How to use an unsupported NAS or a spare Mac on your network as storage for Time Machine b...

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in macOS edited April 30
The end the AirPort product line could cause some issues in the future, when users want to back up their Mac's data using Time Machine but find their Apple network appliance has died completely, with no immediate replacement available. Here's how to set Time Machine to use a NAS or another Mac's storage elsewhere on a home network.




Apple announced on Thursday that it would be officially discontinuing the AirPort product line, effectively ending not only the router but also the hard drive-equipped Time Capsule, which allowed for Time Machine backups to be made over a local network. This effectively made it very easy for Mac owners to set up a backup process, without needing to connect an external drive to their devices, a highly useful feature for the portable MacBook line.

While Apple has advised existing stock will still be sold in stores and online until existing supplies are exhausted, it is unknown when Apple will run out of its remaining hardware. At some point, users will have to consider alternative ways to have Time Capsule-like cross-network backups, but without the original hardware.

Some network attached storage (NAS) devices do offer some Time Machine compatibility, but not all provide this functionality. There's also the potential of setting up a dedicated Mac as a home storage appliance, though while there is always the opportunity of setting up a home server, just using one for Time Machine storage doesn't require too much effort to set up.

The Terminal Method

If you own a NAS that doesn't seem to have full Time Machine support, it is possible to use these network drives with Time Machine, but with a little extra work. Time Machine defaults to using locally-connected external drives and the aforementioned discontinued hardware, and sometimes just doesn't bother offering other locations up for use, even though they may well be perfectly usable.

Warning: the following instruction is not officially supported by Apple. The decision to do this is up to the user, but it is advised to make any back-up preparations before continuing.

To nudge Time Machine to use unsupported volumes, open a Terminal window. You can do this by accessing the Applications folder, scrolling to Utilities, then Terminal.

Enter the following command into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.systempreferences TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1



If this command doesn't work immediately, you can also try again by typing sudo before the command. This will usually result in having to authenticate by typing the account password into Terminal.

Once entered, check Time Machine, and it should show extra network drives on the list.

To disable this, enter the same command into Terminal but change the 1 to a 0.

Using Another Mac

If you have a Mac going spare with a considerable-enough hard drive, you can create a shared Time Machine backup folder on it for any machine to use, without relying on a terminal command to see it.

Click the Apple icon in the Menu Bar then System Preferences, then Sharing.



Tick the File Sharing checkbox, click Options, then make sure Share files and folders using SMB is enabled before exiting that panel.



Under the Shared Folders list, click the plus button. Select the folder you want to allow other Mac systems to access over the network, and click Add.



Right-click the newly-added folder and select Advanced Options. In this new window, make sure SMB is selected in the Share Over menu and tick Share as a Time Machine backup destination.



At this point, you can also set a limit for how much of the Mac's storage can be set aside for remote Time Machine backups. Once completed, click OK.

Further Notes

The instructions above do not explain how to set this up with a Windows-based machine, and your NAS may not work with it either. We'll be covering how to force that incompatible NAS or idle PC to do your bidding in regards to Time Machine in a future tip.

Also remember that, far from just using another Mac as Time Machine storage, it is worth exploring the possibility of using the spare machine as a macOS home server. It can do quite a bit more than holding files, and may be worth looking into, depending on your level of experience and computing requirements.
ravnorodom
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,170member
    Cool. The corpse is not even cold yet, but it seems that better sooner than later I should get used to “the good ole times” when fiddling with terminal and getting the unofficial stuff to kind of work was what made my day. How I don’t miss those days. 
    h2pwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 31
    geirnoklebyegeirnoklebye Posts: 37unconfirmed, member
    It is actually sad that you guys have to write this kind of article. – That Apple no longer can offer their customers a good hardware solution supporting their own backup system. Do they even make a recommendation for how to store Time Machine backups any more?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 31
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,364member
    It is actually sad that you guys have to write this kind of article. – That Apple no longer can offer their customers a good hardware solution supporting their own backup system. Do they even make a recommendation for how to store Time Machine backups any more?
    I assume Apple would just like you to store things in iCloud (iCloud Documents, Photos, etc). 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 31
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,606member
    Neither of those choices are very appealing. Currently Airport Extreme can provide internet access and also do Time Machine backups at the same time. Having to attach a dongle and an ethernet cable to your MBP is a nuisance. Best to go with one of the new wifi routers that have USB 3.0 ports and attach your storage there. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 31
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,606member
    It is actually sad that you guys have to write this kind of article. – That Apple no longer can offer their customers a good hardware solution supporting their own backup system. Do they even make a recommendation for how to store Time Machine backups any more?
    Time Machine works perfectly by simply attaching an external drive to your Mac.

    There are a 100 articles on the Apple website regarding Time Machine.

    https://www.apple.com/us/search/Time-Machine
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 31
    I wonder what the NAS that do support Time Machine are actually doing? Is it just offering support for AFP and Bonjour service discovery or more than that? My NAS (from a major vendor who I'll not mention here as this is not an advertisement) shows up just fine after I enable the Time Machine support in its preferences. But I have had the dreaded "Time Machine needs to rebuild your backups" once since I switched to it.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,698administrator
    lordpixel said:
    I wonder what the NAS that do support Time Machine are actually doing? Is it just offering support for AFP and Bonjour service discovery or more than that? My NAS (from a major vendor who I'll not mention here as this is not an advertisement) shows up just fine after I enable the Time Machine support in its preferences. But I have had the dreaded "Time Machine needs to rebuild your backups" once since I switched to it.
    There are two levels of Time Machine support. One is explicit support, with an HFS+ formatted drive. The other is with SMB 4.8 support.

    Older NAS devices with SMB, as well as old PCs, can be shoehorned into supporting it. We'll be talking about how to do that later.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 31
    .
    macxpress said:
    It is actually sad that you guys have to write this kind of article. – That Apple no longer can offer their customers a good hardware solution supporting their own backup system. Do they even make a recommendation for how to store Time Machine backups any more?
    I assume Apple would just like you to store things in iCloud (iCloud Documents, Photos, etc). 
    Well not everybody trusts any cloud with their own data... especially when vendor re-encodes them tinkering with private content. Risk of loss is always there as well despite cloud guwarentees. Plus some of us do not like "attachments" with iCloud (iPhones abusing it to run Apple business in messaging and not identifying phiones by phone number as primary ID properly misdelivering to iPads and devices that do not even have phone number or blocking delivery to people who used to have iPhones a swicthed to Android).
  • Reply 9 of 31
    Mike Wuerthele said: There are two levels of Time Machine support. One is explicit support, with an HFS+ formatted drive. The other is with SMB 4.8 support.

    Older NAS devices with SMB, as well as old PCs, can be shoehorned into supporting it. We'll be talking about how to do that later.
    Well that's interesting but I wonder if that's the full story? e.g. my NAS is * a 2018 model with the latest software * definitely not using HFS+ for the underlying filesystems—it is ext4—though it could be creating some kind of virtual file system with HFS+ similar to how Time Capsule does it with a dmg I guess * It mentions in the documentation that enabling Time Machine support automatically switches on AFP support. I have SMB turned on as well, but it gives the appearance that it is using AFP.
    edited April 30 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 31
    Expensive option at $1600 but I just ordered two Synology routers and 2-bay NAS' with 12BG each of storage (for work and home) to do what Time Capsule does and so, so, much more... I've been meaning to do this anyway... Having said that, Apple is beginning to make me a little sick at times.
  • Reply 11 of 31
    benji888benji888 Posts: 66member
    I have a question:
    The end the AirPort product line could cause some issues in the future, when users want to back up their Mac's data using Time Machine but find their Apple network appliance has died completely, with no immediate replacement available. Here's how to set Time Machine to use a NAS or another Mac's storage elsewhere on a home network.


    volcan said:

    Time Machine works perfectly by simply attaching an external drive to your Mac.

    There are a 100 articles on the Apple website regarding Time Machine.

    https://www.apple.com/us/search/Time-Machine
    I've always done what volcan says, just connect an external drive to your mac, simple, works great, and you can do encrypted backups.

    I tried to connect a drive to the USB port on my Apple AirPort Extreme a/c, however, it will not recognize, (nor work with), encrypted time machine backup drives, that can only be done with an actual AirPort Time Capsule, one with the drive already inside.

    Does this process enable you to do encrypted time machine backups via the USB port?
    edited April 30 watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 31
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,143member
    macxpress said:
    I assume Apple would just like you to store things in iCloud (iCloud Documents, Photos, etc). 
    Good for them, that’s not secure. If I don’t have my own data, then I don’t have it at all. It’s also why I hate streaming. Apple wants me to just rebuy everything from them (when I already own these things) and stream it to my devices across the Internet rather than having it stored on them or stored locally on my network. Their computer access interface is severely lacking for Apple TV. The requirement to have a computer turned on and iTunes running is also a total farce. What’s wrong with “pay once and I own it forever”, rather than “pay forever otherwise you lose it immediately”?
  • Reply 13 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,366member
    Helpful. 👍

    Twelve-ish years ago I remember I had to OS X Server for macOS Leopard (10.5) to get the option to allow a Mac to be a Time Machine server for other Macs on my network. If there was a Terminal command to edit a PLIST to make this happen I didn't know about it. I think OS X Server for Leopard cost $999. Remember when it was $129 to buy macOS? I think things are better today.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 31
    ivanhivanh Posts: 156member
    DO NOT use NAS to do Time Machine backup. You will regret sooner or later when you see the verification failure message on the Mac. NAS has its own OS(Linus, many of them), not capable of handling complex TM backup structure. Use USB 3 external drives instead.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,366member
    ivanh said:
    DO NOT use NAS to do Time Machine backup. You will regret sooner or later when you see the verification failure message on the Mac. NAS has its own OS(Linus, many of them), not capable of handling complex TM backup structure. Use USB 3 external drives instead.
    I've never had an issue.
  • Reply 16 of 31
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,698administrator
    ivanh said:
    DO NOT use NAS to do Time Machine backup. You will regret sooner or later when you see the verification failure message on the Mac. NAS has its own OS(Linus, many of them), not capable of handling complex TM backup structure. Use USB 3 external drives instead.
    While I'm sure some will do this, it is not universal. In fact, if you have any NAS built in the last four years and have kept the firmware updated, you shouldn't really have a problem.
  • Reply 17 of 31
    benji888benji888 Posts: 66member
    So, again, what about encryption? I only do encrypted backups, and, as far as I know, you can only do that via either:

    1) Time Machine using an external drive.
    2) Time Capsule (which is just Time Machine using the drive in the airport).

    And, if you're not doing encrypted backups, why not? If you do any online purchases, banking, etc., then that information on your non-encrypted backup would be easily accessible if stolen. (I also use file vault.)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,366member
    benji888 said:
    So, again, what about encryption? I only do encrypted backups, and, as far as I know, you can only do that via either:

    1) Time Machine using an external drive.
    2) Time Capsule (which is just Time Machine using the drive in the airport).

    And, if you're not doing encrypted backups, why not? If you do any online purchases, banking, etc., then that information on your non-encrypted backup would be easily accessible if stolen. (I also use file vault.)
    1) I do encrypted backups to my NAS and I think I've always done encrypted backups to an old 2001 iMac running OS X Server as a Time Machine and iTunes server. The drives are encrypted and protected as much as possible and the TM backups are encrypted, which I've always assumed happens from the host machine's end as you need a password to access the sparsebundle.

    2) While I encrypt everything, there are surely reasons why people may not want to do it. The biggest reason to backup has historically been drive failure, not theft. If device theft is a major concern, then offsite backups are something one should consider.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    geirnoklebyegeirnoklebye Posts: 37unconfirmed, member
    volcan said:
    It is actually sad that you guys have to write this kind of article. – That Apple no longer can offer their customers a good hardware solution supporting their own backup system. Do they even make a recommendation for how to store Time Machine backups any more?
    Time Machine works perfectly by simply attaching an external drive to your Mac.

    Yeah, so we went from a nice centralized backup option for a multi Mac home or small business "that just worked", to the dongle and external peripheral hell of the future Apple. Way to go Tim Cook!
  • Reply 20 of 31
    geirnoklebyegeirnoklebye Posts: 37unconfirmed, member
    macxpress said:
    It is actually sad that you guys have to write this kind of article. – That Apple no longer can offer their customers a good hardware solution supporting their own backup system. Do they even make a recommendation for how to store Time Machine backups any more?
    I assume Apple would just like you to store things in iCloud (iCloud Documents, Photos, etc). 
    iCloud can replace TM backups for certain types of documents provided you have the bandwidth for it. Large swats of the world don't have this as they never had cabled connections for their homes or locations, but rely almost entirely on mobile connections that usually are metered. 

    Also iCloud cannot do full system backups and restore, and don't do versioning like a TM backup will do. 
    tallest skil
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