My 1 TB Time Capsule drive is full with Time Machine backups. I'd rather spend $130 on a 3 TB drive than $500 on a new 3 TB Time Capsule.

Is an external drive attached to a Time Capsule supported for Time Machine backups? I have read that trying to use Time Machine with an Airport Extreme and an attached external drive is not supported and is in fact unreliable. Does that extend to Time Capsules with an external drive?

I realize that a Time Machine backup cannot be split across drives -- I would move entire backups to the 3 TB drive.

I bought my 1st generation Time Capsule (MB277LL/A) in 2008. I am running Mountain Lion.


It is not officially supported. "Time Machine can’t backup to an external drive that's connected to an AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule, or a drive formatted for Microsoft Windows (NTFS or FAT format)." This is usually because of issues with the network file system not guaranteeing that writes have completed on disk before giving a "success" status.

  • 1
    Thanks. Dangnabit. I can see how they would not be motivated to solve that problem ... – Mark Adler May 27 '13 at 15:20
  • I don't understand the “network file system” explanation. – Nicolas Barbulesco Oct 12 '13 at 16:59

Yes. You can use Time Machine with a drive connected to a Time Capsule.

This Apple support doc - Backup disks you can use with Time Machine (as of Sept 2015) - says:

Time Machine can back up the data on your Mac to these backup disks:

  • An external USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire drive connected to your Mac
  • An AirPort Time Capsule's built-in drive (any model)
  • An external USB drive connected to an AirPort Time Capsule (any model) or AirPort Extreme (802.11ac model only)
  • Network volumes connected using Apple File Protocol (AFP)

Yes, it's supported.

My 2015 Time Capsule hard drive failed after two years of use and I was considering getting it fixed. Instead, I've attached a 2TB Western Digital USB drive formatted as OS X Extended Journaled.

Time Capsule immediately detected it (you can see this in Airport Utility) and I could switch to the new drive in my Time Machine preferences pane.

Note that the USB drive has to have it's own power source, as Time Capsule doesn't provide any power on it's single USB port.

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