Short Question : Is it possible to use an Apple Time Capsule just as a network attached backup drive and not a router?

Background : We want to use a separate router to manage a more complex network. We where looking at not using an Apple Time Capsule and instead a 3rd party NAS (probably Synology) for Time Machine to backup to but as I've read in multiple places that backing up to a 3rd party NAS can cause the Time Machine backups to become corrupt / miss files due to the fact the HDD in a 3rd party NAS is ext4/NTFS/... and can't be OS X journaled (or what ever Time Machine prefers)

We've got a network as follows :

  • TP-Link Gigabit Load Balance Router with VPN (we will also set VLANs, static IPs etc on here)
  • 48 port Netgear gigabit network switch
  • multiple in wall RJ45 ports
  • 4x Ubiquity UAP Wi-Fi access points (some indoor some outdoor)
  • posted an answer, let me know whether it helps or not or if you have any questions – owlswipe Dec 19 '16 at 3:37

Yes, this is possible and actually quite simple. To prevent the Time Capsule from acting as a WiFi access point or router, and use it only as a backup disk, just open the AirPort Utility app on a Mac (Applications -> Utilities -> AirPort Utility) and do the following:

  • Select your Time Capsule and hit Edit.
  • Go to the tab labeled Wireless (not Network as zhovner suggests, as putting it in bridge mode only stops it from being a router but does not stop it from being a network access point that your devices will connect to)
  • From the Network Mode pop-up menu, choose Off.
  • Click Update, and the base station will restart and load the new settings.

The result will be a Time Capsule you can still wirelessly backup your Macs to, but does not function as a router or access points, so none of your devices will connect to it.

This is the setup that I use; I have 3 eero routers and thus needed the Time Capsule to not be an access point, and these steps stopped it from being that but let me keep backing up to it as usual.

enter image description here From this wireless tab, just choose off in the Network mode pop-up and hit update.

Source is a Macworld article on the topic.

  • Thanks @Owlswipe , couple of questions : - after config as above, does the time machine now act as a wired network device and any wireless backups to it are done via 3rd party acess point --> router --> time machine. Or does the time machine still create its own wireless for backups ? – sam Dec 27 '16 at 14:19
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    - Bit confused by your first line "To prevent the Time Capsule from acting as a WiFi access point or router, and use it only as a router". The last part "and use it only as a router" is that a typo ? Im trying to configure it as neither an access point, or router. – sam Dec 27 '16 at 14:23
  • @Sam 1. backups are done on the local network through the router, the Time Capsule won't make its own network after this. 2. yep, typo, edited. – owlswipe Dec 27 '16 at 15:28
  • Thanks @owlswipe, ive recently been playing around with time machine on my macbook pro backing up to a Synology NAS, my laptop has a wireless N wifi card, and the Access points are limited at 300mbps throughput. Which equates to 37.5MB per second under best conditions. But when i backup im getting somthing much much lower than this. It takes about 4hrs to do a 10gb backup wirelessly. 10Gb zip files saved to the NAS takes about 45 mins in comparison. Do you get the same very slow speeds backing up to a time capsule over wifi (as per your config above) ? or is it quicker ? – sam Dec 27 '16 at 18:16
  • @sam Backups for me are really slow, this is because of the max write speed of a hard drive (HDD). While a solid state drive (SSD) like those in newish macs can write data really fast (like 3 GB per second in the case of the new 15-inch MBP), hard drives (like those in the Time Capsule) max out at write speeds of around 40 MB per second (source). And that speed is if your device is wired to the Time Capsule: it'll be much slower in practice over WiFi. 2.5 GB an hour is slow but not ridiculously so. – owlswipe Dec 27 '16 at 21:03

Yes, you can simply disable routing on TimeCapsule and set it as DHCP client.

timecapsule bridge

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    Never set a server-like device (like a NAS) as DHCP-client... – klanomath Oct 8 '16 at 11:59
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    -1 this isn't what the OP Sam wants: putting it in bridge mode only stops it from being a router but does not stop it from being a network access point that other devices will connect to. – owlswipe Dec 19 '16 at 3:38
  • @klanomath what is the problem with that setting? – Jaime Santa Cruz Dec 27 '16 at 17:08
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    @owlswipe (and to answer klanomath's question) -- I think you are misunderstanding why zhovner is recommending to turn off bridge mode. It turns out I think both answers are correct, in fact: if the Time Capsule doesn't have an ethernet connection (!!) then simply turning off wireless networking per your answer above, without having ethernet connected and working, the Time Capsule will be unreachable! So, for people who just want to have a wireless storage solution using Time Capsule, they need to disable routing, as zhovner said, and change to DHCP client mode! – Steve Goldberg Aug 9 '19 at 21:06
  • @JaimeSantaCruz There is no problem with this setting. You should DEFINITELY set the Time Capsule to BRIDGE MODE if you only want it to be a NAS. Otherwise it will run a DHCP server and set up a separate subnet, which is just silly. – Mitch McMabers Jan 6 at 2:57

You should actually do BOTH of the things suggested by the other answers.

  1. Go into Wireless tab and set the mode to Off so that it doesn't create a WiFi network anymore.

  2. Go into Network tab and set it to Off (Bridge Mode) so that it doesn't run a DHCP server/NAT anymore. Otherwise it will try to create its own subnet for any devices connected via its ports. Turning this off is very important, to avoid messing up your network with multiple layers of NAT etc (so don't listen to klanomath's comment on a previous answer).

  3. Connect a network cable from your main router to the Time Capsule's WAN port (not the LAN ports). It's now a NAS (network attached storage).

Now you have achieved the following:

  1. Your Time Capsule acts as a DHCP client and receives an IP address from your main router. You can reach it at that IP and connect to its network shared storage. I am connected to mine right now.

  2. Any devices you connect to the Time Capsule's LAN ports will be routed "straight through" like a basic switch, WITHOUT any services/traffic modifications by the Time Capsule. The actual DHCP assignments and NAT etc for those devices will be handled by your main router (not the Time Capsule). So the Apple TC acts as a simple switch that passes through the ethernet traffic to the correct device.

So that's it. Just turn off the WiFi and the DHCP/NAT stuff and you're done. Your Time Capsule is now a basic router and a DHCP client which shares its own data folder. Done!

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