices access the library all the time without running iTunes on the MBA.

    I'm very happy with this new setup, but it comes down to personal preference. You could certainly make it work with the Time Capsule as you described.
  3. ZGXtreme thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 19, 2008
    I'd certainly like to go to a server set up in the future. Right now I may be able to swing the above without much out of pocket. So figured I'd use this as a first step then say when we move to our next house, really developing a proper server setup housewide to control my Apple products as well as the home.

    Right now, just trying to establish a first tier of protection (Time Machine), a second tier (selected copies of the most critical items on other hardware; i.e. Micro SD discs), then a third tier using the cloud such as iCloud Drive, Officer 365, and maybe Drop Box at times.

    The rest is simply trying to best utilize and spread out of the data to accommodate the MBA. Thanks for the tips on iTunes, we do not use it much as our main consumption devices are streaming through the Apple TV's, so the little steps as far as ensuring iTunes is closed, etc. shouldn't be a big hindrance.
  4. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    I wouldn't put iTunes Library onto the same drive as my backup. It's just too many eggs. While your list of truly critical files may be small, the time spent reconstructing a lost media collection can be substantial (are most of those videos iTunes purchases, or are they from other sources). Between that and potential performance issues, I'd put media on a locally-connected drive, and include that drive in the Time Machine backup to Time Capsule.

    I'm also looking forward to using iCloud for primary photo library storage, but considering the size of that image library, you may be able to get much or all of it up into Shared Photo Streams now (up to 100 shared streams, up to 5,000 photos and videos per stream).
  5. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    To my knowledge, you can't partition the Time Capsule's internal drive. Certainly Apple gives you no convenient way to do it. You could remove the drive from the TC device, put it in a SATA dock connected to your Mac, partition it, and re-install it in the TC, but from what I remember, the TC will repartition and reformat it anyway at first startup. The one post I've seen claiming success was actually a repartitioning of the disk image (sparsebundle file) that Time Machine creates on the disk -- NOT a repartition of the actual internal hard drive. As such I don't believe it will accomplish what you want. I could be wrong, but don't count on partitioning the TC drive without more research!

    I'm not necessarily saying you can't or shouldn't put your iTunes library on the TC, though (but see comments about backing it up, below). I believe you won't have any trouble if you just put the iTunes library on the TC internal drive along with the sparsebundle file that Time Machine will put there. Neither Time Machine (nor the Time Capsule itself) will delete files and folders you put there. However, the sparsebundle file containing the MBA backups will continue to grow over time until it has used (almost) all of the free disk space. After that point, it may happen that you want to add something to the iTunes library that is bigger than the available free space on the drive. At that point, you would have to manually delete some old backups, and (I think -- can anyone tell me if I'm wrong or right?) you'd have to manually compact the sparsebundle disk image file to free up the space before adding the desired items to the iTunes library. (Compaction is done with the 'hdiutil compact' command in Terminal and isn't that big a deal if you're comfortable with the command line.)

    The reason I emphasize "may" in the above sentence is because I think in actual practice when TM discovers low free space on the drive it deletes enough old backups to free up quite a lot (a couple of GB, but I may be wrong) of space on the drive. Thus I think you'd always or nearly always have enough space to add what you wanted to iTunes. (I base this statement on what I observed when I Time Machine on two Macs backing up to the same drive.)

    I think the bigger issue is backing up the iTunes library if it "lives" on the TC drive. I think everyone would agree such a backup is mandatory. Since it's not on your Mac or directly attached to it, Time Machine cannot back it up to anywhere. Airport Utility lets you "archive" the TC internal disk to an external USB drive connected to the TC, but it's not clear to me whether that just archives the backups or all of the files on the disk. You'd have to test that. But in any case it would be a manual action requiring human interaction, and that is enough to disqualify it as a good backup strategy, in my book.

    As Boyd01 wrote, that leaves you with using something like CCC to back it up to an external HD attached to your Mac, with the associated WiFi network delays, and the inherent throughput limitations of the TC itself. I suppose you could use CCC to back the iTunes library up to an external USB drive connected to the TC, but it seems to me that would entail sending the data over the WiFi twice. However then you wouldn't have to have a drive attached to your portable Mac. Either way you have to buy an external drive.

    It's not easy going from a 750GB Mac to a 256GB Mac!
  6. AxoNeuron macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2012
    The Left Coast
    I tried to do what you're talking about. Then I just used two external drives to hold two copies of everything and just deleted everything on the mac and rely on the cloud and iTunes Match. This has let me hold all of my music and videos in the cloud so that none of it takes up space on any of my devices and computers. I have a backup of everything in case the studio removes it from the iTunes Store but I also don't need to store it on an actual device, just stream it from the cloud.

    It's pretty neat actually, but it only works if most of your video is purchased from iTunes. If not, I would suggest just using an external drive and not bothering with some wireless solution, it is not as convenient as you would think it should be and Apple clearly favors the cloud.


    I have tried this as well. The Time Capsule USB port provides a head-scratchingly inconsistent connection. But even if you don't have an inconsistent connection, the problem is that it is incredulously, unfathomably slow. I'm talking 4.5MB/s. Trying to transfer a several-hundred-gigs iTunes library would take weeks.
  7. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    I think AxoNeuron's suggestion of using iTunes Match is good because it means you don't have to have an external drive connected to your MBA to play your music and videos, but it's bad (if I understand him correctly) because it requires you to regularly remember to plug in the external drive to back up your iTunes library. People almost invariably forget or get careless about doing so, and then don't have an up to date backup when they need it.

    Unfortunately I can't think of an ideal solution for your iTunes that doesn't involve another (basically stationary) Mac (could be an older model like mine) or forgetting about the MBA and sticking with a MBP with enough storage.

    By the way, while I think keeping your iTunes library on a Time Capsule may be problematical, I highly recommend the Time Capsule for backing up your Macs (and any you may get in the future) along with their attached drives. I especially recommend it for portable Macs like yours, because the Time Capsule/Time Machine combination will automatically back up your portable Mac whenever you use it within range of your home WiFi. Most other solutions require you to plug in an external drive when you bring your Mac home, and as I mentioned above I think relying upon consistent, regular human behavior as part of your backup strategy is a big mistake.
  8. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    It just occurred to me that if you got a used iMac or Mac Mini, it could act as the iTunes server (and the "owner" of the iTunes library) and could act as a network destination for Time Machine when backing up your proposed MBA. Then you wouldn't need the TC at all and still have the advantage of automatic, wireless backups of your MBA.

    In this setup, the MBA backups would go to either the internal or a directly attached external drive of the stationary Mac, which would be "turned on" all of the time like a server (but allowing it to sleep is OK thanks to some neat tricks Apple has implemented). The internal drive of the stationary Mac (plus any external attached drives) would be backed up by Time Machine to a separate directly-attached drive.

    Your MBA would have full access to the iTunes library on the stationary Mac whenever you're connected to your local network, plus Time Machine (on the MBA) would automatically back up the MBA without human intervention, plus you would not need anything attached to your MBA, giving you maximum portability.

    You would need to buy a (possibly used) Mac to use as the server, and a largish external drive (probably USB), but would not need to buy the Time Capsule. (I'm assuming your current Airport Extreme is working satisfactorily.)

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