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UPDATED: Apple refuses to support Airport Extreme USB Time Machine back-up feature

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If you have an Airport Extreme and you’re thinking of using it along with an external USB drive as your primary Time Machine back-up – you may want to think again. Over at TidBITS there is an article confirming that Apple is officially not supporting the “feature” and even speculation that the feature itself is an accident.

Apparently, while using an external drive with the AirPort Extreme works after the current software update, it is erratic, and untrustworthy. There is speculation that the feature was left turned on by accident when the software update was released…if that’s the case, then those of you using it might find that you wake up one morning to a software update that disables the feature.

I think Apple’s on shaky ground with this one. Deliberately disabling or not supporting a feature for the purpose of selling another product is never well received by consumers, and Apple has had enough complaints with notebook issues as of late – they don’t need this too.

What they need to do is enable and support this feature Jobs promised users the first time he mentioned Time Machine in a Keynote. It’s the right thing to do, and they need to start doing more of that.

Have you used this feature of your Airport Extreme? Is it working? Sound off in the comments below.

Update: I just got off the phone with Apple Technical Support in regards to this issue. I asked them “Do you support Time Machine backups via a USB external hard drive using an Airport Extreme?” The response I received was “With the latest firmware update that feature has become available but we do not support it.”

I asked why, and the tech responded “Honestly, that’s just what I’ve been told. If I had to guess I would assume that it is because there are hundreds of external hard drives out there, and we don’t manufacture them, so we couldn’t support them all.”

If you don’t believe me, feel free to call them yourself. 1-800-APL-CARE (1-800-275-2273) if you live in the US. Click Here for international numbers.

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

11 thoughts on “UPDATED: Apple refuses to support Airport Extreme USB Time Machine back-up feature

  1. Yea they really need to just support it upfront instead of trying to cripple it to sell Time Capsules. Time Capsule is a nice idea and all but I don’t use a prebuilt enclosure for any of my drives, I want to be able to take my drive out with ease and replace it if I want. I haven’t used this myself as I only have iMacs but if I was to get a laptop I would definitely want the ability to backup wirelessly.

  2. Your article does not support your headline: “Apple refuses to support” is not an accurate characterization of Apple’s position, nor is it an accurate summation of your article. It suggests, instead, ignorant teen-age bombast & conflation.

    Thanks for the warning: no more page-hits from me!

  3. @chmood


    Apple has officially stated that they will not and do not support the Airport Extreme USB external hard drive feature of the latest update.

    They were asked to support it – and they have refused to do so.

    How is that inaccurate?

  4. Where’s the official statement (document) from apple?
    I can’t find anything linking to that at Tidbits..

  5. Supporting Apple, you can’t find any information about time machine functionality on the Airport Extreme product site and at the support page for the Airport Extreme (troubleshooting issues). So it’s clear to me that this functionality is not fully supported.

  6. I’m using it and it works pretty well so far. Occasionally, I get an error message that pops up, but then the next backup completes successfully. I think it a problem with being able to mount the drive everytime. It would be nice if they just went ahead and fully supported it.

  7. I semi agree with what the tech support agent said, but his reasons don’t make sense, because Apple supports these externals via direct connection. I highly doubt making it accessible via Airport Extreme would make certain drives work erratically.

  8. I found out the hard way that Time Machine over Airdisk is terribly unreliable. My Mac’s HD failed, and the Airdisk backup image file was corrupted.

    After hours of looking for fixes, I was finally able to find a fsck command to run on the sparsebundle that rebuilt the catalog inside of the image.

    Needless to say, I’ll only be using a directly-connected USB drive from now on.

  9. Actually have been using this since they enabled the support and haven’t had a single issue. It’s actually been working exactly as you’d want it to for me at least.

  10. I have the setup AP Extreme with external USB HDD running quite stable. No errors so far. However, I’d be VERY interested what the fsck command was, that Micah used, just in case…

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