How to centralize your Time Machine backups

“Time Machine in OS X offers a quick way to back up your entire system, but one requirement for this is you need to plug in your backup drive in order to keep the system backed up,” Topher Kessler writes for MacIssues.

“For desktop systems this is a matter of simply keeping the drive attached and tucked away behind your iMac, Mac Mini, or Mac Pro; however, if you are a MacBook owner, then you might find yourself periodically misplacing your drive, or not having it with you, and then getting messages that you haven’t backed up in a number of days,” Kessler writes. “There are two easy approaches to help prevent this, especially if you have multiple Macs available.”

1. Use a Time Capsule or supported NAS
2. Create your own Time Machine server

All of the info and instructions both both approaches is here.

MacDailyNews Take: Please have a strategy in place for routine backups!


  1. With hard drive prices so low, buy yourself a couple of them and set up redundant backups. I have two external hard drives, and connect one to my Airport Extreme at a time. I have Time Machine set up to use both drives for backup, but only one is connected at a time. The second drive is safely tucked away at a second location. That way, I don’t lose everything in case of physical catastrophe (fire, flood, etc) or drive failure. I have a reminder set and swap the drives once a week.

  2. I should also mention that, if you are considering a Time Capsule…

    Stop. Back away.

    If you really want a disk attached to your Airport Extreme, buy an Airport Extreme and attach a disk to it. When the Airport goes bad, you won’t lose the disk; when the disk goes bad, you won’t lose the Airport. A Time Capsule is, in my experience, a problem waiting to happen.

      1. Even in the old flat style the drives were replaceable. The difference is the new tall enclosure has a fan. The old style enclosures were more apt to failure. Apple started using Western Digital Green drives in the 4th generation (flat style) Time Capsule which ran cooler and that certainly helped reduce the number of drive failures. The new active enclosures are pretty awesome. I think they are quite reliable.

        Keep in mind a lot of people use Time Capsules for file/media servers. This was never the intention of the product and you won’t find any Apple literature that states that this is what they are intended to do. That being said people still use them in the manner. This is why Apple added a fan to the enclosure. From my experience it is a reliable product even if used as unintended.

        The Extreme is the same enclosure, but there is no hard drive controller inside, so you can’t simply add a hard drive. Too bad :-).

    1. Nonsense.

      If a Time Capsule internal drive fails it can be replaced. The cost difference between an Extreme and a Time Capsule is $100. You would be quite challenged to find a 2TB drive with a virtually silent active enclosure for $100. With 2 devices you now have 2 power supplies, 2 controllers, and a USB cable that can potentially fail.

      If you get AppleCare your warranty along with you telephone support is also extended to the Time Capsule.

    2. Ah baloney, I’m on my second one, but only upgraded for a bigger drive. Never had any problems yet, but I also do backups to an OWC external drive using SuperDuper. You can never be too careful.

  3. Time Machine is a problem waiting to happen, not even considering Time Capsule from Apple.

    Tech blogs routinely cover Time Machine “issues” which have resulted in corruption and missing files.

    Get a bunch of low cost HDs and be sure you have clones and archives on those drives available to plug and boot from.

    1. I don’t know that I have ever gone 6 months without an issue using Time Machine on one of my Macs. Erase and begin anew.

      I generally use a 2 partition external with SuperDuper on one and Time Machine on the other. SuperDuper is rock solid.

      1. It’s not the same type of backup. Time Machine backs up incrementally, CCC only keeps the latest stuff. If for whatever reason you must revert to an prior version of a file or directory, you are screwed with CCC. That is why I have both.

  4. More importantly, everyone should also employ an offsite backup in addition to a local Time Machine backup. Thieves or a fire can easily cause the loss of all data. I use Backblaze myself, which costs $5/month for unlimited backup storage. I highly recommend it.

  5. I’ve been using Time Machine Server on an OS X server for a couple of years now to back up my 27″ iMac and my wife’s iMac. I have an external LaCie 3TB drive hooked to the 27″ with OS X Server running on it. My wife’s iMac connects via wifi. Everything works slick.

    An yes, Time Machine can sometimes be flaky, but it simplicity and what it can do makes up for the occasionally flakiness.

    With all that being said, everyone should also have an additional backup, either another external HD that is stored elsewhere or a web service like BackBlaze or SpiderOak. You cannot have enough backups.

  6. I think I found something awesome. Maybe someone else experienced this?

    I was trying to install El Capitan. Downloaded fine. Clicked install. Selected the drive to install it on. Clicked the right arrow. Then nothing. It stopped. The whole install program. No messages or anything.

    Huh? Tried three times (each time expecting a different result). Still didn’t work.

    Then noticed something… The little blue light on my backup drive was blinking. Hmm, I said.

    Opened time machine preferences and it said 98GB remaining to backup… Went away to watch more AppleTV.

    Came back an hour later after my program and saw the backup was completed. Then I started the El Capitan install..

    Wadda-ya-know.. It started up and began installing!!!

    Now, I have no way of verifying if there is any code that is waiting for time machine to finish. But if there is, a dialog box on the install process would have been nice.


  7. I have a Drobo 5N. Set up a time machine share on that. Works very well. A drive died and was able to replace it without loss.
    Also has the iTunes library on it as well. Only downside of that approach is that Time Machine won’t back up the iTunes library on the Drobo share.

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