Using Time Machine with WNDR3700 router

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Stankonia, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. Stankonia macrumors regular

    Jun 4, 2009
    Denver, CO
    I bought a new WNDR3700 router a few days ago and since it has a USB port to add network drives, I decided to buy an external hard drive (WD Elements) to use with it for Time Machine since I was living dangerously by not having backups of my important files.

    I plugged the portable drive into the router to test it and it showed up in the network at first; but afterward I reformatted to HFS+ for Time Machine. After reformatting, it no longer shows up in the router. I am guessing it is because it was originally formatted NTFS and the router must not support HFS+.

    Is there a downside to reformatting to FAT32 so I can use Time Machine wirelessly? (I did some searching before and found that I would need to use FAT32 to get it show up with the router, but I don't know anything about file systems).

    Or is there any other way to get the WNDR3700 to recognize a drive formatted HFS+?

    Edit - Hmm, after doing more searching it looks like FAT32 can't have partions larger than 32GB, so I guess that won't work for me. Any WNDR3700 users using Time Machine wirelessly have suggestions? :)
  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Unless there's some restriction on your router, which I doubt, FAT32 has no trouble with volumes over 32GB (of course, it's easy enough to try and confirm this for yourself, since formatting should only take 20 or 30 seconds).

    What FAT32 does have is a limit of 4GB per individual file. Time Machine over the network uses sparsebundle images, however, which should bypass this limitation--they're actually a collection of many smaller files, though it appears as one disk image file to you when working with it.

    That said, I wouldn't do what you're trying to do; wireless routers, in my experience, are very weak as data serving devices, particularly when it comes to the thousands of small transactions necessary for a Time Machine backup. At worst, this means your backups will be VERY slow--my personal experiment was about a tenth the speed compared to backing up to an actual server computer over the same network.

    Worse, Time Machine over the network is known for being a little on the flaky side, and routers serving data seem more prone to this. I was attempting to do just what you are with a WD MyBook and an Apple gigabit AEBS, which worked fine (albeit slowly) for about three or four backups before it would eventually corrupt the time machine image, causing total backup failure. It did this repeatably, and I've read a number of other people having exactly the same issue with similar hardware.

    The same drive (and other similar ones) served from a Mini over the same network, however, is solid--never had an issue with it in the past ~1 year of use.

    It's a pity that the technology doesn't seem to be quite there overall, but for the time being I'd recommend either doing your backups manually to the router/WD drive, or just using the drive with Time Machine connected directly to your Mac, where there will be no stability problems (and it'll be a lot faster).

    The direct-connect method also has the advantage that the drive won't be plugged in most of the time, which will offer some protection from power spikes while it's not in use--say, a nearby lightning strike.
  3. Stankonia thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 4, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Thanks for the reply, that is pretty disappointing to read though. Not so much because of the slow speeds of wireless backups, but because of the corruption issue, since the whole point of backups is to have the peace of mind of knowing your data is safe.

    I can see your point though, it seems like it would be safer to have my portable drive disconnected when not in use (in case of power surges). The hard part will be getting myself in the habit of hooking it up every so often to do backups since it's something I have always ignored in my 15 years or so of using computers, haha.

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