The last post about setting up AirPort Extreme to create a home network included a reference to how to connect an external drive to your AirPort Extreme so you can share files on your network or back up your computer wirelessly.
I use Time Machine to back up my data, and I have an external hard drive plugged in to my Mac mini all the time, but that’s easy because a Mac mini is a desktop computer. If you’ve got a laptop that doesn’t live a sheltered life in the office or on a desk somewhere, you probably don’t take the time to back up your computer as often as you should because it’s a pain to have to plug in your external hard drive and wait for Time Machine to back up your computer.
I will tell you this: approximately 95% of customers that come to us needing hard drive replacements don’t have their data backed up and never thought their hard drive would fail. (I may be exaggerating a little, it might actually only be around 94.875%)
If you just got yourself an AirPort Extreme and aren’t sure how to set it up, check out THIS BLOG POST RIGHT HERE!
We’ve had customers come to us with dead hard drives in their computers that have lost months of work, years of pictures, entire music libraries, all of their downloaded movies from iTunes, priceless memories that can’t ever be replaced. So, take a piece of advice from me: back up your data. Back it up again. Keep backing it up on a regular basis. Check the quality of your backups and make sure you’ve got it all. In fact, make more than one backup. Keep one external hard drive plugged in to your computer so it’s backing up all the time. Use another external hard drive to back your computer up once every other two weeks or so and then store that off-site somewhere (in a safe-deposit box, or over at your parent’s house, or with your kids at their place, or maybe you know someone with a wine cellar you can keep it in or something).
To start this project you’ll need the following:
•One Apple Macintosh computer
•One AirPort Extreme
•One USB-powered external hard drive
•All of the appropriate cables for all of your devices
Step One: Turn on your computer.
Step Two: Plug your USB-powered external hard drive in to one of the USB ports on your computer.
Step Three: Ensure that your external hard drive is formatted correctly for use with a Mac by using Disk Utility, or when your computer asks you if you want to “use this disk with Time Machine” click yes. Don’t let Time Machine start backing up your computer yet, though. If the Time Machine window opens up after formatting the disk or if it starts trying to back up your computer, move the slider switch from “On” to “Off” before it can complete the process.
Step Three Point Two Five: Eject your external hard drive from your computer by dragging its icon into the trash can (which has conveniently turned into an eject symbol).
Step Three Point Five Zero: Unplug the external hard drive’s USB plug from the computer
Step Three Point Seven Five: Plug the external hard drive’s USB plug in to your AirPort Extreme router or a powered USB hub that is, in turn, plugged in to your AirPort Extreme.
Step Four: Make sure that your AirPort Extreme is plugged in and set up correctly and the green light is glowing on the front. Open AirPort Utility. Your AirPort Utility window should look something like this:
If it does, great! If it doesn’t, refer to one of our other blog posts and correct it.
Step Five: Click on the icon representing your AirPort Extreme. If it asks for your password, enter the password that you created for your DEVICE, not the password that you created for your NETWORK. Your AirPort Utility window should look something like this:
Step Six: Click that little button there, the one that is located in the bottom right corner and says “Edit”. You’ll see a window that looks like this:
Step Seven: You’ll notice that there’s a button at the top that is labelled “Disks”. Click that button. You’ll see a window that looks like this:
If you see an icon representing your disk with the proper name, that’s a good thing. Make sure “Enable file sharing” is checked. You can secure your disks with a different password if you want, but that’s totally up to you. You can close AirPort Utility if your settings are correct and the “Update” button is greyed out (as pictured above).
Step Eight: Click on your Finder icon in the dock.
This will open a new Finder window that looks something like this:
You’ll note that I’m using the column view, which is selected on the control bar of the Finder pane and looks like this:
Step Nine: Scroll down on the left side of your Finder pane until you see the name of your AirPort. You’ll see in the screenshot below that my AirPort is named “matt’s airport”
Step Ten: Click on the name of your AirPort. You may need to enter the password for your DEVICE, not your NETWORK, but you’ll see a window that looks like this:
Step Eleven: click where it says “Matt’s Backups” or whatever the name of your disk is. It may take a few seconds, but eventually you’ll see a window that looks like this:
This is a good thing. If your Finder Preferences are set to see “Connected servers” then you’ll see a little icon representing your disk on your desktop, as shown below.
Step Twelve: Click on the Time Machine icon on your menu bar. You know, the one at the top of the screen that looks like this:
The icon on the very left is for Time Machine. if you click it, you’ll get a drop down menu that looks like this:
Step Thirteen: Click the option that says “Open Time Machine Preferences”.
You’ll see a familiar window that looks like this:
Step Fourteen: Click the button that says “Select Disk”. You’ll see a window that looks like this:
Step Fifteen: Click on the appropriate disk (in my case “Matt’s Backups”), then click “Use Backup Disk”.
Step Sixteen: You’ll be asked for your password in a window that looks like this:
Click “Connect”. You’ll notice that your Time Machine Preferences window looks like this now:
Let it back up your computer. Every time that your computer is on the network and powered on, Time Machine should be wirelessly backing up your entire system from now on.
You should, of course, check your backup history on a weekly basis and verify that your external hard drive is doing its job and isn’t broken or corrupted, but I probably didn’t need to tell you that, because you’re already doing it, right?
Until next time,