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I’m curious if it’s possible to continue using an Airport Express to extend a non-Airport network. I currently have a Time Capsule as my router but could use the router feature on my cable modem (currently in bridge mode). However, I’d like to be able to use AirPlay. I’ve done some research and, at this point, am confused. Clarification would be appreciated, particularly from folks who have actually done this (or tried it).
Yes, I have two Airport Expresses which I use to stream music, and they extend a Netgear "Orbi" system. But I was not able to get an Airport Extreme to work as an extender, and it was causing problems even when connected via ethernet to my router, so I had to ditch it.
 
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One of the issues I've not seen discussed yet is the loss of the Time Machine function. Unless I missed something, all the newer MESH systems lack Time Machine capabilities. I really don't want to buy a one- (or two-) bay NAS just for backup as it's expensive. And before someone says "just hang a disk off the machine,” I use the Airport Base Station Time Capsule to back up 3 computers — my iMac, my MacBook Pro and my wife's older MacBook Pro. Having it done over the network seamlessly is one aspect I'd hate to give up.
 
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Can anyone recommend a replacement router which will support a USB-connected printer? I need to support a networked Dymo stamp/label printer.
 


The question is... what will happen when Airport Expresses are no longer available? What product can send airplayed content to an amplifier via a standard AUX cable?
If you are keen to tinker a bit, some people have configured a Raspberry Pi to act as an AirPlay receiver using the media center software RaspBMC. Follow Christian Cawley’s instructions for installing Raspbmc to get you 99% through the process:
https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/raspberry-pi-home-theater-system/

When you’re done, just make sure System > Network > Allow XBMC to receive AirPlay content is enabled.
 
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I haven't experimented with the Import/Export Configuration File feature of Airport Utility. Can that file be used as a way to configure the features that were lost with the move to the latest version of Airport Utility?
Sorry, but no.

The issue is not the Airport Utility. Current Airport basestation firmware no longer includes older features such as SNMP and logging. So, even if you load an older configuration which includes these items, they are ignored by the Airport basestation. Moreover, using an older firmware version is not a good idea as security will be diminished. For example, only the latest version has protection from KRACK.
 
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One of the issues I've not seen discussed yet is the loss of the Time Machine function. Unless I missed something, all the newer MESH systems lack Time Machine capabilities. I really don't want to buy a one- (or two-) bay NAS just for backup as it's expensive. And before someone says "just hang a disk off the machine,” I use the Airport Base Station Time Capsule to back up 3 computers — my iMac, my MacBook Pro and my wife's older MacBook Pro. Having it done over the network seamlessly is one aspect I'd hate to give up.
Some NAS are very expensive. However, Synology has a DS218 model that you can add a 4TB NAS drive to, for under $430. That is only $31 more than a 3TB Time Capsule and has far more features - can add another drive later for expansion, external expansion, etc. It can serve your network with a Gigabit port off your router/switch/hub, and your 3 computers. If you plan it out, it can also double as a media/iTunes server, or add a same-size pair of HDDs and RAID 1 for more data safety. I think a 4TB Red NAS is under $130... just an option. I think the question here is, What is your data worth to you, and what options can't you afford?
 
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My understanding was that Back To My Mac depends on having an Apple AirPort. Is that not true?
BtmM [Back to my Mac] does not require an Airport on either end. I can reach the Mac I use at work from home and vice versa. No Apple networking devices on either end.
 
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Some NAS are very expensive. However, Synology has a DS218 model that you can add a 4TB NAS drive to, for under $430. That is only $31 more than a 3TB Time Capsule and has far more features - can add another drive later for expansion, external expansion, etc. It can serve your network with a Gigabit port off your router/switch/hub, and your 3 computers. If you plan it out, it can also double as a media/iTunes server, or add a same-size pair of HDDs and RAID 1 for more data safety. I think a 4TB Red NAS is under $130... just an option. I think the question here is, What is your data worth to you, and what options can't you afford?
You are correct Ed, and my data is a mix of music and video that goes back almost 30 years. In fact, I already have a QNAP 2-bay NAS as a music server. All my other files are on RAID 5 devices and are regularly backed up and stored offsite — about every two weeks. Plus I have an offline backup at home. Unfortunately, the QNAP only allows the NAS drives to act as a Time Machine ... I can't attach a USB disk and direct the backups there. Maybe I'm panicking for nothing. As long as the Time Capsule functions, then I can use it as a Time Machine irrespective of whether it is is acting as a router. Perhaps this is a case of "cross the bridge when you get there".
 


I had an Airport Extreme 2nd generation that was running out of steam. I had been waiting to replace it because of the rumors that Apple was discontinuing airport development. Once it was official I decided to make the leap. I bought a Netgear Nighthawk 2300AC. It was easy to set up and Time Machine and wireless printer sharing work fine. I still have an old Airport Express doing Airplay. We'll see how reliable it is, but so far everything is faster and working without a hitch.

I appreciated that the Airports were easy to set up and lasted a long time, but it makes sense to focus elsewhere, as routers are a commodity. The Netgear wasn't much harder to set up than an Airport and cost about half as much. We'll see how long it lasts, but with the way the technology advances it's not all bad to have a cheaper option upgraded more frequently.
 
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Some NAS are very expensive. However, Synology has a DS218 model that you can add a 4TB NAS drive to, for under $430. That is only $31 more than a 3TB Time Capsule and has far more features - can add another drive later for expansion, external expansion, etc. It can serve your network with a Gigabit port off your router/switch/hub, and your 3 computers. If you plan it out, it can also double as a media/iTunes server, or add a same-size pair of HDDs and RAID 1 for more data safety. I think a 4TB Red NAS is under $130... just an option. I think the question here is, What is your data worth to you, and what options can't you afford?
I too use Time Capsule as my primary backup system, but will now seriously begin putting my backups on another hard drive. The big question is, how do I access the existing backups so I can migrate them to the new disk? I haven't found much of use online, so I would appreciate any suggestions here. Thanks in advance.
 


The big loss here will be the eventual demise of Airport Utility and secure management of Airport base stations hundreds of miles away. Currently, the farthest away device I manage is a Gen 5 Airport Extreme 635 miles away. The closest is about 36 inches away. All use the same interface and are equally easy to manage.
Agreed. I will particularly miss the iOS version of AirPort Utility. Very handy for administering and troubleshooting Apple hardware when visiting relatives.
 


One of the issues I've not seen discussed yet is the loss of the Time Machine function. Unless I missed something, all the newer MESH systems lack Time Machine capabilities. I really don't want to buy a one- (or two-) bay NAS just for backup as it's expensive. And before someone says "just hang a disk off the machine,” I use the Airport Base Station Time Capsule to back up 3 computers — my iMac, my MacBook Pro and my wife's older MacBook Pro. Having it done over the network seamlessly is one aspect I'd hate to give up.
If one of your Macs (the iMac, maybe?) is left running, you can set it up as a Time Machine server. Hang a big hard drive off of it and configure it to be a TM server that the other two Macs can use.

If you are running macOS 10.12 or earlier, you can buy macOS Server to get this functionality. It's not in the latest version of Server, but I believe the functionality is built in to High Sierra.

I'm afraid someone else will have to comment on how well this works. I have no personal experience with this feature.
 


I'm a big proponent of FreeNAS for the simple reason that it uses ZFS, a file system that should stand up to bit rot and other issues, as long as you set it up right, maintain it, etc. FreeNAS does offer Time Machine support, though presently only using AFP. However great the benefits are of FreeNAS, expect to spend several hours setting up even a pre-configured Mini or Mini XL FreeNAS server. The user interface can be downright unfriendly to new users.

Similarly, other NAS vendors like Synology, QNAP, ReadyNAS, etc. offer Time Machine emulation. Their user interfaces are more geared toward new users (in the NAS sense), but I do not consider their data to be as well protected as something using ZFS. For example, while Synology uses BTRFS that may some day offer the same capabilities as ZFS, BTRFS is simply not equivalent yet re: data integrity protection.
 


I haven't purchased any non-Apple wireless gear for myself since 2008. Not wanting to run abandoned tech any longer than necessary, and needing an upgrade anyway, I just swapped out our previous-gen Time Capsule with a Linksys AC5400 (hardware model EA9500v2) found on sale at one of the discount warehouse retailers this weekend. Price was the same as my last Time Capsule purchase.

Physically it's a huge router, but my home IT shelf is in the garage so it's not an eyesore. I lost networked Time Machine functionality, but gained a huge increase in coverage and throughput across our entire property—and its built-in 8 port switch allowed me to remove a separate switch from the network map, too. The Time Capsule had been extended over Ethernet at the far end of the house by an AirPort Express that we removed, as well.

Browser-based setup was relatively good on Safari from a wired iMac, and the Linksys iOS app is not bad for managing things either. You can apparently do remote management too, if you create a Linksys account (I didn't).

Built-in USB 2 and 3 ports work fine for shared printers and storage, just not Time Machine protocol. I didn't feel like moving to a mesh system, and a single unit like this one covers our house and yard with ease. Thumbs up from me.
 


I'm not completely clear about what you're describing. Are you talking about bridging the units through in-wall Ethernet cabling? Or does Orbi include power-line networking to bridge them through your AC wiring?

If you're describing the former, Velops can be linked via Ethernet or wireless. If you're describing the latter, that's a really cool feature that I haven't seen anywhere else. (In my case, I'd probably bridge them with Ethernet connected via my existing power-line network transceivers)
I'll happily accept the correction regarding Velop and the ability to use an Ethernet cable to interconnect them; I had been told that such was not supported. To answer your question, it was the Ethernet feature that I was discussing. I do not think that connecting a Mesh WiFi system via "Homeplug AV" electrical house wiring is going to work well: there are lag times involved that are going to interfere, and also, in my experience, HomePlug AV is not problem free: they frequently need to be restarted, in general. But do let us know if it does work well for you.
 
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I too use Time Capsule as my primary backup system, but will now seriously begin putting my backups on another hard drive. The big question is, how do I access the existing backups so I can migrate them to the new disk? I haven't found much of use online, so I would appreciate any suggestions here. Thanks in advance.
For Time Capsule to Time Capsule
For Time Machine to Time Machine drive

Once you have the Time Machine drive mounted, you can move the Backup.backupdb (the backup database) to another drive (MacOS Extended Journaled format, GUID partition)...I don't believe you can do APFS!
 
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It doesn't have external disk access, but for each family member who's had AirPorts previously, I've been replacing them with AmpliFi mesh units from Ubiquiti. The increased WiFi performance, range and coverage has been pretty spectacular; even in homes where we've had coverage issues in the past, this has become a plug and play solution. Very, very nice units indeed. They're my go-to in the new world of WiFi.

I'm not thrilled that Apple is out of this game, but it was always an oddball anyway... The original AirPort really bootstrapped the entire revolution of in-home WiFi, but its time has passed. It was never a core competency for Apple, and to be honest, I found the Airport base stations to be somewhat limiting. Firewall rule sets were rudimentary at best; DHCP and DNS services were even more so.

So, I don't find a huge hole in the market from Apple dropping the base stations. What would be great, though, would be a standalone Time Capsule - let it just be a WiFi and/or Ethernet "client" that advertises a Time Machine destination volume with a large quantity of disk. That'd be slick. Time Capsule, minus the router functions. I could use a dozen of those for all my family members and such.
 
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When my last Airport router died about a year ago, I went looking for a set of mesh routers that would provide both great throughput and minimal setup effort. I wound up with a pair of Eero units. The downside is that they are a bit pricey, and you must configure via their iApp. The upside has been rock-solid reliability, excellent performance, and super-slick out-of-the-box setup.
 


I just installed a Netgear Orbi system yesterday. After some initial hiccoughs setting it up (the whole setup stopped working after a firmware upgrade and took a factory reset to resurrect it) it seems to be working well in the test environment. Good strong WiFi signal throughout the house and even in the yard.

Since I had previously been using a Gen 4 Time Capsule as a router, instead of plugging the Orbi directly into the cable modem, I plugged it into one of the ethernet ports of the Time Capsule (which is still connected to the cable modem) and I believe I will be able to continue to use Time Machine that way. Eventually I will turn off the WiFi radio on the Time Capsule when I am convinced that everything is working as it should. I like the fact that it can be managed either via an iOS app or via a web interface on my Mac.
 


I haven't experimented with the Import/Export Configuration File feature of Airport Utility. Can that file be used as a way to configure the features that were lost with the move to the latest version of Airport Utility?
Sorry, but no.

The issue is not the Airport Utility. Current Airport basestation firmware no longer includes older features such as SNMP and logging. So, even if you load an older configuration which includes these items, they are ignored by the Airport basestation. [...]
That's not universally true. The firmware on my Time Capsule is up to date. I can still connect to it with snmpwalk, and can view the logs with AirPort Utility 5.6.
 


But only if you have your Mac configured to never sleep.

The AirPort devices support Wake on Demand and Bonjour Sleep Proxy.This allows Back to My Mac to work transparently, without any advanced user knowledge. Notice that Apple only documents Back to My Mac as working on AirPort devices, and Bonjour Sleep Proxy only on AirPort or Apple TV.

Without this support, you either need to keep your Mac awake, or you need a router that can pass or trigger Wake-on-LAN magic packets from the WAN (public Internet) side. This is not easy. If there is a way to do it on my relatively new Netgear router, I haven't found it.
My question is whether you need a router? Apple TV isn't a router and it can provide this service for external devices, so can an Airport that is not a router also provide?

I just switched to Google WiFi to get better coverage in my small, but WiFi-unfriendly-construction house. So that is now my router, replacing an Extreme that was having trouble providing adequate coverage, even when extended with an Express. Both Airport devices are now in bridge mode. The Extreme is acting as a switch with WiFi turned off, connected via Ethernet to the Google WiFi router (making up for the lack of extra Ethernet ports on the Google WiFi). The Express is connected as a client to the Google wireless network to bridge to the Express's Ethernet port to get a wired connection to a TiVo mini, which doesn't have it's own WiFi.

So neither Airport device is acting as a router and is not connected directly to the WAN. Will they provide Bonjour Sleep Proxy services, even for devices connecting from outside my network?
 
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in my experience, HomePlug AV is not problem free: they frequently need to be restarted, in general. But do let us know if it does work well for you.
My home currently has three non-meshed routers: a Zoom combination router/cable modem, and two Linksys routers in bridge mode (turning them into dumb Wi-Fi access points). They are connected with some cheap "TP Link" brand HomePlug AV transceivers (500M top speed). All three are configured for the same SSID and password so I can roam between them (but sometimes with interruption when I do).

One of my three transceivers occasionally needs to be restarted (2-3 times a year), but the other two have been solid for many years. Overall, that part of the network seems to be the most reliable. The Zoom cable modem (or at least its Wi-Fi component) needs to be restarted 1-2 times a month and Comcast seems to revel in regular system outages (complete with clueless customer service people that insist there is no problem and all I need to do is keep on rebooting everything over and over again until the problem fixes itself).

My current setup is mostly acceptable (not counting Comcast) for now. I do plan on upgrading everything at some point, but I'm hoping I can hold out until DOCSIS 3.1 modems are available. I really don't want to replace my cable modem now and have to replace it again in a year or two. On the other hand, I can configure the Zoom for bridge mode (turning it into a dumb cable modem) and just use a Velop system (or some other mesh network) with it. Either way, I'll probably bridge the units via HomePlug, since my home has some nasty Wi-Fi barriers in the walls (probably plumbing, HVAC ducts and foil-backed insulation).

Alternatively, the house's phone jacks are all connected using Cat5e wiring and they all come together at a voice-bridge board in a basement closet. Since I don't have land-line service and don't plan on getting it, I could change the jacks and install a switch in the basement closet and make that an in-home Ethernet network. The only problem with that is one of the rooms where I'd want an access point doesn't have a phone jack and opening the walls in order to pull a new wire is not going to happen.
 


If one of your Macs (the iMac, maybe?) is left running, you can set it up as a Time Machine server. Hang a big hard drive off of it and configure it to be a TM server that the other two Macs can use.

If you are running macOS 10.12 or earlier, you can buy macOS Server to get this functionality. It's not in the latest version of Server, but I believe the functionality is built in to High Sierra.

I'm afraid someone else will have to comment on how well this works. I have no personal experience with this feature.
FYI You don't actually need macOS Server to get this functionality, you can do it with normal macOS File Sharing. There are a couple of benefits to running the macOS Server Time Machine Backup service as you get a simple GUI interface on the server/the client picks up the server automatically, plus you can set quotas for individual backups (OS X 10.9 or later clients).

I've run both types over recent years. I ran OS X 10.10 with normal file sharing with clients up to macOS 10.12 for 2-3 years with no problems. I've now been running macOS 10.12 plus Server with clients up to macOS 10.12 for just over 1 year with no problems.

If you have less than a few Macs one way to get around the lack of quota limitation without the Server product is to partition the Time Machine Backup volume. In one case I had a 4TB hard disk and I partitioned it into 3x 1.33TB partitions and backed up three different Macs (all with 512GB/1TB storage) each to their own partition - worked perfectly.

Obviously running macOS 10.13 on clients or the server, all bets are off what with the Time Machine service removed from Server, AFP file sharing killed from APFS volumes, APFS volumes in themselves, Time Machine backups requiring SMB, and all the other reported problems with High Sierra in general. your milage may vary.
 
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Obviously running macOS 10.13 on clients or the server, all bets are off what with the Time Machine service removed from Server, AFP file sharing killed from APFS volumes, APFS volumes in themselves, Time Machine backups requiring SMB, and all the other reported problems with High Sierra in general. your milage may vary.
I was previously running 10.12 with Server installed and set up for Time Machine sharing over AFP. Both my system SSD and separate Time Machine HD were formatted HFS+. I upgraded that system to 10.13, the system SSD was converted to APFS, and the Time Machine sharing configuration moved to System Preferences > Sharing > File Sharing.

Since the Time Machine HD is still formatted HFS+, I can share it using AFP. Both of my clients running 10.13 with SSDs formatted APFS connected automatically to the Time Machine HD shared over AFP without me changing any configuration from when all of this was being served from 10.12 with Server installed.

Kirk McElhearn has a good overview on Kirkville, but the real tip is that in order to get the "Share as a Time Machine backup destination" option to appear, you have to right-click (control-click) the disk or folder that you want to use for Time Machine sharing from the Shared Folders list in System Preferences > Sharing > File Sharing.
 


So I just read that Linksys Velop has two different systems, a tri-band that is $450 for three units (the 3rd band is for the Velop units to comm with each other only), and a dual-band that is cheaper at $300 for 3 units. The lower priced units come at a cost of speed (AC1300 vs AC2200 in their higher priced units). The cheaper models are only in white at this time (black scheduled at later date).
 


So I just read that Linksys Velop has two different systems, a tri-band that is $450 for three units (the 3rd band is for the Velop units to comm with each other only), and a dual-band that is cheaper at $300 for 3 units. The lower priced units come at a cost of speed (AC1300 vs AC2200 in their higher priced units). The cheaper models are only in white at this time (black scheduled at later date).
The Netgear Orbi also comes as a (Costco-exclusive) 3-unit version that sells for $449 that I believe is a better value than the 3-unit Velop. I just installed it. It is an AC3000 setup. There is a USB port that can be used for printer sharing (I don't use that functionality), ethernet ports, and the satellites can use ethernet as the backhaul connection if you so desire. It can be configured either through an iOS app or via web browser on your computer. It can be used either as a router, or as an access point if you already have a router (which I do. It's an Apple Time Capsule and by putting the Orbi in AP mode I can still use Time Machine without any extra hassle).

They are clunkier in form than the Velop, but seem to have far more flexibility. I chose it over the Velop. So far I get a good signal throughout a large house and most of the yard.
 


BTW, when I installed my latest model AirPort Extreme, I kept my old Time Capsule connected to the network and it continues to do Time Machine backups. I figure I will use it until the disk inside goes belly up. At that point I can plug an external drive into the AirPort Extreme.
 
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The prevailing commentary on Apple's abandonment of network hardware is that the AirPort models haven't been updated in years and there are plenty of other vendors to choose from. That's true, but it misses the point.

It makes the consumer responsible for figuring out whether a product will work with the Mac or not. Sure, the basic network functionality should work, but past that it is a minefield:
  • Can you directly attach Mac formatted drives?
  • Are directly attached drives Time Machine compatible?
  • Can you print to attached printers from Macs? And iDevices?
  • If the router has a VPN server, can you connect to it from Macs?
  • Can the router's firmware be updated from Macs?
  • Does the router have a media server that only works with Windows (or, doesn't fully support typical Mac media)?
  • Does the router have features that only work with Windows?
  • Does the router have client software that only installs on Windows?
  • If there is Mac client software, does the installer delete system files? (Netgear, I'm looking at you)
  • Does the router support Bonjour Sleep Proxy?
  • Does the router support NAT-PNP (Apple's UPnP alternative)?
I'm sure I"m forgetting many more.

What is needed is an Apple certification program for network hardware, like AirPlay and MFi (Made for iPhone, iPad etc.). Apple could establish a minimum set of requirements to earn the compatibility logo, such as "must support Back to My Mac," and any advertised feature should also work with Macs.
 


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