Using Time Machine over a wireless network

This past week I was able to complete a minor project that has been on the list since for a couple of years. With the purchase of a 1TB USB hard drive from Axiom (which I can’t recommend enough, but that’s another article) I started using Time Machine over my wireless network. Essentially, it’s setting up a Network Attached Storage (NAS) and if you want to do something that sounds cool to tell your friends about it is a painless process with some stellar results in the convenience department.

After opening my boxes and plugging everything in I to learned it wasn’t as easy as I initially thought it would be. That said, it wasn’t difficult either. Rather than laying down directions, I’m going to refer you to this excellent article by Alan Zisman that gives clear directions to set up your Airdisk.

The most difficult thing in the process is waiting for the backup to complete. Why? When your Mac makes its backup folder on the Airdisk it creates a sparsebundle image. I tried connecting my 1TB drive to my iMac to do the backup directly, but the sparsebundle image is not recognized this way. I’m sure there’s a technical explanation for it, but I didn’t bother looking for it. So to the airwaves I went and it took my 1st gen Intel iMac about 12 hours to back up 74GB over my wireless network at 802.11g speeds. The good news is it was a solid connection the entire time and it completed without a hitch. My newer MBP with 802.11n completed a 65GB backup in about 5-6 hours doing around 10GB an hour. Be sure that you do not let your Mac go to sleep during this time as that could disrupt your network connection depending on your settings. Make sure your sleep settings are off and just use the screen dimming feature instead. Once the backup completed, I installed TimeMachineEditor on both Macs to change the default one hour backup to something more realistic for my needs.

Thus far I am entirely pleased with the process. I like knowing I don’t have to remember to connect my FW drive for my notebook and my data is still protected. It’s also a nice feeling to know that I now have 1,000GB of storage for a plethora of backups available.

UPDATE: If you’re using this solution with an Apple notebook, be sure to eject the drive before you go mobile. Otherwise, you will corrupt your sparsebundle image and have to start over from scratch.


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