Saturday, March 22, 2008

How to Setup Time Machine on an Airport Extreme Basestation

Apple has updated the firmware on the Airport Extreme Base Station so we can use Time Machine now. This is a great thing as now we won't have to remember to pull in the external disk every so often. Though time Machine is smart enough to tell you it has been 10 days or 20 or more days since the last backup.

I will assume you have a Leopard Mac with all the latest updates (10.5.2), an Airport Extreme Base Station (Gigabit Ethernet) also with the latest firmware (7.3.1) and an external USB 2.0 disk at least as big as your internal disk, bigger is better however.

Preparing the Disk

The first thing you need to do is prepare the disk. I'll assume it is a new disk with no files on it. Pull it directly into your computer first and fire up Disk Utility. Select the disk from the left hand pane and in the left pane choose Partition. Select 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme and under Options... choose GUID Partition Table. Press OK. Finally under Volume Information give it a name and most importantly set the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
Click Apply and let it do it's thing. Once it is done you can unmount the disk and plug it into the Base Station. Sadly, we can't do a Time Machine backup and then move it to the AEBS, so we have to do it this way.

Setting Up the AirPort Extreme Base Station

Open up AirPort Utility and click on Manual Setup and select Disks. Go to the File Sharing tab and make sure Enable file sharing is checked. I would also recommend securing your shared disk with a password or some kind.
You won't be able to use that disk for windows file sharing as it is not FAT but, then Time Machine wouldn't work if you did.
Hit Update and wait for your Base Station to restart.

In a Finder window connect to the AirDisk under the Shared items in the sidebar. You may have to login by clicking on Connect As... and entering your password, that may not be obvious but it is an important step.

Starting Backups

I would recommend connecting to your AEBS with an ethernet cable for the first backup as Time Machine will be backing up everything and it will take a lot less time over ethernet compared to WiFi.

Open the Time Machine preferences in system preferences and make sure it is on and then select Change Disk and click on the AirDisk. It will start preparing the disk and it will take quite sometime to do the first backup, so it is best to do this before bed so it has plenty of time to do it's thing. It took mine 10 hours to do 150GB, just to give you an idea of how long it will take. After the first one it the hourly ones won't take nearly as long as they are much smaller. You just need to make sure that the AirDisk is mounted.

Moving iTunes Off of Your Computer

You can also use the same technique to move your iTunes library off of your computer and onto a sufficiently large AirDisk.
Making sure you are connected to the AirDisk as above, you can go into iTunes preferences and under Advanced change the iTunes Music folder location to the AirDisk. I would also recommend activating Keep iTunes Music Organized and Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.
Then actually move all of the tracks you need to go to the Advanced Menu and click on Consolidate Library. This is move all your tracks onto the AirDisk. If you have a big library it will take some time, so hooking up via ethernet is a good idea. You might want to let all this run over the weekend.
If you are away from your network and download more music, video or podcasts, iTunes is smart enough to save them to your local Music folder, to add them to your main library all you need to do is run the Consolidate Library command again.


ChrisBlaze said...

Thanks for the Time Machine tutorial, it helped out alot!

artsfish said...

The only problem is that it seems that Time Machine is quirky as to which air disks it recognizes. My western digital Mac OS Extended formatted drive shows on my desktop, but under System Prefs/Time Machine, the drive isn't recognized. It doesn't show using the AirDisk utility either. Time Machine backs up fine to my local LaCie hard drive.

Stephan said...

That is probably the reason Apple doesn't officially support Airdisk Time Machine. I hope they would create a certification program or something. I use a Seagate FreeAgent Pro and it seems to be having problems but it may just be the disk going to sleep.

artsfish said...

I found this on a board;

"everyone, this worked wonders for me and is easier than the rest of the solutions imho

Run this from terminal and load up time machine to select your drive! You don't need to hook the drive up to the Mac first, you dont have to go chowning files and all that nonsense.

defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1 "

Worked like a miracle for my Western digital drive. I didn't even try my LaCie drive as an AirDisk - I've had 3 LaCie drive failures and friends that had more as well, so I don't trust THAT company in the long run with my backup.

RogerD said...

Thanx for the info ... I was backing-up in 5 minutes!

Stephan said...

Good it really isn't hard.

J. said...

When ever I plug in my external drive the my airport the configuration fails to load. As soon as I unplug it the configuration will load. Any ideas?

Stephan said...

Have you tried logging out and back in? It that has helped me from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Typo: "let it do it's thing" --> "let it do its thing"

Philip Barrett said...

I had to disable disk sharing in the Airport Prefs & re-enable for this to work.

Contact said...

I am trying to set up a Time Machine backup through my AEBS USB Disk.

The USB disk is formatted GUID with a single partition (1TB Fantom) and appears in the shared menu and mounts in the finder on all three of my computers on the AEBS.

I just cannot get it to show up in Time Machine as an available drive to back up to.

I partitioned using GUID as many posts suggest.
Drive appears in shared menu and mounts in finder
In Time Machine drive does not appear as a destination from all three of my computers on my network

In Airport Utility
Firmware version 7.4.1
File Sharing Tab: Enable File Sharing is checked
I have tried "with accounts", "with a disk password" and "with airport extreme password".
Remember this password in my keychain is checked
Airport Disks Guest Access: Read and Write
Share Disks over WAN (I tried checked and unchecked)

I am running 10.5.6 on all three Macs. A G5 tower and two MacBooks.

I have read a lot of troubleshooting posts on this issue, but I believe I have tried everything I should. I imagine it is something simple at this point.

Any thoughts and guidance greatly appreciated.


Stephan said...

There is one more thing to try and that is to do a reset on the AEBS.
You'll need an unbent paperclip.
There is a little recessed button on the back. Poke it for 30 seconds and then you'll have to set the AEBS up again.
Also try another disk to see if it might not be a problem with that one.

Bentsen said...

If you cannot get it to work, please check that you Airport's name does not contain any non-alphanumeric characters. For instance my Airport's name was "" and that didn't work, however "intimo" did work.

All of a sudden Time Machine could see my 500GB disk attached to my Airport Extreme.

Anonymous said...

A tad annoying, but I needed to disable disk sharing, and then re-enable it before the disk would show as available.

Now it's working. Brand new AEBS on 7.4.1 with a home-assembled 500G frankendrive. (Seagate SATA drive+aftermarket housing)

dbisbee said...

removing the decimals from the name of my extreme fixed the time machine not seeing the drive issue! Thanks!

Stephan said...

The name certainly seems a critical part of this. Keep it simple.

PK said...

Thanks for the blog, that was helpful. One comment is to remember to turn off automatic log off option in security under system perferences. It took me 3 attempts to try to do the first back up which lasted many hours.

One question:
If I move itunes to another disk connected to airport extreme (via usb splitter), can I use time machine to back up the internal and the new external drive both to the back up disk?

Stephan said...

As far as I know, it will not. TM only appears to handle internal disks, there is no place that I can find to tell it to backup external disks.

heyotwell said...

Another person wrote these instructions, which are similar but might be more clear for some folks:

Hieu said...

Not sure if it works for all drives but at first I couldn't get my WD My book to show up as one of the drive to backup to. Make sure after the step where you type in your password to access the drive on the sidebar: Click on the folder inside the drive and you will see an eject icon next to it. Then it will show up in the Time Machine backup menu.

Stephan said...

I use MyBook and they work fine.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, got Time Machine connected and back-upping in minutes!

Stephan said...

Great, that's what I like to here.

some asian guy said...

hi. thanks for providing the bridge between the airport extreme setup guide and the limits of my apple intuiting. (appreciation especially for the extra note on how to shift my itunes library to an external hard drive.)

Ryan said...

This article is what did it for me, simply a matter of going to finder, clicking on the drive is "shared" and voila, TM found it.

Hope that helps.

Jackie said...

Thanks for this! I was really frustrated until reading your post. So simple, once you know what to do!

Stephan said...

Good, for you. Glad it worked.