Newbie questions about airport/time machine

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Panini, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. Panini macrumors regular

    Jun 12, 2012
    Palo Alto, CA
    I am 99% clueless about this kind of stuff, so I have a few questions, grateful if anyone can answer.

    1. What is the difference between airport express and airport extreme?

    2. Can both routers set private/public ports for port forwarding?

    3. What benefits are associated with using an apple product (e.g MBA or MBP) with an airport router? Are there any integration features?

    4. Is Time Machine better than both the airport extreme and airport express? If not, in what ways is it inferior/different?

    5. Is it possible to plug a usb memory stick to the back of an airport extreme/express and have it function as a network drive that anybody can store files on?

    6. Is it possible for the time machine to use its 2TB/3TB storage as a network drive instead of having to use it for backups? If backup size does not fill the data limit of the time machine, is it possible to use the rest to store shared files? Is it possible to partition a certain amount of the time machine's memory to become a shared network drive?

    7. What are the advantages of using Time Machine/airport with an apple TV? Is it optimised for AirPlay?

    8. Is it better to use a netgear/linsys router with a PC or is airport optimised for both systems (perhaps with some bonus features for mac users)?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. smellalot macrumors 6502

    Dec 6, 2011

    Apples routers have a feature called wake on demand which wakes Macs from sleep even on a wifi connection.

    You can use the storage of TC any way you want. Time machine is designed only for TC.

    I think you can partition the drive in the TC, but I don't own one. Just google it.

    TC and APExtreme are faster than APExpress and have a better range.
  3. iMarvin macrumors 6502


    Sep 29, 2011
    On the internet!
    You can't, unless you remove the drive and connect it directly to the computer. :)
  4. robgendreau, Aug 2, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2012

    robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    An Extreme has more features, and at least in older iterations was more powerful. Big extras were the ability to attach a USB hard drive to the Extreme, but the Express, aside from portability, has that cool jack for attaching audio devices that allows you to beam music to it (especially cool with Airfoil; look it up). You cannot attach USB drives to an Express; its USB is for printers.

    Both can let you port forward, but only one should do that at a time.

    It's easier to use a Mac with either, mainly because Apple, unlike most every other manufacturer, uses it's own application, Airport Utility, rather than a web browser :mad: . I'd say that it's marginally easier to use an all-Apple network, but not in a big way. Hassles often occur anyway, and a likely problem area is the connection with your ISP, which isn't Apple, and whatever gateway/cable modem they use. Apple uses somewhat different nomenclature, and firewall configurations, although they all are the same behind the hood. But, although expensive, the Apple stuff is good quality. If you are gonna use a drive attached to an Extreme, it's definitely better because more other routers that have that feature require a different file format for the disk, which is a pain if you use Macs. With the Extreme you can just attach it to your Mac with USB if you have to and not worry 'bout mounting issues, etc.

    I prefer Extreme plus drive rather than TC. With a TC, if the drive fails you've got a router with a paperweight. YMMV.

    Time Machine is a bit of software. It doesn't depend on whether you have a certain kind of router, but Time CAPSULE is designed to use it, and I think it's the only officially supported network storage that Time Machine can use. But I think people have used other network storage with either Airport Extremes, but it's less reliable. Again, YMMV>

    TM backups will grow and grow until they run out of the space you assign them, whether it's on an internal, external or TC. So they could be of different sizes, and even have other stuff already on them. TM will then begin to delete ONLY the oldest VERSIONS of files it has backed up. Not the other non TM files, and not the only copy of any file. It's generally not a bad idea to partition the drive you have for backups just to preserve some more space though, since you may not know how big that TM backup has gotten, and you wanna be sure you have enough space to store all the Bullwinkle videos you're collecting.

    Again, Time MACHINE isn't a machine, it's the software. The Time CAPSULE is a machine, a hard drive and router combo. Now that I write this, I feel your pain.... A Time Machine backup is a group of files that the TM software wrote on a Capsule or other hard drive you designate for the Machine, er software, to backup to. Sheesh.

    Apple TV is yet another uber-Apple product that basically is a front end for the iTunes Store...just kidding, barely. It's basically the only way to get streamed video from a Mac to your HDTV wirelessly; that's AirPlay video. You can audio to Apple TV, the Express, iDevices and some third party products, but that's AUDIO. Some Mac software will also stream video to iDevices as well. So yeah, it's optimized for AirPlay. But if you don't mind connecting with wires, it's a meh. There are many ways to connect an HDTV with a Mac that don't involve your network. And AirPlay can work with a wifi network that is created with a non-Apple router. Time Machine is backup software; it basically has nothing to do with AirPlay.

    PCs and any other device that uses wifi or ethernet should work fine with an Express or Extreme. You may see some devices that are easier to configure because they use UPnP (plug and play), which Apple isn't really into, but it's usually a matter of opening an appropriate port, making sure you don't have a double NAT (which means two routers trying to direct traffic at the same time), and generally following instructions. I've had PS3s, Directvs, TiVos, PCs, Linux boxes, printers of all sorts, and even the hardest of the hard, security system DVRs, running on a network accessible through the internet and uverse and ATT DSL and cable with success. Not saying there aren't hiccups, but it's doable. And kinda fun in a ham/hacker/techie way. Check out; good source of general networking know-how not limited to Apple.

    Have fun! Judging by your intelligent questions, you'll get it all sorted.


    I don't think you meant this, but Time Machine is designed to be used with more than the Time Capsule; it will work with virtually any external USB or Thunderbolt or Firewire drive, for example.

    And although you can't partition the drive in the TC, if you use an Extreme with an attached USB drive you can, of course, format that by just connecting it to a computer via USB. Handy.
  5. smellalot macrumors 6502

    Dec 6, 2011
    That's what I thought, but wasn't sure about it ;)

    That's right. As the OP I was referring to the airport devices.
  6. Panini thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 12, 2012
    Palo Alto, CA
    Oh, Time Capsule was what I meant, not Time Machine...

    So, what I understand is, Time Capsule = AirPort Extreme + 2TB Memory Stick?

    IF I decide to use the time machine software, that space will be used for backups, correct?
  7. btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    Time Capsule has a "server grade" hard drive, not flash based memory.

    Yes, the Time Capsule drive would be used for Time Machine backups. You can also use it as networked storage if you'd like (from

    You could also use an Airport Extreme with a connected USB hard drive for Time Machine backups if you'd like.

    If you want to use it for backups, the price of the 2 tb Time Machine is pretty competitive with buying an Airport Extreme + a 2 tb external USB drive, so I'd just go with the Time Capsule.

    For the record, I have an Airport Extreme and have a USB hard drive connected to it - although I don't use Time Machine (I back up via other methods).
  8. macrumors member

    Feb 5, 2010
    I have recently(today)been researching this for myself, and have read that it can be problematic to use the Airport Extreme Base Station(AEBS) with a USB connected hard drive for Time Machine backup, and that it is not approved by Apple.

    Here is what I found on Apple's site:

    I've read in different forums that some people were successful trying it but many others had problems(corrupted backup files). Given what the above link says, I personally wouldn't buy the AEBS hoping that it works with Time Machine. However, I am tempted to try it since I already own the AEBS! :D

    At the time I bought my Airport Extreme Base Station, I considered buying the Time Capsule but I had read about hard drive failures in them so I got the AEBS instead. I don't know if this really was or is a problem, so if I were you I'd check it out before buying a Time Capsule. Also, I checked Apple's site today and the buyer rating for the Time Capsule appears to be better on them than I remember them being when I was in the market for one.

    Hope this helps, and good luck!
  9. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I don't like the idea that if the drive in a TC fails that's it; hard to replace.

    So I have used AEBS plus my own hard drives.

    Some have had success with TM backups onto an external drive attached to an AEBS. Some not. I wouldn't trust it for automated TM backups, but if you do them manually, verifying that it's working and completed, then I think you're fine. It just depends on how you do your backups. Keep in mind that network storage, particularly over wifi, is gonna be a bit less robust than a drive attached directly to your computer. Just a few more things to go wrong.

  10. IeU macrumors member

    May 1, 2011
    Found this thread thru google. I do also have a small question.

    I have a high-end 2011 27'imac and an airport extreme with a 2TB harddrive connected to it. I am using the harddrive as a Time Machine backup hd and also for my itunes library . . .

    i would like to know how can i get how much free space that network hd has . . .

    Any tips on how i can read the free space thru network?
  11. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    Um, I have a Time Capsule, but I think this should work:
    Mount the disk, then right-click it and pick "Get Info".

    Use Finder to mount it -- the Airport Extreme should show up in the left pane of a finder window under "shared". Click the AE, then double-click the drive.
  12. macleod199 macrumors 6502

    Mar 10, 2007
    I definitely gave up using my old AEBS for this. Not sure if the new ones are any better.
  13. Lehcim macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2012
    I will use this thread as well, I want to build my network at home like this:
    - iTunes and iPhoto libraries stored in a drive which can be accessed by any device in the network
    - iMac and libraries all backed up

    What's the best way to do this?
    - If I connect a NAS to TC or to an Airport Extreme, the libraries in the NAS will easily be accessible but only the internal data of the iMac will then be backed up by TM, right?
    - If I connect an USB drive to the iMac and store the libraries there, TC can back it up but I need to have the iMac turned ON to access the libraries from another device, right?

    Any suggestions?
  14. macrumors member

    Feb 5, 2010
    You and others could use Time Machine to back up to the NAS. Just make sure the NAS is TM compatible.

    Not 100% sure what you're asking here, but your iMac would have to be on if you want others to be able to access a shared drive connected to your iMac. Instead of powering off your iMac, you could just put it to sleep to save power and others could still access the hard drive. You'd just have to make sure it's set to wake on lan. I looked for a wake on lan option and couldn't find it in my OS X ML but I've read where people changed a plist so it wakes on lan activity. Also, I'm not sure how well a shared drive connected to your iMac would serve music and photos to others on your lan, especially if you are using it at the same time.

    I, like you, am exploring the use of NAS and TM and the best way to use them to serve and backup data. FWIW, many/most people have recommended that TM not be your only backup. Most say to have DVD type backup and offsite backup like CrashPlan and/or photo sharing sites. Some people don't even consider anything on a hard drive as a legit backup. I have to laugh at that, but they just might be right!
  15. Lehcim macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2012
    My idea is to have 2 different HDD backups, but I'm still trying to find the best way to do this.
  16. ZMacintosh macrumors 65816


    Nov 13, 2008
    No proper way to do it, thats not what is intention was. only to be a back-up appliance, you can drop files on there but its not recommended

    False. The new AirPort Express has similar enough power and range as the current AEBS and Time Capsule. actually its quite a power and sufficient router, the difference between the Express and Extreme are the eithernet ports and one can handle a hard drive, while the new express may be able to but havent confirmed.

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