In 2009 (about 8 years ago), I purchased an Apple Time Capsule as my combination router, WiFi base station and back-up hard drive.
|My old beast|
But as a router, my Time Capsule now leaves something to be desired. It doesn't support fast WiFi protocols like 802.11ac, it only supported 802.11n, and only in draft form. The antennas are internal, and in my weird house, that means several WiFi dead zones and weak spots.
The 1 TB hard drive in it has been spinning for ~70,000 hrs. Apple alleged that the hard drive in it was "server grade" but it was in fact a Western Digital drive that never had a published MTBF for it. And the downside with the integrated drive was that it was impossible to make bigger.
When I upgraded the drive in my MacBook Pro to 1 TB, I got a 2 TB external drive just for it's backups, and connected it to the USB 2 port on the Time Capsule. That slowed the backups, but at least it freed up space.
In the spring of 2017, Apple announced that not only would they stop making Time Capsules, but they were getting out of the router business entirely. They "orphaned" the whole product line (which was last updated in 2013 anyway), meaning they would no longer provide hardware or software/firmware support for any of it, but they would sell the remaining inventory of Time Capsules off. As I type this, you can still buy them, though I don't know why anyone would.
I finally decided to replace the Time Capsule this fall to get better WiFi in the house. I bought a new 2 TB external drive to make up for the loss of the 1 TB drive in the Time Capsule. Following Apple's instructions, I transferred backups from the Time Capsule to the new 2 TB drive -- which took ~16 hrs. Not a hard process, but certainly a slow one, even using an ethernet cable to connect my laptop with the Time Capsule.
And I bought a new router.
After buying it on-line from Best Buy at a good Black Friday sale, and setting it up, I discovered...
The C7 does not support the hard drive format that Apple requires for a drive used for Time Machine. So while I could plug the drives in, the router would not recognize them (I searched again and found exactly ONE page where this was mentioned in a review).
So I went on TP-Link's site, and searched. After much searching, I found on this page there are only 3 models of routers that TP-Link makes that do support Time Machine.
- Archer C9 V4 in the US & the Archer C9 V5 in Europe;
- Archer C1900 V2, and
- Archer C8 V4
|Router #2, the C1900|
|Hardware version number circled|
- Replacing a Time Capsule is not straightforward; incomplete information abounds on many websites;
- I do NOT recommend TP-Link products as replacements for a Time Capsule. You need to get VERY precise with their product identification, and run a very high risk of getting the wrong one. Only buy a TP-Link if you can see the box before buying;
- TP-Link is very poor at offering information regarding Time Machine compatibility with their routers. The grand total information is available on this one FAQ page;
- Many, many on-line articles regarding Time Capsule replacements mention nothing about hard drive compatibility with non-Apple routers. Do your research. For instance, in the D-Link line, only the DIR-880L router offers Time Machine support, but not actually through Time Machine. Only the Asus RT-AC68U is Time Machine compatible. Many Netgear routers are compatible; see their list here -- but all that do are pricy.
- The C7 is a fine router. It offered very good WiFi coverage in my house with no dead zones and an excellent signal to noise ratio. But it does NOT support Time Machine functionality, so is NOT a Time Capsule replacement.
- A search for "non-Apple wireless routers that support Time Machine" is a poor search to do. Most of the pages you'll find are useless and only talk about people attempting to make a non-compatible router work.
- D-Link: Really unclear, but after checking model after model and reading the instruction manuals and spec sheets, decided to pass. Near as I could tell, all D-Link routers need to use something called the D-Link SharePort utility to access connected hard drives. Pass.
- Asus: Was only able to confirm that the RT-AC68U would work with Time Machine, and it's a really expensive router. They may have others, but I couldn't prove it. Pass.
- Amped Wireless: Could not confirm compatibility of any of their routers with Time Machine or HFS+ (Mac OS Extended Journaled) formatted drives. Their website doesn't even talk about Mac compatibility. Pass.
- LinkSys: Basically states on the website (if you search hard enough) that all their routers work with Time Machine/HFS+ formatted external drives -- then doesn't mention Macs again in any user manual. I liked the EA6400, EA6900 and EA7500, all of which are either AC1600 or 1900 class. Tempted.
- NetGear: I was able to confirm on this page the list of NetGear routers that would work with Time Machine. That's many, but not all, of the routers NetGear makes. I didn't even look at any of the WNDR class routers, as they are all 802.11n speed. I was torn between the R6250, R6400 and R7000 models, which are AC1600, 1750 and 1900 speed, respectively A really good Boxing Day sale caused me to order the R6400, an AC1750 class router. The user manual for it I saw on-line takes 3 pages to explain how to set it up with Time Machine. Cost was $130. I could have had the R6250 for $100 on a Boxing Day sale (Time Machine also covered in it's user manual), but opted for the higher speed of the R6400.