Airport Extreme and Time Machine

This is an addendum to my Airport Extreme Mini Review that I posted a couple of days ago.

I’ve been using the Airport Extreme for the weekend, and I’m still happy with it.

Backing up the laptop to a USB drive plugged into the Airport Extreme was easy, and although it’s not a documented feature, you don’t have to do anything funny to get it to work. Plug the drive into the Airport Extreme, double-click on it on the Mac, and in Time Machine, select it as your backup drive. That’s it.

The format that Time Machine uses for a remote backup is different than what it uses if the drive is locally mounted – it shows up as a sparse volume instead of files on the disk – so you can’t take the same drive you’ve been using with Time Machine plugged into the laptop and just continue backing up over the network.

It’s fast! My initial 80gb backup was done in about 12 hours, over 100mb/minute.

I did run into an interesting Airport Extreme firmware bug. The backups I had made before I plugged the drive into the Airport Extreme were still there, and I wanted to delete them since I had the new format backup. When I would try to delete those files (there were over a million files), the Airport signal would suddenly disappear and I’d have no more wireless until I rebooted the Airport Extreme. Apparently trying to delete that many files was crashing the firmware.

I plugged the drive into the laptop directly, deleted the files, and moved it back, and everything has been working since.