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Time Capsule: Just an External Hard Drive?

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Computers crash all the time, and Macs are no exception. I once had a MacBook brick on me while I was on a two-week business trip, making my life miserable and forever losing a ton of important data along the way. That’s a mistake I won’t make again. External hard drives are the perfect solution for just about anyone, keeping safe your docs, media, and other data should the unthinkable happen.

Apple loves to hype its products as “revolutionary” and “magical,” and those of us who adore their products tend to gladly agree. But it wasn’t all that magical when my MacBook died, and I live in fear that my current one is going to give out on me someday, too. Apple would have us believe that Time Capsule is the only backup solution, but this is one case where you mustn’t believe the hype.

I mean, Time Capsule is just an external hard drive — not all that different than this WD 1TB external hard drive — with some extra bells and whistles. That’s really all it is. Yeah, it works “seamlessly” with OS X Leopard’s Time Machine app, but aside from Apple’s patented ease-of-use, there’s really nothing it’s bringing to the table that you can’t get with a standard external hard drive — and for significantly less money.

External hard drives are a hot commodity these days, with inexpensive models from manufacturers such as this Western Digital 1TB external hard drive, or others from the likes of Toshiba, Iomega, Buffalo, Seagate, Samsung, and more, that can backup your Mac just as well as Time Capsule can (and with better than Time Capsule’s notorious 18-month lifespan). Plus, they’re  just as easy to use as Time Machine, most of them being as simple as plug-and-play. And you get that wonderful portability with it, which lets you use it for more than just backing up data — you can also use it to carry HD movies and music to other devices.

If you don’t have an external hard drive, you’re taking a  risk that’s not worth taking. Trust me.

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9 thoughts on “Time Capsule: Just an External Hard Drive?

  1. I’ve been on the fence about purchasing a Time Capsule for awhile but an external USB drive for local backup combined with a cloud backup service like Carbonite helps me sleep at night without worrying about data loss.

    1. THis is a reply to the author of the article, Not to Michael G.

      “Nothing special about it??” Nothing more than just a HD?? Are you fdf*n kidding me, it’s a wireless access point and it DOES allow you to VERIFY backups made by Time Machine, which you can not with a regular hard drive!!

      You are an ignorant idiot!

  2. For some situations a USB or FW drives makes sense, in other a TC makes sense.

    In my house I actually have both. For my desktop machine I have a FW800 drive that I use as a TM backup, because my computer has more than a TB of data, it’s just quicker and easier to use a huge FW external as a backup. For my wife’s Macbook and our “house laptop” (for guests/me on the couch) I use a 500gb TC. She never has to think about it, it just does its thing. She doesn’t have that much data saved on her hard drive, so 500gb is plenty of space. She doesn’t need to plug in to anything or remember to press any buttons (and it really saved her a few times when she was in grad school, saving previous edits of papers and such). I was going to get an Airport Extreme base station anyway, so for the cost of an external drive I bumped it up to a TC. I’ve not any issues with it at all (plus it’s covered by the Applecare I have on one of our computers (a fact most people don’t realize), so I’m not too concerned.

  3. Had a western digital MyBook that was never run except to back up photos. I thought since it wasn’t alwasy “on” it would last, but was I ever wrong! I plugged it in the other day and heard that horrid “click click click”. I am now spending a minimum of $1500 to get the information off of it onto a new hard drive. And I’ve heard from various people this is a common occurrence with western digital drives, more so than other drives. I am seriously considering using DROBO ( to back up from now on… anyone tried that solution?

  4. You are not comparing apples to apples. You said “I mean, Time Capsule is just an external hard drive — not all that different than this WD 1TB external hard drive — with some extra bells and whistles.” You failed to mention that those bells and whistles are a wireless router.

  5. @fotostuf, get the Drobo. I have one with 4- 1TB HDs and just love it. I do have a separate external HD for my iMac TM backup, but the Drobo is great in that you don’t need a backup of IT. Everything stored on it is redundant. I did once have a drive on it go bad. I simply popped a new drive into the dead drive’s slot and was good to go with no loss of data whatsoever. Oh, and if you consider what your data is worth to you (as you already know), it is well worth the cost. As for the Time Capsule, that is used to back up all the laptops in the house. I’m the only one who really pays attention to backups, so the Time Capsule works quietly in the background to protect them.

  6. I had a WD external hard drive (My Book) – it has been a complete disaster. It kept on stopping my Macbook from awakening from sleep mode, it was recognised only intermittently, and when on the sad day my hard drive froze (Hitachi) it managed to hide everything that had been backed up. The data were transferred on to the replacement HD, I think in duplicate, but remained invisible, even to the Apple Store ‘geniuses’ who were only able to tell me that ‘something has gone wrong’ and that a data recovery service costing around $1000 minimum was my best hope. If TC does work ‘seamlessly’ then it is well worth the extra cost.

  7. Time capsule is quiet, unobtrusive and just works.
    I have a 500 gb time capsule. Sits in my basement and wirelessly connects to my imac which has a 300 gb hard drive. After 2 years of ownership my imac’s hard drive died. It was still under warranty. I took the imac into an Apple store and had a new hard drive inserted free of charge. I came home, connected my time capsule to it (to speed up restoration). The imac asked if I wanted to restore from the time capsule. I said yes and walked away. 6-8hrs later my imac was back – identical to how I left it. Multiple user accounts, browser favorites, photos, music, programs, everything was restored. I was amazed. I would recommend a time capsule every time.
    Get the warranty. Three weeks before my imac hard drive failed, the drive on my time capsule had failed after 18 months (I had one from an identified bad batch). Apple replaced it free of charge. The downside is if you saved anything on it separate from your imac, you don’t get a chance to recover it. Apple takes the drive back as part of the warranty agreement and says they will destroy the drive when they receive it. If you try to take the drive apart and then send the drive to Apple, it voids the warranty.

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