Time Machine and Airport Disks, redux

Update: treat the contents below with caution!

It looks like I could have been mistaken… see the end of the post…

Wireless Time Machine?

OS X 10.5.2 dropped yesterday and after the frenzied upgrading, I’ve been exploring the changes. I can’t say that Apple’s release notes are particularly detailed… for instance, they don’t mention the fact that Time Machine now ‘sees’ disks attached to an Airport Extreme base station as valid backup targets.

I’ve been wanting this for a long time (with “long time” being relative in the tech world!). Over-the-air backups seem like an obvious idea… when I get home with my MacBook Pro I just want it to sync against the network storage. Why shouldn’t that work? Apple seems to agree, given that they’ve now released a product which enables just that.

I attached the USB disk I have been using for Time Machine to the Airport and mounted it. Sure enough, Time Machine can now see it… but when I set it to use that disk for backups, they fail. Time Machine also can’t see the existing backups on the drive. I’ve also tried moving the Backups folder into the Andy folder (my Airport Extreme is set to use User security), but that doesn’t work either. I’m thinking it might be related to the security setting on the Airport… should I be using User, Disk or Base Station password for the disk? Who knows?

Here’s a quick look at what I’m seeing:

Apple haven’t updated their support article yet, so maybe this isn’t really supposed to work, still. Any advice appreciated.

In other news

The other fixes in 10.5.2 seem fair… I’m not going to switch off transparency in my menubar, but the Stacks changes make sense, and Finder seems more reliable at seeing my network. I’ve had Mail freeze on me once, though 😦

Update! Maybe I was wrong?

Back when Leopard first came out I was casting around for solutions to this and came across the hack that suggested setting a hidden option to get Time Machine to show unsupported network disks. The last time I tried it, it didn’t work… but I don’t remember whether I “unset” the option afterwards. Today, Maria Langer reminded me about that tip, and on a hunch I checked to see whether that option was still enabled. It was, so I unset it… and now Time Machine cannot see the Airport Disks.

So – can anyone tell me whether 10.5.2 is “supposed” to backup wirelessly with Time Machine? I saw some leaked screenshots prior to yesterday’s release, which made me think they’d added the feature back… now I’m just confused! That’ll learn me… Can anyone tell me how Time Machine behaves for them, please?

Update: I was wrong

According to the Apple Support Forums, that is.

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11 responses to “Time Machine and Airport Disks, redux

  1. It’s typical for Apple to not detail any of the changes in a release. Drives me bonkers, because I never know where I’ll find a change in the software that I need to write about on my book support site. Needless to say, I’ll be looking through Leopard very closely today, writing update articles all day long.

    Thanks for this. Will link to it on my site.

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  2. Thanks Maria.

    I’m perfectly prepared to accept that it might be misconfiguration either of my AE, or the disk, or the OS. I’d just like to know what I’ve done! Ideally I’d like to know how I “should” have setup access to my Airport disks in the first place. Finder has never seemed to autoreconnect to the volumes. I’ve also always seen both the “root” of the disk i.e. the named volume, and “my partition” named after me, which seems wrong somehow.

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  3. Actually – I may have applied the “hack” to get unsupported volumes to appear under 10.5.0 and 10.5.1 – so maybe this isn’t supposed to work? Does everyone else see Airport Disks in TM now? I need to recheck my system settings.

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  4. Back at the time of Leopard’s release, I found a description of the specific problem that was preventing Apple from supporting the Airport Disks in Time Machine. Essentially, the Airport acknowledges each write back to Time Machine before the attached disk has completed the write. This leaves the system with a potential mismatch of what Time Machine thinks is on the disk and what is actually there; a sure way for corrupting your data.

    How accurate this is, I don’t know; but I would be nervous about any hack that lets you work around the restriction.

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  5. Thanks Nick. I agree, and that’s why I never persisted too hard in trying to get it working before.

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  7. according to most posts and forums.. backup over wireless with time machine, even in 10.5.2 is still not supported.. which is weird, given its possible with time capsule..

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  9. well it seems if you take the new airport updates that arrived through software update the other day, then you’ll now have access to airport USB disks:

    http://www.macrumors.com/2008/03/19/time-machine-now-works-with-airport-extreme-usb-drives/

    “After the release of today’s Time Machine and Airport update, several readers report that Time Machine now supports backups to USB drives connected to your Airport Extreme basestation. This configuration essentially reproduces the functionality of Apple’s Time Capsule product.

    Apple had originally advertised these “AirPort Disk” wireless backups as a feature for Leopard, but this feature was removed prior to its launch. Speculation had suggested that it may have been due to some unresolved security issues, but Apple has made no official statements. While there had been workarounds published, today’s update appears to officially restore this feature.”

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  10. no, it doesn’t. TM and usb hdd through a AEBS doesn’t work as advertised.

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