Engineering:AirPort Time Capsule

From HandWiki
Short description: Wireless router by Apple
AirPort Time Capsule
DeveloperApple Inc.
TypeBackup drive, AirPort Extreme base station
Release dateFebruary 29, 2008
DiscontinuedApril 26, 2018
Storage500 GB to 3 TB Server-grade HDD

The AirPort Time Capsule (originally named Time Capsule) is a wireless router which was sold by Apple Inc., featuring network-attached storage (NAS) and a residential gateway router, and is one of Apple's AirPort products. They are, essentially, versions of the AirPort Extreme with an internal hard drive. Apple describes it as a "Backup Appliance", designed to work in tandem with the Time Machine backup software utility introduced in Mac OS X 10.5.[1]

Introduced on January 15, 2008 and released on February 29, 2008, the device has been upgraded several times, matching upgrades in the Extreme series routers. The earliest versions supported 802.11n wireless and came with a 500 GB hard drive in the base model, while the latest model, introduced in 2013, features 802.11ac and a 3 TB hard drive.[2] All models include four Gigabit Ethernet ports (3 LAN ports, 1 WAN port) and a single USB port. The USB port can be used for external peripheral devices to be shared over the network, such as external hard drives or printers. The NAS functionality utilizes a built-in "server grade" hard drive.

In 2016, Apple disbanded its wireless router development team, and in 2018 the entire AirPort line of products was discontinued without replacement.


In early 2009, Apple released the second-generation Time Capsule. It offered simultaneous 802.11n dual-band operation, which allows older devices to use slower wireless speeds, without affecting the overall performance of devices that can use higher 802.11n speeds.[3] The second-generation model also included the addition of Guest Networking, a feature which allows creation of a separate wireless network for guests. The guest network uses different authentication credentials, ensuring the security of the primary network.[3] The hard disk storage space of each model was doubled: capacities were 1 TB and 2 TB, while the prices remained unchanged.[4]

In October 2009, several news sites reported that many first-generation Time Capsules were failing after 18 months,[5] with some users alleging that this was due to a design failure in the power supplies.[6] Apple confirmed that certain Time Capsules sold between February 2008 and June 2008 do not power on, or may unexpectedly turn off. Apple offered free repair or replacement to affected units.[7]

The third-generation Time Capsule was released in October 2009. The only change was a reconfiguration of the internal wireless antenna, resulting in an Apple-reported 50% increase in wireless performance and 25% increase in wireless range when compared to previous models.[3]

The fourth-generation Time Capsule, released in June 2011, increased the range of Wi-Fi signals. The internal Wi-Fi card was changed from a Marvell Wi-Fi chip to a better-performing Broadcom BCM4331 chip.[8]

Rear ports on fifth-generation AirPort Time Capsule


In approximately 2016, Apple disbanded the wireless router team that developed the AirPort Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme router.[9] In 2018, Apple formally discontinued both products, exiting the router market.[10] Bloomberg News noted that "Apple rarely discontinues product categories"[10] and that its decision to leave the business was "a boom for other wireless router makers."[9]


The fifth-generation Time Capsule includes a fully featured, 802.11ac, Wi-Fi access point[3] including simultaneous dual-band operation. The Time Capsule supports the Sleep Proxy Service.[11]

The software is specially built by Apple and is not user modifiable. While the firmware has been decrypted,[12] a suitable privilege escalation exploit to run custom firmware is not developed for the latest firmware. However, the device runs a POSIX standard platform. The Time Capsule up to the fourth-generation runs on the ARM port of operating system NetBSD 4.0, while the fifth-generation model runs NetBSD 6.[13][14]

One of the key features of Time Capsule is the ability to back up a system and files wirelessly and automatically, eliminating the need to attach an external backup drive. This feature requires OS X 10.5.2 Leopard or greater on the client computers. The backup software is Apple's Time Machine, which, by default, makes hourly images of the files that are being changed, and condenses backup images as they become older, to save space. Even when using an 802.11n wireless or Gigabit Ethernet connection, the initial backup of any Mac to the drive requires significant time; Apple suggests that the initial backup will require "several hours or overnight to complete".[15]

The hard drive typically found in a Time Capsule is the Hitachi Deskstar, which is sold by Hitachi as a consumer-grade product—the Hitachi Ultrastar is the enterprise version.[16] Apple labeled the drive as a server-grade drive in promotional material for Time Capsule, and also used this type of drive in its discontinued Xserve servers. Apple states that the Hitachi Deskstar meets or exceeds the 1 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF) recommendation for server-grade hard drives.[17]

The 500 GB, first-generation Time Capsule shipped with a Seagate Barracuda ES-series drive;[18] or subsequently, other hard drives such as the Western Digital Caviar Green series.[19]

The Time Capsules up to the fourth-generation measure 7.7 inches (200 mm) square, and 1.4 inches (36 mm) high.[20]

The June 2013 release of the fifth-generation models features a name change to AirPort Time Capsule, and a redesign with measurements 3.85 inches (9.8 cm) square, and 6.6 inches (17 cm) high. The square dimensions echo the size of both the latest AirPort Express and Apple TVs (second generation onwards), just with the height being significantly higher. The 2013 models feature the same I/O ports on the back as previous generations, and come in the same capacities as the fourth-generation of 2 TB & 3 TB, but have introduced the newest Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac. The AirPort Extreme released at the same time is exactly the same in dimensions and I/O ports, just without the internal harddrive of the AirPort Time Capsule. 2013 models feature faster download speed, beamforming improvements and wireless or desktop network control with iCloud integration. Airport is compatible with devices using the 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac specifications. Also improved, Airport Utility has added one click Time Capsule format from the utility's Airport Time Capsule, Edit, Disks menu, allowing easy and rapid Erase Disk and Archive Disk to start over or configure Network. Disk Erase includes up to 35 passes and device includes encrypted storage plus optional WAN sharing, making Airport extremely secure and flexible for home, class and office environments. Airport Utility is a free download.[21]

Comparison chart

Model 1st generation
(early 2008)
2nd generation
(early & mid 2009)
3rd generation
(late 2009)
4th generation
(mid 2011)
5th generation
(mid 2013)
Marketing name Time Capsule AirPort Time Capsule
Release date February 29, 2008 March 3, 2009 July 30, 2009 October 20, 2009[22] June 21, 2011 June 10, 2013
Marketing model number MB276LL/A MB277LL/A MB764LL/A MB765LL/A MB996LL/A MC343LL/A MC344LL/A MD032LL/A MD033LL/A ME177LL/A ME182LL/A
Model number A1254 A1302 A1355 A1409 A1470
Hard drive 500 GB 1 TB 500 GB 1 TB 2 TB 1 TB 2 TB 3 TB 2 TB 3 TB
Original price US$299 US$499 US$299 US$499 US$499 US$299 US$499 US$299 US$499 US$299 US$399
US$299[lower-alpha 1]
Guest networking No Yes
802.11a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz bands Single-band operation Dual-band operation
Internal Wi-Fi Marvell Atheros AR9220/AR9223 Marvell Broadcom BCM4331 Broadcom BCM4360
Standards 802.11 DSSS 1 & 2 Mbit/s standard, 802.11a/b/g/n (draft) 802.11 DSSS 1 & 2 Mbit/s standard, 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11 DSSS 1 & 2 Mbit/s standard, 802.11ac (draft)/a/b/g/n
Data link protocol Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n (draft) Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11ac (draft)/a/b/g/n
Network / transport protocol Bonjour, IPsec, L2TP, PPTP Bonjour, DHCP, DNS, IPsec, L2TP, PPPoE, PPTP
CPU Marvell 1850 step A0 (Feroceon core) [88F5281 Rev 4]
RAM 128 MB
  1. Price cut in July 2009 with introduction of 2 TB model, as the 1 TB model became the lower-capacity Time Capsule.

See also


  1. Davies, Chris (January 15, 2008). "Macworld 08: Apple launch Time Capsule wireless NAS". 
  2. "AirPort Time Capsule - 2TB". Apple Inc.. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Time Capsule - Wireless". Apple Inc.. 
  4. "Compare AirPort Family". Apple Inc.. 
  5. Brian X. Chen (October 12, 2009). "Apple Customers Mourn Over Dearly Departed Time Capsules". Wired. 
  6. Gregg Keizer (October 14, 2009). "Dying Apple Time Capsules spark complaints". Computer World. 
  7. "Time Capsule: Does not power on". Apple, Inc.. July 9, 2010. 
  8. Brian Klug (August 5, 2011). "Airport Extreme (5th Gen) and Time Capsule (4th Gen) Review - Faster WiFi". AnandTech. Section "Inside the Time Capsule". 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gurman, Mark (21 Nov 2016). "Apple Abandons Development of Wireless Routers". Bloomberg News. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gurman, Mark (26 Apr 2018). "Apple Officially Discontinues Its AirPort Wireless Routers". Bloomberg News. 
  11. "Mac OS X v10.6: About Wake on Demand (Apple Article HT3774)". Apple. August 27, 2009. ""Setting up Wake on Demand", "Setting up a Bonjour Sleep Proxy"" 
  12. "AirPort Hacking Update · Embedded Ideation" (in en). 
  13. "Time Capsule 1G - The AirPort Wiki" (in en). 
  14. "Time Capsule 2G - The AirPort Wiki" (in en). 
  15. "Time Capsule - Backup". Apple Inc.. 
  16. Rothman, Wilson (January 15, 2008). "Apple Time Capsule Server for Wireless Time Machine Backups". Gizmodo. Gawker Media. 
  17. Fleishman, Glenn (February 29, 2008). "Time Capsule Ships with Support for USB Drive Backups". 
  18. "Cracking Open the Time Capsule". January 30, 2009. 
  19. Gadient, Matt. "Time capsule 1TB uses the WD Caviar Green". 
  20. "Time Capsule - Technical Specifications". Apple Inc.. 
  21. "Apple Support Downloads for Airport". 
  22. Franklin, Eric (October 20, 2009). "Apple Time Capsule, Airport Extreme receive small (possibly significant) upgrades". CNET News. 

External links