Ronny Lam


Wireless Apple Time Capsule Problems

Today I had the privilege of debugging an Apple Time Capsule for a client. The client complained that Time Machine was slow, slowed down the iMac and most of the time even didn’t finish the backup.

The Time Capsule was configured as a wireless client. Because I normally don’t trust a wireless connection for large backups I tried to connect the Time Capsule to ethernet, but I didn’t get a DHCP address and couldn’t get a working connection. When I disabled wireless the Time Capsule wouldn’t connect to ethernet at all. So I was looking at an amber blinking light.

A hard reset was the only solution to connect to the Capsule. It was then possible to connect the WAN-port to the wired network. But the option to connect to a wireless network was missing. I found out that Apple doesn’t want the Time Capsule to be configured as a wireless client, because of performance issues.

With the introduction of Airport Utility 6.x it was no longer possible to configure the Capsule as such. Since the DHCP-client internally shifts from the WAN-port to the wireless connection you can not get a wired connection working. And this is the catch-22 I was in. For performance reasons and forward compatibility I now configured the Time Capsule for a wired connection, and performance is huge.

But what if you still want to use it as a wireless client? I found an Apple discussion which helps to install the older Airport Utility next to the current version. First download Airport Utility 5.6.

cd tmp
xar -x -f /Volumes/AirPortUtility/AirPortUtility56.pkg payload
gzcat AirPortUtility56Lion.pkg/Payload | tar -xf -
cd Applications/Utilities/
mv AirPort\ Utility\ /Applications/Utilities/.

And you can find the old Utility next to the new one and configure your Time Capsule the old way. But, beware of the performance hit, because your data will travel the data path twice. Performance is better when you configure the Time Capsule as a wireless network, and way better when you connect wired.