Is AirPort Time Capsule worth it?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by sarakn, Oct 17, 2013.

  1. sarakn macrumors 6502a

    sarakn

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    Feb 8, 2013
    #1
    Hi All,
    I'm anxiously awaiting the release of the new rMBP next week(I hope) and working on my shopping list.

    This will be my entry into the Mac world and I wanted to get your opinion on the AirPort Extreme Time Capsule. Is this a worthwhile purchase? I already have a high speed wireless modem from my cable provider and I'm wondering if AirPort is just another wireless modem with a built-in hard drive. I'm still fuzzy on if this a replacement for my cable modem(doubt it) or if it's just a wireless hard drive.

    Seagate has a 4TB drive for $150, so is this a good replacement or am I paying a premium for the apple brand?

    It sounds like I can connect external drives to airport. I have a few WD external drives at home (500GB, 1TB and 2TB) that are connected/formatted for my PC. If I connect one of these to AirPort, can I still access the files without formatting?

    Thanks!
     
  2. AlecMyrddyn macrumors 6502

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    #2
    What you have from your cable company is a Cable Modem with integrated Wireless Router; two devices in one.

    The AirPort Extreme Time Capsule is a Wireless Router with a built in Hard Drive that can be accessed on your wireless network. It does not have a Cable Modem built in.

    You would still need a cable modem to connect the AirPort to if you got one. If you kept your existing cable modem, you'd want to have your cable company disable its WiFi and Router functions so that the AirPort took them over.

    I have an older non-Time Capsule AirPort, and had an external HD connected to it. It worked OK, but every once in a while it would stop showing up as an available network drive usable by Time Machine from my Mac. I would have to reboot the AirPort to get it working again. According to this page, the newer AirPort Extremes will work with for Time Machine backups with an external drive. http://pondini.org/TM/Airport.html

    As for your external drives, read http://www.pcworld.com/article/250431/how_to_share_an_external_drive_between_a_mac_and_a_pc.html The short answer is that yes, you should be able to at least read the files from the windows drives, but writing to them may be difficult or impossible if they are NTFS format (likely). If you need read & write capability, they might need to be reformatted as exFAT ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExFAT ). The AirPort Extreme has only one USB port, so to plug al lthese drives in simultaneously you will need a USB hub between the AirPort and drives. And you should be able to access all these drives on the AirPort from any Mac or Windows machine on the AirPort's WiFi LAN.

    TLDR Version: If you want an AirPort Extreme for the network disk function, get the non-Time Capsule version and use your existing external USB disks with a USB hub. You still need your cable modem to connect the AirPort to the Internet. You can downgrade to one without Router/WiFi functions, or have those capabilities disabled.
     
  3. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #3
    Time Capsule is worth it if you want to:

    a) go for TimeMachine backups of your soon-to-be Mac (and you should, esp if you go for a SSD model)
    b) a decent 802.11n or 802.11ac WLAN, that plays well with Apple devices.

    In other cases it would not make much difference if you chose alternatives.
     
  4. Dweez macrumors 65816

    Dweez

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    #4
    It depends on what YOU want. Do some homework on the pros & cons of the device and make a decision.
     
  5. sarakn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    sarakn

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    #5
    What is the point of this response? Clearly I've done some work because I did provide additional information regarding options. I'm asking a question based on the info I've found already - if I knew more, I would not have asked.
     
  6. bobr1952 macrumors 68020

    bobr1952

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    #6
    I have gone back and forth with this as to what would work best. I have a first gen Time Capsule but had thought about replacing it with an Airport Extreme and connect an external drive. Now I am back to my original thinking of sticking with the Time Capsule when the time comes to replace this one. Time Machine works flawlessly with the Time Capsule as does the external drive I have attached to it for my iTunes library--so I plan to stick with this configuration.
     
  7. sarakn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    sarakn

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2013
    #7
    Thanks for the explanations. Let me make sure I fully understand.

    AirPort Extreme is just a wireless router. AirPort Extreme Time Capsule is wireless router + hard drive.

    My current wireless cable modem provides higher data transfer rates so it seems there's no need to downgrade - as there's no additional charge. If I connect the AP TC to the modem, it essentially becomes a wireless hard drive, right?

    Since I'm able to add another hard drive to AirPort extreme, it will be a matter of connecting a new external drive to AP TC for additional space, or connecting multiple drives via a USB hub.

    I know all this is overkill, but I just want to understand the uses and possibilities of AP TC.

    Thanks!
     
  8. leman macrumors 604

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    #8
    What kind of router do you have currently? Actually, Apple routers are among the fastest consumer routers on the market, so they are far from being overpriced. A nice feature you get with them is the ability of wireless Time machine backups - and also, using your Apple ID you can access the hard drive from outside. This is one of my favourite features as I can still transfer data to my home network while traveling abroad. It works reliably, with good performance and without any need to have static IP and so on.
     
  9. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #9
    That's a bold statement! What kind of wireless speeds do you get from your wireless cable modem?
    Current crop of AETC sports 1.2Gbps 802.11ac wireless, so top of the crop AtM.
    I for example, switched wireless off on my ISPs router and switched exclusively to AirPort WLAN.
    PS You can use AETC-s USB port to share additional hard drive or a printer on your local network. Or both (using a USB hub). And when your AETC has direct connection to your ISP, you can switch on the Back to my Mac feature, as leman explained above, so you get access to yoru home Macs, AETC shared disks and printers also from the Internet, without the need to configure any network settings manually.
     
  10. sarakn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    sarakn

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    #10
    Honestly, this is just more than I would ever do. I know it sounds crazy, but even for someone who works as an IT consultant, I try to disconnect as much as I can. Yea, it's nice to be able to connect to my home network I just choose not to. If I don't have something with me, oh well.

    I'm the same way about phones - I have my ringer off 99% of the time and only use it when I need to make a call. If you need to reach me and I answer, great. If not, email or text, because I don;t check voicemail.

    As far as air port, I just want something to back up my files so I was not sure if AP TC was overkill or if I can just use a standard external drive.


    BTW - I can't remember the last time I backed up my laptop, but since I'm in an apple buying mood, I wanted to see what purchase was worthwhile.
     
  11. AlecMyrddyn macrumors 6502

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    #11
    Yes! Except Apple calls the models with hard drives "AirPort Time Capsule - xTB", the Extreme is the model without the HD.

    No! :)

    In order to share a HD or Printer from an AP (Time Capsule or Extreme), the AP needs to be your Wireless Router. The best way to do this is to disable the Router and WiFi in your Cablemodem, and use an Ethernet Cable to connect the modem to the AP. If you can save money with your cable provider by buying your own cablemodem and using it, it might be a good time to do so (some cable companies charge a monthly lease fee for the cable modem).

    You WANT to use the AirPort as your WiFi Router. It is a better Router than most cable modems, has the option for a guest network, and is more configurable by you. Also, if you have a new Mac capable of 802.11ac, it can communicate faster with the new AP than it can with your cable modem's WiFi. The more devices you get that support 802.11ac, the faster your internal network will be when talking locally.

    Basically. "Additional Space" that is separate. If you are using Time Machine for backups, it can alternate between two disks for example, but each need to have the space needed for the backup. http://www.macworld.com/article/2026503/how-to-create-redundant-time-machine-backups.html

    There are potential performance benefits to using the built-in drive on the AP TC, as the USB port is only version 2. USB 2 maxes out at 480 Mbit/s, whereas the SATA drive is at least 3.0 Gbit/s (I'm not sure what speed the AP TC SATA interface is.) Since 802.11ac maxes out at 1.3 Gbit/s, the WiFi speed you are getting might end up being the bottleneck...

    The 2TB model seems reasonably priced: most external 2TB HDs are right around $100, and the 2TB model costs $100 more than the AP Extreme. The 3TB model seems to be overpriced to me.
     
  12. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #12
    I got a used, low capacity Time Capsule and use it with another, larger hard disk plugged into the USB port for my backups. Like the OP, I have my network fully set up, with enough devices as far as routing/modem/wifi is concerned, so I was looking for the simplest way to add a network accessible drive. Used Time Capsules are cheap, and additional hard disks can be purchased very inexpensively as the need arises, the total cost is much lower than buying a new Time Capsule with a large drive already inside. Plus, you can get two external drives and rotate them if you want even more protection of hardware failure.
     
  13. sarakn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    sarakn

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    Feb 8, 2013
    #13

    Thanks. This makes a lot of sense. Since I have a windows desktop and will have a Mac laptop, this should not be an issue since I set up the router via the local IP address, right?
     
  14. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #14
    The SATA drive is at most 3.0 Gbit/s, in reality you are not going to get anywhere that close with a spinning disk. Also, aside from the initial backup, which will likely take a long-long time over network, you might not care about the time it takes to complete subsequent incremental backups, so long term benefit of faster speeds for this purpose is limited.
     
  15. AlecMyrddyn macrumors 6502

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    #15
    Sort of... The AP has a setup utility you must run from your Mac, Windows PC, iPhone or iPad. It can't be accessed via a web browser like most routers.

    That said, a router is a router, and the AP TC or AP Extreme aren't really different in what they do once configured.

    All your computers and networked devices will be on the private network behind the AP. It will hand out private IPs just the same as your current cable modem/router. It can do this for devices connected to it via an Ethernet cable, or via your wireless networks. Note that the AirPort Extreme/TC support two WiFi networks, one for you, one for your guests.
     
  16. AlecMyrddyn macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Excellent point. It could be a 6.0 Gbit/s model in the AP TC, but I doubt it. Your point about interface overhead is a good one.

    An external disk plugged into the AP has several advantages:
    1. You can plug it in directly to the computer for the first backup or loading files on to it over a higher speed interface, then connect it to the AP and perform your incremental backups or changes over wifi and the slower interface.
    2. You can replace or upgrade it without having to void the AP's warranty.
    3. You can fill it with a back up, unplug it, and move it off-site.
    4. You can bring it with you without having to disconnect your network.


    I'd definitely lean toward the cheaper AP Extreme and your own external USB disk(s).
     
  17. leman macrumors 604

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    #17
    Just a sidenote: no HDD in the world is even approaching the 6.0Gbit/s speed, and fastest consumer HDDS (I am talking about high-performance 10000rpm drives) are barely hitting 200MB/s on large sequential reads. Bottomline: its does not really matter which interface the TC uses.
     
  18. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #18

    Your points 2, 3 and 4 are some of the reasons I went with the external drive in the first place, but I think point 1 is actually incorrect.

    When you do backups through USB, it stores files directly on the disk, but when you do it over network, it creates a sparse bundle disk image and uses that. Maybe there is a way to go around that, but it was not entirely obvious and my impression is that you cannot use the same backup disk both over USB and over network without duplicating data.
     
  19. KevinC867 macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    How is the performance of the current AirPort Extreme when transferring data to an attached hard drive? I ask because I have tried it with my Airport Extreme which is a few years old and the performance was terrible. I don't remember the numbers, but it was much much slower than USB 2.0 speeds. This was with wired gigabit connections between the router and my computers.

    My understanding is that a real NAS product would be *much* faster.
     
  20. priitv8 macrumors 68020

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    #20
    Maybe the situation is better with the latest 6th gen 802.11ac AP, but before that your suggesion called for plain trouble. I've tried to back up to USB drive connected to 1st gen, 2nd gen and 4th gen Extremes, all had the same problem: "Time Machine completed a verification of your backups. To improve reliability, Time Machine must create a new backup for you."
     
  21. AlecMyrddyn macrumors 6502

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    #21
    And Apple seems to only support Time Machine backups to a USB drive connected to an Air Port Time Capsule... Not an Extreme.

    I don't understand why that should matter...

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2038

    But it's a good point to keep in mind.
     
  22. sarakn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    sarakn

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    Feb 8, 2013
    #22
    Thanks again, all. I think I'll just purchase the seagate 4tb drive for $150 and go from there. If I choose to purchase AP, I can simply connect the seagate to AP.

    I know I'll need to format seagate for Mac. Since I plan on running parallels, do I need another partition to save files created using parallels?

    I think I already asked this. Sorry long day and at the airport trying to get back home - a physical airport. ;)
     
  23. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #23
    I believe this only applies to the previous gen Extreme, the new tower model Extreme can be used with a USB external for Time Machine. I recall in the main thread when these came out somebody even posted a photo of the manual page that explicitly said this.
     
  24. Tomb01 macrumors 6502

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    #24
    One other consideration. I think 'most' people on this board are relatively competent from a technical perspective (trainable at a minimum), but in my household the other member is not so technical. I use Super-Duper for my normal backup strategy (nightly), and a mixture of directory synchronization and scheduled backup scripts to keep specific portions of my environment available in at least 3 generations. My wife, on the other hand, is non technical. She might, occasionally, sometimes, think about backing up, so the Time Capsule is primarily for her. It automatically backs up her system, without intervention, and was instrumental in getting her onto a new Air when her old (gen 1) died (had a hinge issue that finally broke completely).

    I use the Time Capsule for a couple of specific directories that I know I update frequently and care about, and directory or disk archives for the larger and less frequent image copies. Your mileage may vary, but the Time Capsule's 'ease of use' and absence of requirement to 'think' or 'administer' make it a useful addition to a location that has varying levels of technical interest.

    Just my thoughts....
     
  25. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604

    SnowLeopard2008

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    #25
    Apple's routers (AirPort) have always been amongst the most expensive consumer routers but are worth the price. I just bought one recently (AirPort Extreme 802.11AC) and I have to say it's much better than any other router or even 802.11AC router out right now. It's extremely easy to set up and monitor due to the AirPort Utility software that comes on every Mac and an app that can be downloaded to iPads, iPhones and iPod touches. The difference between the regular AirPort Extreme router and the Time Capsule is that the latter has a hard drive inside. The price difference between the two models is almost exactly the price of the hard drive inside. You can find cheaper hard drives when they're on sale but for the most part, you aren't saving any money by buying the AirPort Extreme and connecting an external hard drive. This is assuming both hard drives are exactly the same.
     

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