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Time Machine Backup to Airport Extreme Hard Drive Remotely

Posted on 2009-03-30
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-21

I have seen talk of this on here and other sites, but never all the pieces together.

I have a Macbook Pro with Leopard installed. When I am at home, Time Machine backups wireless to the Lacie 320GB Hard Drive attached by USB to my Airport Extreme. By default, the Hard Drive did not show up, but I simply had to go to Terminal, enter a line to allow unsupported hard drives. (any drive other than a time capsule).

Now what I want to do is be able to be at work, and still backup to my drive at home. I would need to do port forwarding on the Airport Extreme. I understand its not the safest method, but not working with government secrets.

At work, we have a Lacie NAS which is attached to a Router and port forwarded and we can access it remotely via ftp. So trying to replicate that but with an airport extreme and not NAS drive.

I have enabled WAN on the Airport Extreme and not sure if I have a static IP address at home.

You can be technical in your response just list all necessary steps. Thanks!

Any thoughts would be very helpful.
Question by:heavymark
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LVL 41

Expert Comment

by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 24026495
My short advice would be DON'T do it.  It isn't just a matter of safety but also performance.
On your local network you are using the WiFi at almost full speed, the Mac and Airport are on the same network and subnet.

Time Machine is not designed to work over FTP and I have not seen any examples of it working reliably.

If you have very fast broadband at both locations, high quality of service (ie. few dropped packets) then you might consider setting up a VPN between your office and home and then you'd be on the same network/subnet and the connection would be more secure too.

Author Comment

ID: 24028734
Thank you for your response, but as I mentioned I am not worried about security, and yes internet speeds are more than adequate as both locations. Just imagine it a proof of concept problem if that helps.

Time Machine is also not designed to backup to network drives other than Time Capsules, but with one line in Terminal it is allowed. Also, if it makes it easier you don't even need to factor in Time Machine, as as long as I can connect to the hard drive and mount it remotely, having Time Machine see and backup to it is not a problem for me.

My IP is not static, so most all of the sites I have read, they use a site called www.dyndns.org which gives you a hostname to use a static IP and the dynamic IP at my apartment would update to that. If there were a computer at home, that would not be a problem, as the computer would just need to install the software from the site that allows the hostname to get the new IP whenever it changes. But there is no computer there. On the otherhand, the IP rarely changes, and I'm home evernight so the software on my laptop could update it then. And if for some reason im at work and it changes its not a big deal if I can backup one day.

I have found many people do what I would like through Airport Extreme online, just no one with explicit enough instructions.

As for a VPN connection,that or any other solution is fine as long as it results in me being able to mount my hard drive remotely. However, I do not want to do something that costs money. (having to be VPN equipment)  As if I was willing to pay money I could get a NAS Lacie Hard Drive  like I have at work to do it.

As for other options I do realize the pros and cons of something such as mozy.com but that does not answer all my needs. Also I recently purchased a year of hosting from DreamHost for only $9.95 (for the entire year) and unlimited hosting + 50GB. Unlimited refers to normal website files, and 50GB refers to use set aside for just computer backups and such. Though option might work unless I need to go over 50GB and I still need to be able to mount that FTP. The program www.interarchy.com seems to allow you to mount a NetDisk which is an FTP but didn't seem to get that to work as planned. And with that I think Time Machine would have to backup everything to my computer and then mirror it to the website rather than just backuping to the website which wouldnt work.

Sorry for the long write up, but I have thought this through and once again just looking for instructions on how to mount a LaCie Hard drive that is connected to an Airport Extreme at home, while at work. And my home network is not a static IP. Imagine security is not an issue, nor is performance, nor is the reliability of Time Machine. Thanks!

Author Comment

ID: 24031064
After several hours of researching and finding people saying its not possible, I found explicit instructions on how to do this:


*You do not need a MacBook Air for this.

The one problem still is if you do not have a static IP which is most everyone doing this through a home network, and do not have an extra computer always on at home, which is also the case for most, you still run into the issue of dyndns.com now being able to get your IP if it renews while your at work or wherever. Most other routers allow updates to dyndns type servers but until Apple Extreme does, this will still be an issue, unless you purchase and extra device to attach to it, to do that updating.

I have been looking for a free way, as this is just something for convenience and find it fun to customize my world. However, everything I want in this post, can be accomplished seamlessly if you purchase MobileMe from Apple. The Airport Extreme (even old gen through free update) and Time Capsule have a field to enter your MobileMe Info. And allows you to remotely mount your Time Capsule or Hard drive attached via usb to your Airport Extreme. Most importantly Airport Extreme sends the routers IP to your MobileMe account so you can bypass the dyndns issues completely, and mounts automatically rather than having to use Finder to Connect each time (or through a script when there is an active internet connection). The one problem there is its 99 dollars per year.

If MobileMe allowed personal domains for emailing not just websites I would consider it but they do not as yet. I use Google Apps (free) for my domains email, and to push my contacts and calendar from computer to server to iphone and such over the air. Google just needs to come out with Push Email.

Unless someone figures out away to have Airport send the IP address to a service like Dyndns automatically for free I will assume I have answered this question myself to the best it can be until Apple makes more updates. Thanks! 3/31/09

LVL 41

Accepted Solution

Eoin OSullivan earned 250 total points
ID: 24036384
Just to review .. in your original question you asked how to backup your entire mac to Time machine while connected remotely and in particular you mentioned FTP.

I focused on this requirement in my answer because you seemed focused on running Time Machine rather than simply having access to the Airport Extreme attached HD when working remotely.  You will also note that the sharing of the HD is done over port 548 .. this is the OSX default port for Apple File Sharing protocol or AFP (formerly called AppleTalk) and designed for Apple to Apple file sharing.  This means that you can access the HD remotely from an OSX machine over AFP but not a Windows PC.  To get the full range of file sharing options, FTP, ssh etc then you'd be better connecting the HD to a Mac or PC and sharing it on your local network and allowing access "through" the Airport Extreme but I realise you have just 1 computer at home.

I am aware that Apple (stupidly in my opinion) tried to disable the ability to share Hard Drives on the network for TimeMachine (in order to try and promote their TimeCapsule product) and that a simple 1 line Terminal command reverses the lock but this does not make the working to TimeMachine from your remote location any better.  Can you provide any examples of people backing up via TimeMachine to a remote Airport Extreme with attached Hard Drive?

I see you've found one of the articles on how to access the Airport Extreme remotely and have also found the dynamic IP "problem".

Personally I have 2 macs on my network and therefore can run the DynDNS updater if required.  

It is also worth checking if your ISP offers a fixed IP address for a small annual extra charge (less than MobileMe perhaps).

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31564593
Not a solution, but trying to ask a new question and wont let me close otherwise.

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