How to swap in a new Time Capsule on your network

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Steven Mathews asks about bringing a new Time Capsule online for backups, switching from his old one, and then erasing the old backups. He notes:

I don’t need to transfer over any backups—I’ll just let the new Time Capsule create its own. I’m mostly worried about the order of the steps and (I hope) not having to enter new credentials for every device in the house.

My suggestion is that you don’t erase the old Time Capsule before you’re sure you have a complete backup of every device for which it acts as a Time Machine destination.

If you have a Mac with ethernet, follow these steps:

  1. Launch AirPort Utility.
  2. Select the Time Capsule in the layout and click Edit.
  3. Select File > Export Configuration File.
  4. Rename the old Time Capsule so you can identify it in a later step.
  5. Warn everyone in the house and then power down the old Time Capsule.
  6. Connect the new Time Capsule via ethernet to your Mac.
  7. In AirPort Utility, you should be prompted to set up the new device. If not, click the Other Wi-Fi Devices menu in the upper-left corner and select the Time Capsule or switch the interface to ethernet if you don’t see it, then select it.
  8. You have to perform a basic setup to continue, so choose to set it up as a standalone base station and enter dummy values or defaults. You’ll overwrite these settings in the next step.
  9. When the assistant is complete, and the base station has rebooted, you can select the Time Capsule from the layout and click Edit.
  10. Select File > Import Configuration File, and choose the old Time Capsule’s configuration file.
  11. Click Update to restart the base station.
  12. After it’s restarted, disconnect the new Time Capsule from your Mac, and put it in your network just as the old Time Capsule was. (You can remove power, move it into place, and power it back up if need be.)

If you don’t have ethernet on a Mac or you want to try an expedited method that doesn’t always work, you can follow these steps:

  1. Plug your Time Capsule into power and connect it via ethernet to your existing Time Capsule.
  2. Use AirPort Utility’s assistant, as prompted, to walk through the options to replace an existing base station.
  3. When complete, rename your old Time Capsule so you can connect to it below.
  4. Swap out the new Time Capsule for the old one.

Whichever method you choose, all passwords and other settings should remain intact. It’s possible that Time Machine is finicky enough that it won’t recognize the new Time Capsule with identical settings as being the same Time Machine destination and you’ll need to reselect it on your Macs.

After you’re sure that initial backups have completed, you can power up the old Time Capsule and connect to it (using the name you changed it to in one of the sets of steps above) via AirPort Utility, click Edit, and then click the Disks tab. Click Erase Disk. You can also choose one of the security options for a longer period to erase the router’s drive, but which makes it vastly less likely that any data could ever be recovered.

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