Friday, May 21, 2010

Time Capsule Died

Well that kinda sucks but I'm impressed with Apple Support.

I have a Time Capsule from apple. It's a wifi router with a hard drive and it's the only approved way to use Time Machine to do wireless backups. Aside from a problem early on with corrupted backups (corrected with a software update), it's worked well for just over two years.

I was online today and all of a sudden I wasn't anymore. I looked over at the Time Capsule and saw the green light was out. I checked the plug and it was still out. As I plugged it back in I noticed there were green LEDs in the 4 ethernet ports and they flashed for a moment so some power was getting to the machine, just not everywhere. A friend's TC died a month ago and I remember him saying the early units are having a power supply issue. Ugh.

So I called Apple and quickly got to tech support and he was helpful. He had my try to reset it and when that didn't work he said we could a "DIY Repair" which is oddly named because it means they send me a new unit and when I receive it I send back the old unit in the same packaging, they pay for shipping both ways. I asked if the local Apple Store could repair it and called them but they didn't have any of this (old) model in stock.

A few more minutes and we were all set. He gave my my Case and Repair numbers and said it should arrive soon. I had to give my credit card info. After receiving the new unit I have 10 days for them to receive the old one to avoid having my card charged. Fair enough. They currently have no evidence other than my word that the unit is actually dead. Also before I hung up the phone I checked at their website and my case was in their system showing the proper status. Nice.

Time Capsule is a backup product. It is pretty crappy that a backup product isn't perfectly reliable, but then again the data on it is just backup. When I bought it, I did get the bigger model thinking I'd use the drive for more. I did have a little someone else on it, but I haven't looked at it in forever so even I'm not sure what (I think it was an old backup of my sisters machine). He said I try bringing the drive to someone to extract the info off of it, but in the "DIY Repair" process, they destroy drive when they receive it. Still I am losing all the backup history that Time Machine keeps which annoys me but isn't really any trouble at all.

So some lessons here:
1. Your backup drives can fail too
2. If you're buying a Time Capsule, probably best to just have backup data on it and therefore, buy the smaller (and cheaper) model.
3. Apple knows the product has problems and didn't inform me, that's annoying. Nevertheless, at just over two years after I bought it, they are replacing it for free and paying all shipping charges, literally with almost no questions asked. It was actually a pleasant support call. Everyone else should take a lesson from Apple customer support.
4. I do use the TC for a wifi N network and if that was all I had I'd be annoyed now. I'd have to be online via an ethernet cable. Since my FiOS requires me to use their router and I have an iPhone I do have a G network as well and connecting via the mac was trivial. Having a backup wifi system is very nice.

I had been thinking of getting another drive to do a monthly full backup on in addition to Time Machine backups. This would be bootable (which the TC isn't) and just needs to be the size of the drive in my laptop (200GB). A fast physical connector (Firewire 800 or USB 2.0) would be good and I assume 5400 RPM. Small would also be good (perhaps I'd take it while traveling) and I guess bus powered would be nice. Any recommendations?

A friend recommended the Iomega eGo which is $110 at Amazon (there's a 320GB version in blue for $90). There are some reports of it overheating and connecting glue melting. The other choices seem to the WD My Passport for Mac which has some reports of loose cables or the LaCie Rugged All-Terrain which is apparently a lot smaller than it looks and is also $110. MacWorld apparently likes Mercury On-The-Go drives. Anyone have recommendations?

Update It's official Apple announces replacement program for some 2008 Time Capsules


DKB said...

I have a 320-gb usb-powered WD Passport from Costco that has been useful for me. I currently have it split between a time machine volume and a storage volume for my Dell Mini9 hackbook, but now that I have a light-enough full scale notebook I haven't been using that, so I'll probably reformat it to NTFS or FAT32 so it'll be more generally useful. It was about $90 and has been trouble-free, with a similar usage cycle to what you describe. When I was using the hackintosh a lot, I connected the drive about once a week to make Time Machine stop kvetching.

The Dad said...

You're one (well, two) of many. And so am I, of course. I had the same replacement experience you did. Frankly I was more concerned with the time I had to spend without a wireless network than I was about the backups. Apple told me it would take up to 14 days to replace the TC. However it arrived in less than 48 hours.

paul said...

I use Mozy for on-line back-ups on my notebook (along with a Time Machine back-up and a once a month manual back-up to the home server, which has its own backup.) I like having an off site back-up. Yes it works - two years ago I had a catastrophic failure on two Maxtor external drives, and I got everything back from Mozy.