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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Death of a Time Capsule Part 1 - Recovering the Hard Disk

Yesterday, our Apple Time Capsule (1TB) died after 4 years of service a silent and unexpected death. Besides a faint flash of the status lights of the ethernet connectors, it did not give any signal of life any more - all lights dark and the disk not starting any more. This event gave rise to a couple of thoughts:

1) What caused the failure?

Unfortunately I cannot exactly tell, as I do not have the equipment at home to do test. But from the behavior of the device I would fingerpoint to the power supply, which seems to have given up. I betted on thermal problems, which would be in line with the comments given on

2) What hard disk is hidden inside a Time Capsule?

There are a couple of blogs about the disks Apple uses for its TCs, most musing about the 'server grade' disks supposed to be found inside. I wanted to open the TC myself to check what is inside, and furthermore I wanted to get the hard disk out as I assumed that this was not broken and could be reused, and all my family's photos, videos, music and data is on there (YES: I do have a backup, but still...).
So I followed the description given on, and opened the thing.
What I found - not very unexpected - was a 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Black (WD1001FALS) SATA disk:

3) Did the Disk Survive?

As I mentioned before, my hope was that the disk was still functional and I could reuse it somewhere somehow. To check the disk I opened my goog old Dell PC which has 2 SATA disks. I unconnected one of these and connected the disk from the TC to the PC's controller.
Next I fired up the computer and started the BIOS menu (you have to hit one of the F-keys, don't remember which...). The BIOS setup rountines give the possibilities to run disk checks on the disks connected - what I did. After a while (actually, the disk check takes while) the disk check told me that my TC disk was still OK and did not show any errors:

 4) What Next???

Now I could think of a replacement for our Time Capsule. After a deep thought and a couple of discussions with my wife we identified the following things we wanted to change with a new setup:

  • Separate the disk from the WLAN router to avoid collateral damage if one of the devices breaks
  • We wanted to realize a setup which allows streaming music directly from the disk without the need to have a computer running
  • Connection to our HiFi equipment
  • Price should be kind of reasonable
  • With the TC I did the data backup manually, it would be nice to get this automated in a RAID array
  • What I got from reading a couple of forums, it would be nice if the device to come had an iTunes server on board.
  • I wanted as well to connect a PS3 to the disk to view photos via the PS3
After some time studying forums and technical datasheets, we decided for the following setup:
  • The WLAN router will be realized by an Apple Airport Express. As this is able to receive streaming data via Apple Airplay, I connected it to the HiFi amplifier
  • The Time Capsule's hard disk will be reused in a Synology DS212j. I expect that this device is able to talk Airplay and that I can connect to the Airport Express. Furthermore, it has an iTunes server on board providing a local shared library. Besides this I has to slots for disks, one to be equipped with a backup disk (still to be bought) which can be set-up as RAID array. Last but not least it has many interesting features and can be connected to a PS3.
The Synology will arrive in a couple of days. I'll keep you updated in my next blog post.