I just decided to upgrade to a USB 3.0 Hard Drive Enclosure. I regularly use my Airport Extreme to share the hard drive using an older enclosure. I know that the Airport Extreme won't have USB 3.0, but I expected it to be backwards compatible. Am I wrong, or is something else amiss?

I'm using this Thermaltake Max 5G, and it mounts when I attach it to a MacBook Pro running Lion.

  • My first guess was a power issue, but that enclosure seems to be externally powered, so we can likely cross that off the list. How is the drive formatted? This Apple KB article notes that you can only use FAT or HFS+ formatted drives? NTFS and exFAT won't work.
    – robmathers
    Jul 10, 2012 at 1:21
  • @CanuckSkier It is externally powered. It is an HFS(+?) formatted drive -- and, as I noted, the very same hard drive will boot in an older thermaltake enclosure. Thanks for the note. Jul 10, 2012 at 3:13
  • I asked a separate question related to the same setup, here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/55975/… Jul 10, 2012 at 3:13

6 Answers 6


Per Thermaltake support:

The Airport Extreme Base Station cannot provide the proper driver support for the docking unit. The docking station was designed to be directly connected to a computer's USB port.

Not a very satisfactory answer, but I guess it is the answer. I expected it to simply function as USB 2.0 speeds, rather than not working at all.


Maybe the reason your MacBook can see it but not airport extreme may be because of the type of partition scheme - just read that you need to set it to GUID rather than DOS-style Master Boot Record - see here: http://lowendmac.com/2009/things-to-know-when-connecting-usb-hard-drive-to-airport-extreme/


Try plugging an old externally powered USB 2.0 hub into the airport extreme and then plugging the external drive into the hub. This is the only way I could get my new (Sept. 2014) USB 3.0 hard drive to work with my 5th generation airport extreme. The drive came with its own externally powered USB connector but it would not work with the airport extreme for some reason.


Oh oh oh! I got it to work! You can format it HFS+ (Mac OS Journaled), but when you connect it to the Airport Extreme, and want to see files on it, the AE creates a /Shared directory. Throw all your stuff in there and you're done.


I have an Airport extreme about 2 years old and have just bought a 4TB seagate USB 3.0 .. works perfectly.

Have you tried formatting it by plugging it direct to the Mac first?


  • 1
    Interesting. I did not/have not reformatted the hard drive -- but it absolutely works when plugged in directly to the Mac. My Airport Extreme is about the same age. Feb 18, 2013 at 16:46

Any drives harddrives connected to the usb port on Airport Extreme must be in FAT32 or HFS+. If you plug it directly into the Mac USB port then an NTFS or DOS, fat 16 etc can be recognized also but to see an external on a network plugged directly into usb port of an airport extreme, it must be in HFS+ or FAT32 in order to see it over a network.

The reason the Mac sees it is because of the Mac OS file system. If you plug it into the Airport Extreme you won't see it unless it's formatted correctly. This is a "limitation" of the AE.


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