Life Beyond the Time Capsule

I'm obviously a huge Apple fan.

And as a huge Apple fan, I swooned when Steve introduced the Time Capsule. "A router that also automatically backs up my entire hard drive - wirelessly?! Sign me up!"

But over time, it seems that the central selling point - a router and backup drive in one! - was less of a selling point and more of an obstacle.

After all, when I'm buying home theater equipment, I avoid "all-in-one" boxes. I want each component to do what it does really well - and I want to be able to upgrade my components individually, without having to upgrade everything.

There were better routers on the market - including several AirPort Extremes from Apple.

But I can't upgrade - I need the Time Capsule for backup.

There were better NAS devices on the market (granted, none from Apple).

Can't upgrade - I need the Time Capsule because it's also my router. 

The TC's hard drive failed - I replaced it. I was committed.

Eventually I gave in and got a new Airport Extreme and 4 AirPort Expresses to make up the wifi network, and the Time Capsule was relegated to a "backup only" position.

And then, 55 days ago, the Time Capsule stopped dead.

It seems that this is a common problem. But what failed?

If the hard drive INSIDE the TC had died (again), the TC may be salvageable with a new HD.
If the TC ITSELF died, the hard drive may be salvageable in a new enclosure.

My guess was that the TC died - presumably a heat-related capacitor blowout. That was the most common cause of death on the Apple boards, anyway.

With the right external enclosure, we could presumably turn the TC disk into a good looking Time Machine disk - connected directly to the iMac.

So at Fry's tonight, we picked up a Sabrent aluminum 3.5" SATA enclosure. All aluminum should look great next to the iMac.

Swapping out the Time Capsule Hard Drive

First, the bad news. Your Time Capsule will never be sealed up quite as tightly after you've opened it once. Fortunately, that's also the good news. Getting into the TC was a breeze. No heat gun required.

(I'm sure you remember how it's done.)

So, we have a disassembled Time Capsule. Pulling out the HD is as simple as disconnecting the SATA cables, and unscrewing the spacer bolts.

What wasn't quite so simple was "installing the hard drive in the new enclosure". OK, I see the IDE wires... where are the SATA connectors?

Oh, here they are.

Underneath the IDE stuff, attached to the circuit board, and flush with the bottom of the enclosure.

Putting the Sabrent enclosure back together is simple. Stuff the IDE cables into whatever open space is left in the device, 4 thumbscrews, and you're done.

But putting the device back together, I had an idea. You know, there's no reason that the "Sabrent: logo side of this aluminum piece has to be on the OUTSIDE of the device...

One Apple decal later, and you could plausibly mistake this for a Cupertino product.


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