Time Capsule Design

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by auero, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. auero macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2006
    I had a 2nd generation Time Capsule die after exactly 2 years and one month. I don't like it personally as a router (I prefer dd-wrt) but to simplify the Time Machine backups for my family, I use it. So I purchased a new 2TB Time Capsule shortly after.

    My last time capsule got really hot so since its busted, I decided to open it up. I found that the power supply had fried (burns on board of power supply) Upon opening it I noticed that the design seems extremely flawed.

    For example, the bottom of the device has a rubber cover on it. If you remove the cover, the panel actually has holes on the bottom and larger holes around the sides which would allow a lot more air into the device. It looks like Apple suffocates the device by not allowing enough air flow.

    So my question is has anyone tried to remove the rubber and possibly putting tiny rubber legs on it to allow more allow to flow through? The new model doesn't appear to get as hot as my old one but spending $300 every two years on a backup solution is insane. Granted, I don't expect the thing to work forever but I'm thinking of ways to prevent it from happening from what I've seen.

    Yes I'm aware you risk your warranty by doing this. Quiet honestly, if you use enough heat and patience, you could remove the rubber without damaging it and just gluing it back on in the event something happened.

    Edit: For reference, here is a photo I found of what the bottom plate looks like for those who haven't seen it. I don't see how that fan does much except move around the air inside.

  2. HellDiverUK macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2009
    Belfast, UK
    Apple's engineers designed the Time Capsule. They didn't just throw a load of bits in a metal box.

    There's nothing wrong with the design - it works.

    People who don't know what they're talking about fuss because the case gets a bit warm. Guess what? It's getting warm because it's emitting heat!
  3. auero thread starter macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2006
    Uh, what? I assume you haven't seen http://timecapsuledead.org/

    I'm surprised apple just didn't make it have an external power brick.
  4. HellDiverUK macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2009
    Belfast, UK
    Yeah, but how many failures are there compared to sales?

    If Apple sell 2 million Time Capsules and 1% fail, that's 20,000 failed. 0.5% failure (which is way better than industry standard for electronics) is still 10,000.

    Also, how many of those failed Time Capsules were:
    - Sitting on a shelf under some books
    - Sitting on a desk in direct sunlight
    - Sitting near a heat source (radiator, heater vent, computer exhaust)
    - Dropped/knocked over/otherwise abused
    - Suffered electrical spikes

    Do you know? No? You can't say the Time Capsule is a faulty design then, can you?
  5. vitzr macrumors 68030


    Jul 28, 2011
    Yes it does work.

    Very well for a very short period of time. And your right, Apple engineers "didn't just throw a load of bits in a metal box."

    They cleverly crafted it to deliver a very short service life before expiring so Apple could sell more. Those engineers in Cupertino have added to Apples bottom line quite effectively.

    And they're not the only benefactor. Apple Tax applied to short lived peripherals have done wonders to drive my stock up from the lowly price of $20 per share when I got in, all the way to were it is today.

    Thanks Apple :) :)
  6. auero thread starter macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2006
    You can't confirm that Apple sold 2 million Time Capsules, can you? No? Then you can't say there isn't an issue when Apple themselves released a repair/replacement program for the Time Capsule (Source: http://www.macrumors.com/2010/07/12/apple-offers-repair-program-for-2008-time-capsule-power-issues/)

    I never said Apple threw a load of bits into a metal box and called it a day but I'm questioning their decision on covering air vents. Suggesting that the probable reason for Time Capsule failure is based on user negligence is senseless. My Time Capsule fell out of range of the serial numbers that apples covers and while it did last longer than 18 months, it stood on a shelf with a cold title underneath, far away from anything else in a temperature controlled environment. Go figure.

    Even if there was a small percentage of users who abused their device, why would sample data show that the average Time Capsule died within 520-580 days? No this isn't data from EVERY time capsule made but it's just a piece of sample data.

    Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/nov/04/apple-time-capsule-failures-early

    It doesn't take a genius to understand that something on 24/7 with a hard drive in it with little air circulating inside of it won't run long. You must have a magical Time Capsule because although my new one runs a lot cooler, my last model was HOT to the point you couldn't hold it to unplug it from the back connector.

    Quiet frankly I don't know why I'm even wasting my time discussing this because I didn't ask for an opinion on the Time Capsule's design. My question was if anyone had tried to modify the time capsule to allow more air flow such as this:

  7. bobr1952 macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2008
    Melbourne, FL
    A lot of reliability depends on location. Mine has always been separated from other equipment. It is now on a elevated table inside a closet with my cable modem and still runs only warm. This Time Capsule has been running 24/7 since May 2008. Guess I got lucky.:)
  8. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    The early model Time Capsules had a bad design that lead to early failure. It is well documented on several web sites including one posted by the OP. Later designs changed and the premature failures have diminished.
  9. Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816


    Apr 25, 2011
    It does get unnecessarily warm during long drive operations though, such as during a full erase/backup operation. Apple wouldn't have had to change the design much at all, certainly not to an extent that would have compromised its visual appearance, to have a box that would have run nice and cool.
  10. bwhinnen macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2010
    San Diego
    Sounds like the lack of airflow combined with the use of the 'server quality' drives contributed to the issues. The high end 'server quality' HDD's especially the older ones of a few years back ran extremely hot which would not have helped with the cooling issues of the original design.

    I have a few older 500GB Hitachi 'server quality' SATA II drives here at home and they run on average high 50ºC temps and higher still when being used, imagine that in an enclosure with minimal heat dissipation and a power supply right next to it :)

    The newer drives all run at much better temps.
  11. auero thread starter macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2006
    That was the only benefit of opening the old time capsule up. I found it had a Western Digital Black Caviar drive in it. At least I can use it for something.
  12. Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816


    Apr 25, 2011
    There's no "server quality" harddrives in any model of time capsule. They're all just plain ol' regular consumer drives with 5400 RPM spindle speeds.

    The whole "server quality" hullabaloo stems from an Apple-only definition (read: over-exaggeration) of "server quality" which lacks any foundation in reality, where they basically define any drive with a stated 100k hour MTBF as "server quality" even though MTBF is not a fixed definition, and lacks any real connection to actual reliability.

    The time capsule gets warm because it's basically a closed box with almost no ventilation.
  13. chrisfackrell, Dec 3, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2011

    chrisfackrell macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2011
    The TC is a flawed design

    I do know what I'm talking about.

    The construction of the TC is superb, using very well made components, inside a wonderfully designed case, doing a very neat and convenient job of backing up our files.

    HOWEVER... the design is flawed. Up until the most recent TCs hit the streets, (the 2TB and 3TB) the innards had three basic cooling errors...

    1. There is no air inlet hole.
    2. The fan, as installed, points the wrong way.
    3. The fan did not turn on until the interior temperature was so high, it caused the TC to shut down.

    Point number 3 has been 'corrected' - the latest versions DO have the fan running at a speed proportional to the internal temperature.

    Points 1 and 2 are really very fundamental. The sub assembly component that generates the greatest heat is the PSU. To keep within its operating temperature range, it needs forced air cooling - not much, but it does need SOME.

    The PSU covering is in effect a tunnel of insulation material. The end of the PSU has a cross sectional shape that exactly matches the axial fan outlet port on the fan provided. The fan however is 90 degrees off axis to allow any air to blow through the PSU.

    IF air is allowed into the side of the axial fan, it creates high pressure and forces the air from its open edge.
    IF the open edge is made to point through the PSU, it cools the components to be within their design specification temperature.
    IF the fan (at least) blows at a slow speed, it creates sufficient airflow to remove the excess heat. The whole TC body runs some 10 to 11 degrees C cooler.

    I created a comparison infra red picture of a modified and unmodified pair of TCs. Whilst not exactly referenced to an absolute temperature, the picture does show substantial cooling.

    No additional parts were added to this 'modification' - other than an odd resistor to make the fan run at half-speed and some stainless steel mesh to stop bricks and feathers going inside. :)

    My background? I'm a design engineer in electrical and mechanical equipment. That came to an end in 1987 when I then became a Quality Engineer (and ultimately Manager) in a large (then) computing company in the UK. I now demonstrate and sell energy management systems that I have a hand in designing.

    The picture shown elsewhere in this thread of a modified TC, was done by me. Cool TCs do not fail. Hot TCs always seem to fail. Basic common sense, and nothing seen so far has altered my opinion.

    From a business point of view, Apple merely need to make the TC a 'bit' more reliable and last a 'bit' longer. Making the fan stir the air about inside the case will help, running green drives will help but neither of these things alters or corrects the flaw in the design. See the 3 points above.

    For Apple to redesign the TC, in its present case and format would be prohibitively expensive; Apple would resist this as much as a politician would a straight answer. It is not a main selling component, it is a popular accessory.

    I attach my IR picture; it speaks for itself. Copyright - Chris Fackrell - 'Eutechnics'.


    Attached Files:

  14. auero thread starter macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2006
  15. chrisfackrell macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2011
    Basic TC cooling

    The rubber base acts as a good insulator, you would think. Heat it up and peel it off and you left with a shiny aluminium base plate. The heat radiated from this is almost the same as the grey rubber mat - so 'no' it makes no substantial difference.

    On a bog-standard TC, the most effective way to make it run a degree or so cooler, is to stand it on its edge with the power lead going in on the lower side. A natural convection flow occurs through the PSU. There are vent holes around the edges of the TC base that are not covered over by the grey rubber mat.

    Cool air can flow in at the lower edge where the unmoving fan is situated, up through the PSU and out through the vent holes in the edge of the case.

    My tests showed this lowered the temperature 'slightly' by maybe 1 to 2 degrees C.

    Peeling the rubber mat off and strapping heat sinks all over the base to help conduct the heat away, did make the case a bit cooler but did next to nothing for the internal components of the PSU. They were still above their specified working temperature - 'just'. This was very dependent on the room temperature, since internal temperatures followed the outside, mostly.

    Keeping the TC inside a 'fridge made it run really well - unfortunately the wifi became useless! :)
  16. swordfish5736 macrumors 68000


    Jun 29, 2007
    my TC has been running strong since april of 08 with no issues. Of course now that i say that it will die
  17. bobr1952 macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2008
    Melbourne, FL
    Nice to see someone else who has an original release TC that is still running strong. :)
  18. LFMNX macrumors regular

    Feb 14, 2011
    Passive Cooling with aluminum block

    It would seem to me that since the rubber on the bottom is getting warm that it would be good to try and extract the heat from that in a passive way. Sitting on wood or even with an air gap is a thermal insulator. I believe that if the unit was place on an aluminum block it would pull heat from the unit. I placed mine in an aluminum sheet pan once and you could definitely feel the aluminum pull the heat out. Alas my wife did not like the esthetics of my solution !
  19. old john macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2005
    This thread changed my mind about a TC replacement

    My TC (bought 4 Aug 2009) died yesterday and it was clearly the power supply that failed. (Originally it was hanging vertically on a wall, but to get the signal throughout the house I had moved it to the floor of a cupboard in a normally unheated room.)

    I took it to the Genius Bar in my local Apple Store (Cambridge, UK)

    To my horror I was told that they don't replace power supply boards and I'd have to buy a new one. What a waste of the 1TB HD and the wireless router!! This doesn't seem very Apple-like. :( I have had apple computers since 1989 and Apple has looked after them pretty well.

    If I wanted the files transferred, there was another solution: for UKP212 they would supply a similar TC (1TB HD) and transfer the data with no additional charge. As I wanted the data transferred, I went ahead with that option and was told they'd let me know when it was done.

    Having read this thread, especially Chris Fackrell's post, I rang the store half an hour ago and cancelled my order. I'll probably buy the current model, which is only ukp39 more than the refurb. At least the fan will run more and I'll go back to hanging it vertically!

    Then I'll have to find out how to transfer the files from the old TC myself. :confused:
  20. Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816


    Apr 25, 2011
    The newest gen TC has a much better wifi range, and higher throughput at more or less all ranges (especially when the signal grows weaker), so getting a new one isn't just a big ol' waste.

    As for transferring files, you can open up the old, dead time capsule and extract the harddrive from it, then hook it up to your computer using for example an USB-to-SATA converter dongle and just straight copy the files.

    It's of course much faster and quicker to simply connect the HDD straight to your computer if you own a Mac Pro, or are able to find some kind of software that'll read OSX-formatted HDDs on a PC. USB is quite alright for smaller amounts, but transferring potentially hundreds of gigabytes of data can get very tedious. :)
  21. old john macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks for your reply Lenny. Things have now moved on. Some good and some not-so-good news.

    Before buying a new TC, I thought I should check that I could buy AppleCare for it, because this thread shows it wasn't just that I was unlucky with my first TC! The store said I couldn't buy AppleCare for it, but that a new TC might be covered if we had AppleCare on a computer bought recently, for the remaining period of the computer's AppleCare.

    We do have AppleCare on on a recent iMac and they suggested I phone AppleCare to check if that would cover a new TC bought now. I phoned AppleCare and explained the various products we had under AppleCare and they said that they would cover the replacement of the original TC.

    They arranged this for me and said that I should phone the Apple Store (Cambridge) to check this arrangement had come through and that the store had the replacement in stock. I did that and was told the arrangement had come through and there was a replacement was in stock. I replied that I'd leave for Cambridge almost immediately to pick it up. I was asked to bring the serial number of the iMac whose AppleCare was being used. When I got to see the 'genius' he said that they didn't have a 2nd generation TC in stock after all and I'd have to come in again when they do!

    Ouch! That means (a) we're now without backup and wireless router and (b) another trip into Cambridge on the buses packed out with Xmas shoppers! I asked the genius if he could send it to us to save coming into the store again. He suggested I should ask AppleCare if they could do that.

    On leaving the store I anticipated arriving home and having to explain why I was without the TC! So I reentered the store and eventually managed to see the genius again and offered to pay the difference between the 2nd generation TC they were supplying for under AppleCare and the current generation, which they had on the shelves. No, that couldn't be done, he told me!

    Home again TC-less, I rang AppleCare to request the replacement be sent. I was passed around three people explaining the situation to each in turn on a 34-minute call! The second guy said I'd have to give my credit card number and send them the original TC. I explained that it was in the Cambridge store, so that wouldn't save me having to go make another journey into Cambridge!

    He then put me on hold for a long while before passing me on to a third person, who told me no they can't pay for the replacement to be sent. He said that as I had taken the TC into the genius bar, I'd have to collect the new one from the store. Usually, in my experience, Apple bends over backwards to make it up to customers when they have made such mistakes and I am, of course, pleased that our AppleCare policies are covering the replacement. However, I am very annoyed at having made a useless trip into Cambridge and that they won't make it up by the simple act of sending out the replacement.

    Anyway, the good news is that if you keep buying AppleCare, it seems that TCs under three years old can be covered by a Mac policy that is still in force.

    But I do wonder how they are going to supply me with a refurb 2nd generation TC, when they tell me they can't even replace my power supply board!!
  22. Primejimbo macrumors 68040

    Aug 10, 2008
    I have a 3rd generation and it's going strong, and I bet the current ones are even better. Has there been these heat issues with 2nd to current generations?
  23. matt94gt macrumors member

    Jul 9, 2011
    Victoria BC Canada
    So whats the best way to help it cool? Im talking the newest gen 2gb. Put a vent in it?
  24. jowie macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2004
    London ish
    I'm going to add that I've had my 2nd Gen TC since June 2009. After the first year, I upgraded the drive from 500 GB to 1 TB, and very recently I upgraded it again to 3 TB. It does run warm-to-hot when backing up, so I have done a very basic mod... Cut a gap in the rubber mat underneath the fan to channel the air from the back. I also keep it raised slightly using a couple of coasters for a little extra ventilation.

    Still running okay, touch wood! We need long-time TC owners to come on this thread and report how long their TCs have been running for, and if they've had any issues :)


    Do you know if the Time Capsule needs to be under three years old to be covered by AppleCare? Do they state anywhere it won't be covered if it's over three years old?

    Having said that, I've butchered mine now, so I've likely voided the warranty... :p
  25. old john macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2005
    Sorry, I've forgotten the details of the incident now and had to remind myself by reading my earlier posts in this thread! (Well, it happens to most people as they get older! :() However, I can guess from AppleCare on other products.

    The longest AppleCare I've been able to buy on any Apple product lasts till it's 3 years old (eg, MBPs and iMacs) and for some products it's shorter -- I recently bought an iPad 4 and was only able to buy one extra year rather than two. So I think it's unlikely Apple would cover a TC that was older than 3 years, especially as you can't buy AppleCare for a TC directly . . .unless, of course, Apple has changed its policy on this now that the newer ones are more reliable.

    Presumably the better reliability of the recent TCs isn't because Apple has made a hole such as you described! So does anyone know what modification Apple made to the design of the more recent ones to stop them overheating?

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