Time Capsule vs. Airport Extreme w/ HD vs NAS

ScottR

macrumors member
Original poster
May 11, 2007
82
2
It looks like I'm having trouble with my current Time Machine drive and will need to replace it.

I'm considering several options.

I mainly use Time Machine with a FireWire 800 drive for quick backup of my iMac. I'm pretty lax about backing up my MacBook, though--months going by before I remember to attach it to a different drive to back it up, too. So, I've been considering a network solution; the dying Time Machine drive is sort of the kick I needed to go ahead.

Obviously, a Time Capsule is a quick and easy solution to it all. However, one concern is that, as with other multipurpose devices, is that if one part dies, that pretty much kills the second part--i.e., if the hard drive fails, then I must (potentially) replace the whole unit (from what I've heard, replacing the drive in a Time Capsule isn't for the faint of heart).

Then there's an Airport Extreme; from what I understand, you can attach a USB drive to the newest models for use as a Time Machine backup:
http://tidbits.com/e/14347
Of course, that's USB 2, which'll be on the slow side as compared to FW 800, but there's the benefit that if I need to restore, I can detach the drive from the AE and hook it up straight to the Mac, which should be quicker than a wifi restore (for the MacBook; I'd have the iMac hooked via Ethernet).

But there's the consideration that I have a FiOS router, so I don't really NEED another one; I don't think the Time Capsule or Airport really gives me much more than the FiOS router does, and I'd still need the Verizon router attached anyway for other services.

So, the last choice is an NAS drive. It might not play as well as a TM drive, as Apple did take some pains to support their own hardware... are there NAS drives that work better as Time Machine drives than others?

So, the essential question is, what would make the best Time Machine backup, if I want to back up two Macs (one by wifi)?
 

balamw

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Staff member
Aug 16, 2005
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New England
I migrated from a Time Capsule to a full blown NAS (HP Mediasmart EX 490) and then to a cheap NAS device for my Time Machine needs.

I currently use a 2GB WD MyBook Live which cost me US$130. However, I have found it to be a bit flaky in terms of robustness. I've had trouble restoring from it and have often had the backups "go bad" and need to be repaired or restarted. (I think that comes about when a backup is interrupted over wireless).

I do use an Airport Extreme as a WAP instead of my FiOS router because of its range and speed. I have considered moving my backups back to that or even back to the repaired Time Capsule with Wireless turned off.

Please note that the Airport Extreme and Time Capsule are really slow as NAS devices, even when accessed over the wired network.

B
 

maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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I personally think the NAS is a better option as its more flexible and provides more features. TC is really designed for one thing, backing up your mac and if that is your only goal then that TC may be better but I think NAS units are overall a better choice albeit expensive.
 

ScottR

macrumors member
Original poster
May 11, 2007
82
2
Thanks for the replies.
balamw: did you migrate to the NAS because of the AE/TC speeds, or something else (e.g., more complete network capability)? You mentioned something about a "repaired" Time Capsule... what went wrong? Was it one of the new models?
 

balamw

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 16, 2005
19,366
978
New England
Thanks for the replies.
balamw: did you migrate to the NAS because of the AE/TC speeds, or something else (e.g., more complete network capability)? You mentioned something about a "repaired" Time Capsule... what went wrong? Was it one of the new models?
My TC was a first gen Time Capsule 500 GB.

Speed and capacity were the main drivers. I wanted to replace all of my external drives and optical discs with a centralized storage system. Never quite happened. But primarily I had three Macs backing up to it (with 160GB+500GB+500GB drives to back up) and really needed more capacity.

My TC finally died for the usual reason. Heat. The power supply failed after about 18 months. The drive was fine though. I did a DIY replacement of the power supply for an external. The newer unit is designed far better from a heat perspective.

B
 

Weaselboy

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Jan 23, 2005
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California
Then there's an Airport Extreme; from what I understand, you can attach a USB drive to the newest models for use as a Time Machine backup:
http://tidbits.com/e/14347
Of course, that's USB 2, which'll be on the slow side as compared to FW 800, but there's the benefit that if I need to restore, I can detach the drive from the AE and hook it up straight to the Mac, which should be quicker than a wifi restore (for the MacBook; I'd have the iMac hooked via Ethernet).
That won't work. Time Machine backups over the network are stored in a sparse bundle format that cannot be directly accessed if you move the drive back over to a direct USB connection. There is a work around where you can open the sparse bundle and copy the backup set out, but it is a hassle and slow.

My opinion, just get the Time Capsule. It is simple and supported by Apple plus you don't have to worry about OS updates breaking compatibility like you do with a NAS solution.
 

balamw

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Staff member
Aug 16, 2005
19,366
978
New England
you don't have to worry about OS updates breaking compatibility like you do with a NAS solution.
This was actually the main reason I moved off the EX490. Microsoft killed Windows Home Server and HP didn't support it much further either so the Time Machine connector software they used became incompatible.

B
 

AppleNewton

macrumors 68000
Apr 3, 2007
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1 Finite Place
with the newer AirPort Extreme's Apple does officially support external drives to be used as a Time Machine back-up.

I have a rotation of 3TB~4TB drives every few weeks backing up multiple Macs.

So if hard drive failure and limited storage options hinder you and don't need an all in one solution, go the AirPort Extreme route and BYOD (bring your own drive).

technically you should be able to plug any time machine backup in and restore...i personally have had issues with directly connecting a time capsule drive to a mac to restore.
 
Last edited:

ScottR

macrumors member
Original poster
May 11, 2007
82
2
I ended up going with a Western Digital MyCloud drive (NAS). In the end, I decided that the Airport/Time Capsule routes had too much redundancy and not enough additional features, considering that my FiOS router otherwise works just fine. I don't really use wifi at home much at all, certainly not for anything that has much bandwidth--my iMac is hooked up via gigabit Ethernet, and when I use wifi on my MacBook its pretty much away from home.

Thanks for the input.
 
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