Design failure in Apple's Time Capsule leads to data loss

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Comments

  • Reply 21 of 82
    glhglh Posts: 11member
    I replaced the 2tb hard drive in my Time Capsule with a 4tb one. It's been working fine for ~6 years, perhaps because I'm not using the 3tb hard drive that came with some of the TC's. With an adapter, it would be easy to attach a small drive or an ssd instead of the large hd. A ssd would generate very little heat, and the TC might last for years.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 22 of 82
    davidwdavidw Posts: 1,606member
    MplsP said:
    the time capsules had notoriously bad thermal management. I had one that would routinely get too hot to touch. When I took it apart, I discovered that, among other things, Apple had covered up the holes in the aluminum base with a rubber foot so air couldn't flow through them. Evidently cooling was still rocket science for Apple at that point.
    The "rubber foot" is made of some type of "thermal rubber" that conducts heat and acts to draw heat away, along with the thin metal base. This creates a much larger heat sink. It's like the "rubber" material placed between a CPU and a heat sink. Plus an Airport Extreme and Time Capsule are double insulated because it does not use a ground connection to the outlet. Thus there can not be any metal parts exposed that can be touched, in case of an internal short to the case.  

    Where Apple failed was to not put any feet on the bottom, to raise the it a half inch above the surface. Instead of the base resting directly on a flat surface. I place my TC on top of a pill bottle cap in each corner. Thus allowing air flow across  the bottom. Or one can place the TC on it's side with the bottom and top exposed to air flow. 

    That said, I lost the 1TB HD on one of my Airport TC a while back (maybe 5 years ago). It was a Seagate HD and Seagate HD are notorious for high failure rate and the model Seagate HD that failed in the TC was one that was known for high failure. Since i did not buy the TC new, I just replaced it with a WD HD. I never noticed the TC getting "hot".  Still working today. The other one that hasn't failed yet been working for over 10 years. But it's only a 500GB HD. I can't say whether there's a design flaw or I just got one with  a bad HD. 

    But luckily, even if the TC could no longer read the HD, when I placed it in an external case, I was able to read it and  recover all the data on my Mac. Which were just back ups anyway and I still had the original data. Eventually, the HD failed completely.  
    edited July 2021 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 23 of 82
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 297member
    The conclusions of this report seem suspect to me. First of all: the most widely quoted "average lifespan" for a hard disk is 3-5 years. Which puts ALL Time Machine hard drives either within or exceeding this range already. So "predicting" now that "they will fail sooner or later" is really just stating known, obvious fact. Yes, they will, and probably sooner than later given their age now. Sure, your TM HD could last years longer, but even without a possible design defect, you're close to or actually living on borrowed time now.

    But to drill down a bit further--the speculation about different heating rates causing the eventual failure doesn't really make sense. Sure, the Time Capsule doesn't have great ventilation, but once it's on, it's on, and reaches a stable operating temp. So while the two different materials in the parking ramp may heat up at different rates, that only comes into play when you're turning on the Time Capsule from an off state--which almost never happens in actual use. Otherwise, the different materials, like the Time Capsule itself, will remain at a fairly stabile operating temp once it's achieved. 

    And yes, I realize that after writing the above, I will probably wake up to a Time Machine hard drive failure tomorrow, no doubt! By the way: does anyone know why Apple STILL doesn't make Time Machine backups to iCloud possible? It seems like such an easy and obvious service to sell to Apple's huge user base, I have to assume there's a good reason why not. 
    edited July 2021 StrangeDayspscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 24 of 82
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 4,151member
    Wow! The Seagate-WD war continues. The WD remote wipe story had posts saying how unreliable WD disks were. This one talks about how flaky Seagate drives are!

    Yes, probably best to move to SSDs now. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 25 of 82
    The "parking ramp" is the part of the HDD that connects the drive to the external enclosure. Unfortunately, as the poorly-ventilated Time Capsule heats up, the two materials heat at different rates, leading to eventual wear and destruction of the parking ramp.
    This is embarrassing. Stop writing about tech you don't understand. You have at least two quite clueful writers on staff, why not run this stuff by them?

    The parking area is INSIDE the drive itself. It provides a place where the heads can stay when the drive is sleeping/off (or idle for long enough, depending on drive and OS). This protects the media against damage if the drive sustains mechanical shocks (g-forces, not electricity) while the heads are parked. It improves survivability especially when moving or shipping drives.

    tenthousandthingsh4y3sStrangeDayspscooter63IreneWdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 26 of 82
    Another reason I started using Time Machine Editor over 10 years ago with my previous generation Time Capsule, and it's always been used with my latest gen. It only runs one time per day, or if I would happen to need to extract data from it, which isn't often. I, also, retired it as my primary home network in favor of a mesh setup, so its sole purpose is for Time Machine backups, and to run the Airport Express I have connected to my home camera system to make it wireless. Nine years later, and it still works as designed. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 27 of 82
    alphafoxalphafox Posts: 131member
    I still use my AirPort Extreme for my main router, the thing is bulletproof. No drive in just the router version. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 28 of 82
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,991member
    The comments here could help explain Apple’s decision to exit the networking business.
  • Reply 29 of 82
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,659member
    davidw said:
    MplsP said:
    the time capsules had notoriously bad thermal management. I had one that would routinely get too hot to touch. When I took it apart, I discovered that, among other things, Apple had covered up the holes in the aluminum base with a rubber foot so air couldn't flow through them. Evidently cooling was still rocket science for Apple at that point.
    The "rubber foot" is made of some type of "thermal rubber" that conducts heat and acts to draw heat away, along with the thin metal base. This creates a much larger heat sink. It's like the "rubber" material placed between a CPU and a heat sink. Plus an Airport Extreme and Time Capsule are double insulated because it does not use a ground connection to the outlet. Thus there can not be any metal parts exposed that can be touched, in case of an internal short to the case.  

    Where Apple failed was to not put any feet on the bottom, to raise the it a half inch above the surface. Instead of the base resting directly on a flat surface. I place my TC on top of a pill bottle cap in each corner. Thus allowing air flow across  the bottom. Or one can place the TC on it's side with the bottom and top exposed to air flow. 

    That said, I lost the 1TB HD on one of my Airport TC a while back (maybe 5 years ago). It was a Seagate HD and Seagate HD are notorious for high failure rate and the model Seagate HD that failed in the TC was one that was known for high failure. Since i did not buy the TC new, I just replaced it with a WD HD. I never noticed the TC getting "hot".  Still working today. The other one that hasn't failed yet been working for over 10 years. But it's only a 500GB HD. I can't say whether there's a design flaw or I just got one with  a bad HD. 

    But luckily, even if the TC could no longer read the HD, when I placed it in an external case, I was able to read it and  recover all the data on my Mac. Which were just back ups anyway and I still had the original data. Eventually, the HD failed completely.  
    Even if you are correct, ‘thermal rubber’ to conduct heat away instead of actual airflow is still a horrible design, and as you pointed out, the device was designed to sit flat on a surface, eliminating the limited ability the rubber may have had.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 30 of 82
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,114member
    ubernaut said:
    seems like the only good solution now is to attach a NAS to your network or get a router that supports time machine protocol. funny thing is those are actually more dough than the time capsule was. :/
    MY TC's drive crapped out years ago, and this is exactly what I did...costs more, but it's worth it. Synology DS220+, couple 4TB drives in it. Time Machine, file server, Plex server, CCTV, redundancy, etc.. I'm digging it.
    edited July 2021 dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 31 of 82
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    No big deal!  (IF it is only used as a backup -- and if the user is promptly notified of the failure)

    You're original data is still intact -- you just need to replace the hardware.
    In the case of harddrives it is best to expect a failure rather than being surprised by one.  That is why, if you have critical data it is best that it is backup in more than one spot.  

    In my machines, I have moved the original harddrive over to the backup slot and replaced it with an SSD that is not only newer and (hopefully) more reliable but a hell of a lot faster -- so my data is stored on the SSD and the backup is on the old harddrive.   If the old harddrive dies I'll simply replace it with one of the ones I have laying around.

    Years ago when I was a Cost Accountant we lost an entire year's worth of data because 3 backups of it were lost or destroyed.  It showed me the value of data:   Everything else on a computer can be repaired or replaced.  But not the data.   Once it's gone it's gone forever.  

    The Thinkpad I'm using right now has spots for 3 separate drives.  This one is not used for critical data so I only have two of them used (the prime spot and one backup -- but if I move it over to use it for financial data I will add a third and run dual backups on it.

    For Apple's laptops -- and especially for their iPads -- that is not an option.  The iPads automatically backup to iCloud.  I think Apple should initiate the same for their laptops.  That is, in fact, an ideal way to backup a backup:  If, say, my house burns down I my data would be backup off site and safe waiting to be restored once I replaced the house and the laptop.
    edited July 2021
  • Reply 32 of 82
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    mcdave said:
    Apple should update the Airport Utility. Firstly to use their own AuthenticationServices (so I can strong-password my AE) and allow the TC/AE+HDD to be repurposed as an iCloud content cache to accelerate iCloud backups, Drive & other services for multiple users & small-storage devices.
    They will never.
  • Reply 33 of 82
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    charlesn said:
    The conclusions of this report seem suspect to me. First of all: the most widely quoted "average lifespan" for a hard disk is 3-5 years. Which puts ALL Time Machine hard drives either within or exceeding this range already. [...]
    3-5 years??? That sounds ridiculous! I’ve had drive failures, but not THAT many or THAT often! I’ve usually had drives function for decades. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 34 of 82
    techconctechconc Posts: 236member
    Failure of a Time Capsule doesn't necessarily mean data loss at the article implies.  I had an older Time Capsule years ago that eventually failed. When it did, I took it apart, removed the hard drive and was able to recover everything perfectly.  It wasn't a big deal at all.  For that matter, most people should have a backup strategy that involves more than one form or method of backup.  Time machine is just one part of that strategy.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 35 of 82
    looplessloopless Posts: 254member
    It’s is simple to attach an external usb drive to the “dead” TC  and reset your time machine backup to that drive. You may have lost your old backups, but typically a TC is just a disaster recovery mechanism
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 36 of 82
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,383member
    No big deal!  (IF it is only used as a backup -- and if the user is promptly notified of the failure)

    You're original data is still intact -- you just need to replace the hardware.
    In the case of harddrives it is best to expect a failure rather than being surprised by one.  That is why, if you have critical data it is best that it is backup in more than one spot.  

    In my machines, I have moved the original harddrive over to the backup slot and replaced it with an SSD that is not only newer and (hopefully) more reliable but a hell of a lot faster -- so my data is stored on the SSD and the backup is on the old harddrive.   If the old harddrive dies I'll simply replace it with one of the ones I have laying around.

    Years ago when I was a Cost Accountant we lost an entire year's worth of data because 3 backups of it were lost or destroyed.  It showed me the value of data:   Everything else on a computer can be repaired or replaced.  But not the data.   Once it's gone it's gone forever.  

    The Thinkpad I'm using right now has spots for 3 separate drives.  This one is not used for critical data so I only have two of them used (the prime spot and one backup -- but if I move it over to use it for financial data I will add a third and run dual backups on it.

    For Apple's laptops -- and especially for their iPads -- that is not an option.  The iPads automatically backup to iCloud.  I think Apple should initiate the same for their laptops.  That is, in fact, an ideal way to backup a backup:  If, say, my house burns down I my data would be backup off site and safe waiting to be restored once I replaced the house and the laptop.
    A lot of big-name ISPs cap residential account upload speeds significantly below their advertised broadband download speeds. (One might imagine this is to prevent residential accounts from being used to host websites of any significant nature.) Likewise, many have overall monthly data transfer caps that would quickly be surpassed by the size of an initial computer hard drive’s backup. Worse, if a household has more than one notebook or desktop computer. Until these practices are no longer standard, offsite cloud backups aren’t a viable option for residential customers. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 37 of 82
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,062member
    alphafox said:
    I still use my AirPort Extreme for my main router, the thing is bulletproof. No drive in just the router version. 
    I did too, but failures crept in starting a couple of years ago.

    First, the single USB connection simply “gave up” and stopped reading or supplying power.  Not even a thumb drive was readable.  When I spoke to an Apple Genius about it, he said this was a very common failure point.  I soldiered on with dedicated drives for each Mac.

    Two months ago, I suffered yje catastrophic failure mentioned above: nothing but an amber blink, resets did nothing, nor detectable on the network.  So I fled to Synology too, but their WiFi router, RT2600ac.  Supports Time Machine via multiple USB inputs, just a really capable device, I couldn’t be happier.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 38 of 82
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 297member
    dysamoria said:
    charlesn said:
    The conclusions of this report seem suspect to me. First of all: the most widely quoted "average lifespan" for a hard disk is 3-5 years. Which puts ALL Time Machine hard drives either within or exceeding this range already. [...]
    3-5 years??? That sounds ridiculous! I’ve had drive failures, but not THAT many or THAT often! I’ve usually had drives function for decades. 
    Google "average lifespan of hard drive" I'm not saying it's correct, but over and over again from a wide variety of sources you will see 3-5 years. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 39 of 82
    libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,401member
    Just upgrade the hard drive, I did with a 10 TB NAS type hard drive!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 40 of 82
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,119member
    dysamoria said:
    charlesn said:
    The conclusions of this report seem suspect to me. First of all: the most widely quoted "average lifespan" for a hard disk is 3-5 years. Which puts ALL Time Machine hard drives either within or exceeding this range already. [...]
    3-5 years??? That sounds ridiculous! I’ve had drive failures, but not THAT many or THAT often! I’ve usually had drives function for decades. 
    Decades, in an always-on device? I don't believe you. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
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