Add Apple Airport Time Capsule as network extender for Time Machine Backups


  • I know there are several people who post here who've come to the Alien from Apple 802.11ac "minitower" Time Capsules. I had lots of "teething" issues with my own Alien (principally, random isolated or multiple disconnects from the internet, which I resolved eventually not by any changes to the Alien, but by purchasing a new Cable Modem (Netgear DOCSIS 3.1 1200-nas). Rock stable connection ever since, with Speedtest download results from my ISP averaging about 450 mbits/sec to my MacBook Pro or my iPhone 11 Pro through the Wi-Fi router.

    Having confirmed that setup's reliability, I decided to repurpose the Time Capsule to doing "Time Machine" backups from devices on my LAN. So, I reset the Time Capsule router to Apple Factory defaults and used Apple's AirPort Utility to erase its internal 3 TB drive. I then used AirPort Utility to add the Time Capsule to my LAN as a network extending client of the Alien, with A LAN port of the Alien connected to the WAN port of the Time Capsule. No issues.

    Then, with the Time Capsule still connected to the Alien by Ethernet, I did a new Time Machine backup of my MacBook Pro's internal SSD. It took about 7 hours, but there were no issues. However, when I removed the Ethernet cable between the AmpliFi router and its new extender client, the two devices could not find each other.

    Any ideas what I did wrong? If I reset the Time Capsule once again, press and hold the reset button on the Time Capsule until it flashes rapidly, then choose "restore settings,"
    the Time Capsule tells me it's connecting to the SSID created by the Alien, but the two devices still cannot find each other.

    Any ideas?


  • @jsrnephdoc (responding to myself)

    I WAS able to reconnect the Time Capsule to the Alien by Ethernet and continue making backups, but ideally the connection between the two routers would be wireless, so that the Time Capsule as extender could make its Ethernet LAN ports available to nearby devices.


  • Hi @jsrnephdoc - are you in North America or have a US spec Alien?

    You might try enabling the Additional 5 GHz radio and give it a unique uncommon SSID, and then try using that for the Time Capsule wireless connection

    Just be warned that there have been some reported connection issues with the latest v3.5.0 firmware and clients using the Additional 5 GHz radio

    It might be that the Time Capsule doesn’t like connecting to a WiFi-6 access point and the Additional 5 GHz radio is there for compatibility with older clients

    The Time Capsule will still be on the mesh network even if it using a different SSID on the Additional 5 GHz radio so all your other clients should be able to utilize it


  • @Derek-Saville , thanks so much for the suggestion. My original plan was to have a WiFi connection between my Alien and the Time Capsule, the two of them situated about 30 feet apart (the Time Capsule up a flight of stairs and in a room that sometimes has a closed door, but I've had good 5 GHz Speedtest DL rates to that location previously. It's still unclear why the connection I established by Ethernet couldn't be replicated by WiFi, but the network name of the Time Capsule ends in .local, and my meager understanding of network jargon makes me believe that's specific for devices connected by Ethernet.

    I do have one other question. I'm also using an Apple Airport Express (802.11n, but 2.4 and 5 GHz. I WAS able to set IT up to extend the Alien's network over WiFi, then use the Airport Express's LAN port to put my Brother LW printer on my LAN (putting a Brother HL-L5200 printer on a Mac based Wi-Fi network is a pain in the keister; the printer has a single line LCD screen and up and down arrow keys for selecting parameters, so when the SSID password is a series of multisyllabic random words and the one-line LCD screen masks the characters as I enter them it can be an arduous process to set that up. Accordingly, I have the Airport Express extending the SSID from the Alien, and the LAN port on the Express feeding the LW printer.

    If I were to have clients on the LAN Ethernet ports of the Airport Extreme but use the extra 5 GHz radio providing signals between the Alien and the Airport Extreme, and some of them only "understood" 2.4 GHz. Obviously, you'd be correct in inferring that my understanding of all this stuff is pretty mediocre!


  • If your Alien Router can reach the Time Capsule location without needing the range extended, I would just connect it ethernet to the Alien router and turn off the WiFi in the time capsule. Put the TimeCapsule in Bridge mode, connect it through ethernet WAN port on the TimeCapsule to one of the ethernet ports on the Alien. I have two in that configuration now and they still work perfectly for Time Machine Backups. That way you don't have to deal with the extra interference and weird configurations.

    If you need the TimeCapsule WiFi capability or ethernet ports in the distant location, then I would factory reset the TimeCapsule, start it as a new device and set it up as an extension of the Alien network using the Apple Airport Utility on your phone or Mac. Gets around any previous configurations on the device.

    The TimeCapsules HDD are all out of warranty at this point so I would start looking for an alternative wireless backup solution. If you connect the printer through ethernet wouldn't matter what WiFi it spoke. If you mean you have older airport expresses, and they only have WiFi 2.4GHz, I think you are back looking for more modern solutions.

    -usna92


  • @usna92 said in Add Apple Airport Time Capsule as network extender for Time Machine Backups:

    If your Alien Router can reach the Time Capsule location without needing the range extended, I would just connect it ethernet to the Alien router and turn off the WiFi in the time capsule. Put the TimeCapsule in Bridge mode, connect it through ethernet WAN port on the TimeCapsule to one of the ethernet ports on the Alien.

    That's what I ended up doing, but the puzzle is I tried what you also suggested (resetting the Time Capsule to factory specs,seting it up as a new device using Airport Utility to be a network extender) and could not make that work. I may try again later (we're moving in a few months to brand new house where we'll have Ethernet running to every room, so the options there will be different. My goals were twofold: one, to get the Time Capsule back in use as a host for Time Machine backups, and second, to provide Ethernet access for my Brother networkable Laser Printer that wouldn't involve that "worse than a mouthful of root canals" setup of the printer as a WiFi device (of course, after I was done with everything, I noticed there IS a "WPS" option in Airport Utility. I may revisit this whole business once we arrive at the new house.


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