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The Ultimate Guide for switching from a PC to a Mac
(Part 2 - coming soon)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wireless backup with Airport Extreme!

Yes, it is true, it is now finally possible to wirelessly backup with Time Machine without any Time Capsule. Backing up to an external USB hard drive hooked up to an Airport Extreme Base Station can now easily replace it. It was a feature of Leopard that Apple briefly advertised before pulling any mention of it from the Leopard info. It was unclear until now if Apple was even working on it and the release of Time Capsule only brought further doubts. Finally the "Time Machine and AirPort Updates v1.0" update that Apple released yesterday addressed the issue. As soon as you update your system, you should be able to choose the wireless drive in the Time Machine preferences. There doesn't seem to be much information about if the reliability of the feature improved as any transfer to the wireless drive didn't go well in the past. To be honest, for a while, using the wireless drive with the Airport Extreme reminded me of Back to my Mac (great features that work once out of ten times!).

If you are switching to wireless backup, please post about it in the comments with how reliable it is for you.

21 Comments:

Blogger Frank said...

I have a Macbook Pro and have been using Time Machine hooked up via Firewire 800 port. When I saw your post about wireless, I liked the idea. I updated my system software last night and checked again for any new updates today. There were none. HOWEVER, there is no place on my Time Machine preferences to select wireless.

March 20, 2008 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

Hmm. Any word on if this will work with an airport express? Or is that allusive usb connection on the express exclusively reserved for a printer???

March 21, 2008 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Jack Squat said...

This sounds MUCH better than it actually works. Lots of problems can happen with corrupt backups/Power outages/internet ups and downs and frozen computers needing a hard shutdown/restart. I have my TC connected ethernet and I can not even get one complete backup. I have a 300$ Airport Station.It also has been a huge waste of my time as I have tried to get the Backup to work with nothing getting in it's way. It fails every time. The most unApple product and experience I have had yet!

March 21, 2008 at 2:14 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

To select your wireless hd you need to select it in the Airport system preferences.
Also it should be noted you should open your airport utility and grab the update for the firmware as well. I haven't tried the time machine backup yet, but streaming videos and audio from my Airport Extreme is back to extremely stable!
I cleaned off my old backups tonight, and I plan on connecting my Macbook Pro via Ethernet tomorrow and do a backup while at work. It is best to do your first backup over a wired network if possible since there is a lot of information to send over.
All of this were tips from timecapsule users so figure it fair to try on the Airport Extreme as well.

All in all happy for the update, will try to report if can although might be busy with other stuff since it Friday and all :)

March 21, 2008 at 3:13 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Ahh that should be time machine system preference pane. Sorry the joys at posting at midnight :)

March 21, 2008 at 3:14 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

To expand on christian's question - is there a way I can wireless access a hard-drive attached to an airport express? I am still running Tiger V 10.4.11

March 21, 2008 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Dominik said...

Airport Express can act ONLY as a print server. It is not possible to plug any other USB hardware in it. It is not a wireless USB port (unfortunately, that's why I bought an Airport Extreme, although I already have an Airport Express).
I can see my Harddrive attached to my Airport Extreme in Time Machine. Seems to work, although I haven't made a full backup yet.

March 21, 2008 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Zeke said...

Can this be done with ANY external HD? I understood that it must be a powered USB HD plugged into the wall. I have a USB HD that has no power source, or an older firewire 400 powered HD, but there is no way to connect that to my new airport extreme, is there?

In short, can I use either (or both?) of my external HD's to backup wirelessly? this is something I asked apple when I first bought the new Extreme.

Any idea???

March 21, 2008 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Did all the updates including firmware. Then stopped Time Machine and carefully ejected my USB drive from my iMac. I replugged the drive into the Airport Extreme and connected to the drive - now shown in Finder as a device on the Airport Extreme. That all seemed to go OK. I restarted Time Machine. It immediately recognised the drive as its backup drive, and scheduled the next backup. Then, perhaps I made a mistake: I decided I ought to see if it works. So I told Time Machine to back up now. It is now in the process of doing a full backup, as if there were no prior backups. What's going on there? Also, I notice it puts a disk drive icon on the desktop for the backup (separate from the Time Machine disk icon). It will be hours before I know really what it's doing. Also, for those recommending that you first do a full back with the drive connected via USB and then connecting via the Airport Extreme, my experience would say (so far) that will not work. Any ideas from anyone else?

March 21, 2008 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Olivier said...

Ok, so now that it is pretty clear from all the previous comments that this is NOT possible, shouldn't the title of the article be changed to reflect this? Something like "Wireless backup with Airport Extreme: Can't do!"

March 21, 2008 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Um, Oliver, it is possible. People have various quirks, e.g. it may have to have an independent power source, doesn't work with AirPort Express (the title said "Extreme"), etc, but TimeMachine works with many USB HDD attached to AP Extreme. :)

March 21, 2008 at 6:26 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

So I left the Macbook Pro connected via wired ethernet all day today. Time Machine worked quite successfully.
I have since turned airport back on and have had at least one session running wirelessly from my Macbook Pro to my Airport Extreme (Fast Ethernet) Base Station.
So yep it works. Take a look at my previous directions if you are having problems.
Also for some additional info I have my usb hard drive hooked up to a powered usb hub which has a photosmart printer and is connected to the Airport Extreme Base Station.
Also to respond to others comments no this shouldn't work with Airport Express, those wireless access points are not designed to give HD access.

March 21, 2008 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Ahh yea Paul it makes a new backup, and the temporary mounted drive I dunno what that is for perhaps to write everything to the local drive then copy it over?
Do you have enough HD space to make a duplicate of what you were backing up? I have airport configured to only backup my User folder, since and Apps and such I would just reinstall anyway.
That is only 10 gigs about of info, since my music and video files for itunes are already on my airdisk.

March 21, 2008 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

After 10 hours I did get a full backup and an hour later the incremental backups started to run. However, instead of the tidy list of backup folders in Finder that I had when the drive was connected directly to the iMac, I just had some long-winded file name with the words 'sparseindex' in it. I also used Migration Assistant to have a look at the Time Machine backups, and it seemed to treat the backups from direct USB connection and from network connections as very different devices. When I reconnected the drive back to the computer, the 'sparseindex' file had a red 'no entry' symbol over it. I have no idea what that means. Once again I find Time Machine rather rigid. Its simplicity is its virtue, but also its curse. Don't go around changing things or it can be just too simple. For this discussion, the point is that it does seem to work over the network now, but be prepared for a complete new initial backup - over the network. In my experience you can't circumvent that by doing the initial backup first via direct USB connection. If anyone else knows how to make that work, I'd be keen to know how.

March 22, 2008 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Mikey said...

I have a Mac Book & after the updates, backing up with Time Machine did not work for me. Any suggestions??

March 22, 2008 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Dion said...

I have been using Time Capsule for a couple of weeks now, and so far it has been a pretty frustrating experience. Even after the recent Airport/TC update, it is still a pain quite often. I have had a few backups work, but probably at least half of them don't work. Often times it will say "Preparing Backup" for over an hour. Then other times the TC will just keep resetting my connection for no apparent reason. I plan to call Apple this week to see if they can sort it out - if not, I'll probably return the Time Capsule and stick with wired backups.

March 24, 2008 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger GeorgeW said...

I've been using Time Machine via wireless Airport Extreme since Apple released the update. We have two desktops and two laptops backing up onto a USB 300 GB HD that's connected to the Airport. Once the initial backup of all four was done, (which took approximately forever) it seems to be doing well, but for one thing. It seems that if more than one computer is trying to backup at once, the internet "burps" a bit. We decided that if we want to continue with the wireless backups, we'd turn off Time Machine and just do the manual "back up now" from the menu.

I would think the problem with four computers backing up simultaneously has something to do with not using a 'server grade" hard drive. Server grade just "sounds" like something that would handle multiple machines better. I could be wrong...it could just mean "more expensive".

March 25, 2008 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger GeorgeW said...

I read somewhere that if you do the initial Time Machine backup via a direct connection, USB or Firewire, you can then connect said hard drive to the Airport Extreme and be off and running for subsequent TM backups.

I didn't do it that way, but sounds like it would have been the way to go...after the fact. That first backup took hours.

March 25, 2008 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Paul B. said...

Hi GentlemanI see that I am not the only one having trouble trying to backup using AirPort. I have 1 iMac and 2 Notebooks in the house and the only way I have been able to backup is via a direct connection to the iMac (firewire 400) for the external hard drive. I tried the USB port on the AirPort with no luck. None of the computers could be recognised. I then tried it via the Hub I use for the printer – the printer worked but again the external hard drive could not be seen. This went on for some time, so now I have settled on an external hard drive for all computers (firewire 400) and use time machine easily to do regular backups … no problems….
Maybe if AirPort had less Ethernet ports and/or some more USB or Firewire ports we may have better results. What are your thoughts??
Regards
Paul

March 26, 2008 at 6:31 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Paul B. It sounds like you have not updated the firmware to your AirPort Extreme N Base Station. If I'm reading these comments then once that has happened you should be good to go. Hook the hub back to the AirPort Extreme N Base Station and then go into the AirPort utility and setup AirDisk or TimeMachine access or whatever and/or the printers if needed, save/restart the Base Station and then setup your Mac(s).

March 26, 2008 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger iqrar khan said...

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September 5, 2013 at 8:23 AM  

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