Apple Time Machine

Apple Time Machine

Exploring Network Attached Storage

When Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was announced Apple’s Time Machine features were revealed creating a great deal of buzz and anticipation of what this type of solution this would be. Integrated systematic backups were a long standing desire by many Apple users but to have it integrated as a part of the operating system was unheard of. The primary feature of Apple’s Time Machine is that it automatically saves an up-to-date copy of everything on your Mac including photos, music, videos, documents, applications, and settings. The simplest way to start using Time Machine is to set it up using an external drive, however with the arrival of Time Capsule users had an additional option. Frequently I am asked what is the best option when setting up Time Machine and what are the associated costs.

External Hard Drive
Essentially the most straightforward option for Time Machine is using it with an external hard drive. It is really easy to set up, backs up quickly using USB 2.0, FireWire 400 or FireWire 800 and is arguably the most reliable. A external hard drive could run you anywhere form $89 for a Maxtor USB 2.0 to $154.94 (Lacie d2 Quadra, my pick). To set this up all you have to do is:

  1. 1. Attach the drive and Mac OS X 10.5 will ask you if you want to use this drive as your Time Machine backup drive.
  2. 2. Click OK
  3. 3. System Preferences will automatically launch with the Time Machine window open.
  4. 4. You will be asked to choose you backup Disk.

That is pretty much it. The first backup takes a while but after that it runs fairly quickly.

AirPort Extreme with External Hard Drive
The current AirPort Extreme Base Station with Gigabit Ethernet ($129.99 +LaCie d2 Quadra 500GB ) offers external USB hard drive sharing with all users on your network and can be accessed remotely over the Internet. An additional plus is that you don’t have to sacrifice a wireless printer when you hook up the hard drive. Just connect a USB hub to AirPort Extreme and attach your devices to the hub, that’s it. You can share a printer and a hard drive or multiple printers and multiple hard drives. To set this up you will have to already have your AirPort Extreme configured.

  1. 1. Launch Apple AirPort Utility
  2. 2. Click the Disks icon
  3. 3. From the main window of AirPort Disk Utility enable “Show AirPort Disks in the menu bar”.
  4. 4. Enter the username and password required to access the AirPort Disk.
  5. 5. Click the AirPort Disk menu bar icon and select the Base Station with desired USB hard drive.
  6. 6. Select the desired hard disk (AirPort Disk).
  7. 7. Enter the username and password required to access the AirPort Disk(s).
  8. 8. Once mounted on your desktop launch System Preferences.
  9. 9. Click on Time Machine.
  10. 10. Click on Choose Backup Disk.
  11. 11. Select the AirPort Disk.

Network Attached Storage – Time Capsule
The easiest route to take here would be to purchase a Time Capsule Dual-band ($275.69 + tax). Here you getting a router and drive in one. Just plug in, configure and let Time Machine do the rest. Here are some quick setup steps.

  1. 1. Connect your Cable/DSL to your Time Capsule via an Ethernet Cable.
  2. 2. Connect the Time Capsules power cable.
  3. 3. Open AirPort Utility (Applications > Utilities).
  4. 4. Your Time Capsule will appear with a name like “Time Capsule fea88c”. Click continue.
  5. 5. Select “Create a new wireless network” and click Continue.
  6. 6. Follow the rest of the on-screen instructions. Apply the settings.
  7. 7. Click the AirPort Disk menu bar icon and select your Time Capsule.
  8. 8. Login.
  9. 9. Launch System Preferences.
  10. 10. Click on Time Machine.
  11. 11. Click on Choose Backup Disk.
  12. 12. Click on Set Up Time Capsule.
  13. 13. Follow the on-screen instructions.

Network Attached Storage – non-Apple
If you are interested in using Time Machine with either a non-Apple router with a USB hard drive connected or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device like a Drobo + DroboShare Bundle ($652.99 ) or 500GB LaCie Network Space ($116.99) or similar you are going to be disappointed. What I have read is that any NAS or non-Apple router is not going to work with Time Machine unless you do some terminal commands to override it. What I have seen to make this work with any NAS based drive is that you need to trick Time Machine in to backing up to the drive. Here’s how:

  1. 1. Setup your Drobo and DroboShare and make sure everything is working together.
  2. 2. Next you will need to create a sparse bundle image using Disk Utility. Start by launching Disk Utility.
  3. 3. Click on New Image at the top.
  4. 4. Save your image temp.sparsebundle. Your Volume Name: Back up < Name of your Mac >. The Volume Size is typically twice the actual size of the installed HDD you are backing up.
  5. 5. Copy the disk image to the root folder of your NAS.
  6. 6. Open a Terminal and execute the following command for the Mac to be backed-up by Time Machine.

    defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

  7. 7. Launch System Preferences.
  8. 8. Click on Time Machine.
  9. 9. Click on Choose Backup Disk.
  10. 10. Time Machine will fail or stop the prepare action as soon as it starts. If you now look at the connected NAS drives root folder you will notice an additional file is created. The file will be named something like :


    Rename this file to NAMEOFHARDDRIVE_001debec863e.sparsebundle.

  11. 11. In System Preferences > Time Machine click on the Change Disk and select None from the list.
  12. 12. You can now delete the xxx.temp.sparsebundle from your NAS.
  13. 13. Now again you select your NAS as your Time Machine Disk. This time there should be no errors and Time Machine will start backing up your Mac.

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