Mobile Line Of Business

Richard Jones (MVP)

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Over the past few years as we’ve added more and more devices to our home network, I wanted a solid way of backing up PC’s and Macs both to local storage and to the cloud.    I’m not going to cover the cloud aspects of our backup solution in this piece, but I thought I would share with you my in-home findings.

So let me take you back 4-5 years.   I started like I’m sure most of us have,  plugging a USB hard-drive into various Macs and PC’s (when I remembered ) to try and get myself a backup.   Apple Time Machine works great,  but in this guise you still have to remember to plug the drive in from time-to-time.

This evolved into me thinking 'ah-ha’   I can plug this hard-drive into an Apple Airport Extreme and use this so that I can backup over the network.     I tried this with a 4th generation Airport Extreme,  and its very unreliable and this configuration not supported by Apple (although this is in very small print).     Although still officially not supported I have found several people on the Web that say with  latest Airport Extreme (6th Generation) this does work.

So reluctantly,  I sold the Airport Extreme,  dug deep and paid out a whopping £299 for a 4th Generation Time Capsule.      So now I had a solution that in combination of an external 1GB hard drive connected to the Time Capsule gave me 3TB of backup space.   The Time Capsule (and I should say Airport Extreme are both very solid wireless access points and provide flawless Airplay,  however all of this comes at a premium price.

So let me bring you up-to date.   Over the Summer my Time Capsule died taking with it my entire household of backups.   I have secondary backups of course, but I didn’t want to rely on an single point of failure.   The Time Capsule had suffered a power-supply problem and from what I can see this appears to be a well documented design fault with the lack of air-circualtion inside the unit causing the power-supplies to fail -

I was concerned that given that most people (?)  don’t exactly want their router,  backup drives on prominent display so hide them a way in a cupboard or something.    This seemed to not exactly be conducive to the Time-Capsule’s lack of cooling issue.

You can see with the 6th Generation of Time-Capsule that the case design has been changed,  maybe some form of acknowledgement by Apple of the issue (?)

I contacted Apple, expressed my concern that the unit’s power supply had burnt out which worried me as this is a device that sits largely running all day and night on a wooden surface.  Apple were nice, supportive but ultimately it was pay for a repair (not going to happen given my experience) or buy a new re-designed unit.

So now what….     I was left with perfectly good disc inside that Time-Capsule containing the majority of our household/memoriesbackups and the external drive which among other things contained my work machine’s backup.

I could - go around the loop again buy something from Apple.   Given the above experience (and the fact that our children needed school shoes),  this wasn’t an option.

I could - go out and buy a NAS case re-house the drives and use that.

Or as I have done I’ve pulled the drive out of the Time-Capsule and connected it to a Raspberry Pi.

Enter The Pi

Firstly, I turned my Virgin Media Super Hub back from Modem mode back to acting as a router; which although a bit slower didn’t really seem to make any noticeable difference to my home network (used heavily by 5 people).

I opened the Time-Capsule found it pretty easy to get the 2TB hard-disk out.  The hardest part of the operation was getting the rubber (sealed) sticky floor tile thing off of the Time-Capsule.   This floor blocks the small internal fan entirely.   Once done with it took just removing a few screws to get the drive out.   I purchased a 3.5” USB drive enclosure from Ebay -

This let me re-house the drive.   Then following, the guide here -

Used a Raspberry Pi B to plug both hard drives into the Pi and connect to Ethernet.  During the process I did take it upon myself to format the drives and start the backups clean.



It working great.    OK,  its not the most aesthetically pleasing 3 power plugs and a birds nest of USB cables;  however its all hidden and runs very cool.  It has cost me the price of drive enclosure ( £11.99 ) to continue my household backup's

+ I have Samba working now on the Pi so I can backup to Windows & Mac’s with ease.     The whole process took about an hour to get working.


To conclude

I would have loved for Apple to step-up acknowledge this design issue and replace my Ttme-Capsule;  however its refreshing to find that you really can build something from next to nothing to solve a problem like this. 

 Just worried for others that a Time-Capsule may burn your house down.




posted on Saturday, September 5, 2015 5:19 AM