Getting Time Capsule failure warnings? Here’s what you can do

Time Capsule drives can fail, and they’re not worth trying to replace.

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Apple no longer sells its Time Capsule, a combination of a backup drive, Time Machine, and an AirPort Extreme Base Station. However, many are in use, and some components inevitably fail, especially the internal hard drive.

If you receive an error on a Mac using the Time Capsule for Time Machine backups that you can no longer back up to it, you can try to work your way out of the problem by using AirPort Utility.

Warning! This approach erases all the backup snapshots stored on your Time Capsule. There may be no way to recover them—hence the error—but you should perform full Time Machine backups or disk clones of all devices that used the Time Capsule for archiving files, as well as trying step 4 below.

  1. Launch AirPort Utility and connect to your Time Capsule.

  2. Click the Disks tab.

  3. Select the internal Time Capsule disk. If it doesn’t appear—well, that’s a problem and jump below.

  4. If the Archive Disk button is available, you can attach an external drive to the Time Capsule with at least as much available storage as is in use on the Time Capsule drive, and attempt to copy the snapshots already stored.

  5. Click the Erase Disk button and follow prompts.

Now try to perform a Time Machine backup from one of your Macs to the Time Capsule drive. If it succeeds, then data may have corrupted on the drive for some reason, but it’s still functioning.

If you get a failure in step 3, 4, or 5, or can’t back up to the Time Capsule after step 5, you should remove the Time Capsule drive as a destination on every Mac that’s been backing up to it, otherwise you’ll receive regular errors on each Mac. Open the Time Machine preference pane on each Mac and remove the drive from the list of destinations.

If the Time Capsule drive won’t accept backups, it’s failed in some sense of the word. Most people will find the steps to replace the internal drive are too involved and not worth the effort. You can instead attach an external drive via USB to the Time Capsule and use that for Time Machine backups, or attach a drive to any Mac on a network and use it a networked destination instead.

Note: If you’re concerned about properly disposing of data stored on a hard drive you can’t access that’s within a Time Capsule—or with a Time Capsule that itself has failed—see this sibling column, “Your Time Capsule has died. How can you wipe its data?

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Preston.

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