Review – Time Capsule

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I have been interested in the Time Capsule since it was announced at Macworld. I backup four computers in my home and 3 of the 4 drives kept at my home are over three years old. So I’ve been thinking it was time to replace a few of them and I’ve also been obsessing over getting my “N” speed hardware operating at “N” speed with a separate router and leaving the old router for the “G” devices on my network. So there I was thinking I’d buy some hard drives and a new router after the new year and Apple shows up with the Time Capsule. It seemed the perfect fit.

After looking at the cost of a large hard drive and a new router, I figured it would cost just slightly more to get the Apple device and I decided the premium would probably be worth it for ease of use and (yes) the aesthetic. Has anyone looked at most “N” routers? They have antennas sticking out at all sort of angles and look like a bad prop from Robbie the Robot.

I received the Time Capsule monday. As usual, Apple’s packaging is superb. Included in the box you get the Time Capsule, the power cord, and a package with the disc and some manuals. Unlike every other router I’ve ever bought, it did not include a short length of Ethernet cable. This really isn’t an issue for me since I already had the necessary cables but should be noted.

The disc included a new Time Capsule friendly version of the Airport Utility. In addition to adding specific support to the onboard drive, it also seems a bit more intelligent as to the set up help. I actually set up the Time Capsule on manual mode since I knew I wanted the 5ghz “N” radio operating and I figured it would be faster to do this myself. When I hooked up my older Airport to set the “G” network, the new software gave me a nice little pop up that said something like “Aha, I see you have another router plugged in. What would you like to do with it?” I clicked the “Bridge Mode” button and set the radio to “G” and I was done. I didn’t run a clock but the total set up time was less than 10 minutes.

Likewise, setting up the Time Machine backup was equally painless. I started with my wife’s MacBook that has about 75 gig of infrequently backed up data. I just told it to start and told her not to close the lid on her computer. When I got home for dinner it had already finished. I made a few small files and forced a backup that took under 30 seconds. I found that from about 15 feet, the wireless backup speed was about 10 gigs an hour. So far, I have 2 of the 3 computers getting backed up on the Time Capsule all done. My MacBook Pro, however, has been more of a challenge.

My MacBook Pro has about 170 gigs of data on it. I set it to do a wireless backup overnight. I knew it wouldn’t finish but I figured it could be done over two nights. It got nearly halfway the first night. I then “stopped” the backup and took it to the office. The second night I resumed the backup but when I woke up the next day things were wonky. It showed the status but didn’t seem to pick up on the 70 gigs backed up the night before. Anyway, the next night I tried to resume it and Time Machine gave me the “Preparing” bar for about 2 hours. According to the web, it was trying to sort itself out but I got impatient so I just hooked it up to the ethernet cable directly to the Time Capsule and told it to start over. Using the ethernet cable it uploads 10 gigs in about 45 minutes. It really isn’t much faster than over the air. Since this machine follows me out the door every day (and I leave pretty early), I decided to hold off on making the first backup of it until the weekend. Hopefully doing it one session will solve the problem.

So two of the three machines that need to be backed up on this drive are working fine. Other than the difficulty getting the first sync on my big MacBook Pro, everything seems peachy. The incremental backups don’t seem to noticeably slow things down (granted none of them are very big) and it provides that seamless wireless Time Machine I was hoping for. I’m not even sure if my wife, who has little interest in these things, is aware that her MacBook is backing up every hour.

My friend Victor Cajiao over at the Typical Mac User made an interesting postC questioning whether or not it really is a “server grade” hard drive. I guess time will tell on that issue but for now I’m pleased to have an easy solution. Interestingly, you can even mount an external USB drive to the Time Capsule and run your Time Machine off that. This of course begs the question of why this can’t be done with an Airport Extreme. So far Apple has been mum but at some point, someone is going to have to explain that.

There are some very sophisticated backup systems out there with varying degrees of complexity. I think the Time Capsule is a great device for laptop owners who want a routine Time Machine backup and simple set-up. In that regard, Time Capsule hits the mark. You can purchase a 500gb Time Capsule for $299 or a 1TB Time Capsule for $499 directly from Apple.

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