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Wondering If Any Have Had Success With Time Machine To A NAS Drive

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Hi Everybody!
My spiffy, new TP-Link router has USB ports where one can connect a drive and mount it as Network Attached Storage. So far, I've been successful in manually mounting a Toshiba 5400 rpm drive inside a generic USB enclosure by using Finder - Go -Connect to Server.

Automatic mounting by adding it to the Log In Items isn't working, but before I spend a bunch of time trying to figure this out, my intention is to use the router's USB port and the drive for Time Machine backups. If that's not possible, there will be no need for connecting it to the router.

I've read several articles and some say it can not be done without a very specific drive. Others say it will work fine with any drive & some recommend a work around involving a sparse bundle folder.

I was wondering if any of you have successfully connected plain USB hard drive to a router and used it with Time Machine.
Are there any special tricks and/or pitfalls to be aware of?

I thought it would be better to ask before I try this and wreck my drive or existing backups.

Thanks For Sharing!
Paul

PS: OS X 10.11.6 on 2006 MacBook Pro
 

Slydude

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The last time I did this I used one of the Apple Time Capsules to connect the type of drive you are using but it doesn't have to be a Time Capsule to work. There are some NAS drives that support Time Machine but I'll have to do some digging to find the specific instructions needed for the setup you would be using. If I remember correctly some routers do not work well with that setup.

The sparsebundle format isn't really a work-around. It's actually the format that Time Machine uses when backups are stored on network drives. Can you post a link to that article?

BTW Which TP Link router are you using?
 
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TM, when it backs up to a networked drive, creates a sparsebundle backup. As such, the contents are basically compressed and hidden from typical Finder searching. I tried it a couple of times with WD NAS drives and eventually gave up because the sparse bundle approach is very sensitive to any error on the drive and when it goes south, you lose everything. Even erasing a sparcebundled drive is a time-consuming task. So, my 2 cents is that while it MAY be done, it's not a good idea.
 
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So, my 2 cents is that while it MAY be done, it's not a good idea.

+!. I would seriously and doubly reinforce that comment, especially regarding using Time Machine and expect any sort of reliable TM backup.


Edit:
Maybe checkout some of this:
Backup disks you can use with Time Machine
Backup disks you can use with Time Machine - Apple Support

Network-attached storage (NAS) device that supports Time Machine over SMB
Network-attached storage (NAS) device that supports Time Machine over SMB
Many third-party NAS devices support Time Machine over SMB. For details, check the documentation for your NAS device
.

So maybe check the documentation you've got or can get for your new TP-Link router. Maybe it "supports Time Machine over SMB" whatever that actually means.

PS: I would never suggest only using a TM backup as one's only backup!!! My opiniom and I have witnessed TM screwup just too many times, but it does seem to have improved somewhat with later OS versions. But your choice.

EDIT:
Actually using your TP-Link router for use with TM and using SMB setup seems quite simple:
How to use Time Machine function on TP-Link routers?
How to use Time Machine function on TP-Link routers? | TP-Link Česka republika



- Patrick
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Actually using your TP-Link router for use with TM and using SMB setup seems quite simple:
How to use Time Machine function on TP-Link routers?


Thanks Patrick for providing the article from TP-Link.

What is surprising is that I searched the TP-Link site off & on for days and never found the article. (Could be my poor search skills.)
More surprising is that the first time I wrote to Tech Support and asked about Time Machine & the router, I was told that they didn't know if it could be done- yet here is an article by them explaining how do accomplish the task.

The article shows the same interface as my TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 router has, so in theory it should work well. I couldn't make it work, but will try again with a drive that is not my important Time Machine backup.

TP-Link has conflicting information to their own article (that Patrick posted).
One of the articles TP-Link has about NAS says: Currently, the FAT/FAT32/NTFS format is supported , so that voids use for Time Machine, which requires Extended Journaled format.
I again asked TP-Link to verify, saying Time Machine needs Extended Journaled. I was told that Extended Journaled would not be seen by the router, so I can't use it for Time Machine.

They seem confused about their products' capabilities. But, I think their tech support people are genuinely interested in helping the customer and tend to explain things well- sometimes conflicting, but well. Based on an unrelated problem I had, they absolutely do not give up until the problem is solved. I'm impressed.
-----------------------------
I did try connecting the drive to the router as Extended Journaled and using Connect to Server. The drive manually connected fine & I could move files on & off of it. But, Time Machine did not show it as a choice for what drive to use for backup. Directly in the computer, Time Machine is quite happy with that drive. (TM also does not show any other format as a choice for backup, confirming Extended Journaled only.)
----------------------------
I apologize, but I didn't save links to most of the pro and con articles I viewed, Slydude.
Below is one article about Time Machine as NAS using a sparsebundle. It had the most simple explanation & directions, so I kept it.
Time Machine on a network drive

Here is one from Apple describing which drives will work with Time Machine:
Backup disks you can use with Time Machine - Apple Support
It has a helpful link to supported drives for NAS.
--------------------------------
Thanks MacInWin for explaining how Time Machine backs up on a network drive. It is interesting. And thanks for the warning about the sensitivity of sparsebundle.
---------------------------------
PS: I would never suggest only using a TM backup as one's only backup!!! My opiniom and I have witnessed TM screwup just too many times, but it does seem to have improved somewhat with later OS versions. But your choice.
I don't know if what I do is a safe enough plan, so suggestions are very welcome:
I have iDrive for offsite. Locally I have Time Machine on a USB hard drive and a firewire drive with periodic clones. I also periodically put my most critical work files on a thumb drive.
The local drives are subject to fire or theft, so hopefully iDrive will be good if it is ever needed.
-------------------------------
However, after reading what each of you wrote, I do believe it would be wise to keep on using Time Machine with a drive plugged directly into the computer.
Knowing me, just for the learning experience, I probably will take my spare drive and try again following the instructions Patrick posted. But I won't rely on it for a 'real' backup. It'll be more for learning.

Thanks Patrick, SlyDude & MacInWin for helping me out and for giving sound and honest advice. I really appreciate your efforts!
Paul
 
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Paul, one clarification. When using a NAS through SMB, the format of the drive does not matter. That is one of the reasons TM uses sparsebundle format. (The other is for compression of the data, to speed up the process of transfer through the network.) AFAIK, sparsebundles can be stored on ANY format drive. I read that article you linked and I never did any of that. What I did was to mount the network drive in Finder and then go to SysPrefs/TM and point to the mounted drive. Done. TM detected that the drive was mounted remotely and did a backup creating the sparsebundle backup all by itself. I don't even know what the format is on the NAS (and I don't really care, it just works). The NAS does not, BTW, show up in Disk Utility at all as the NAS is not directly attached. But it does show in Finder.
 

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Thanks for that summary Jake. That pretty well summarizes what I discovered what I used Time Machine on a network drive.

When it comes to using Time Machine over network be careful about the dates of the articles you read. If I remember correctly the first incarnation of Time Machine did not support network use. When it was first introduced things were shall we say a bit "twitchy". Although I currently have Time Machine on a directly-connected drive at the moment, Time Machine seems to be reliable over a network now.

Jake is right that Time Machine drives do not show in Disk Utility. In fact, these drives usually only show in utilities designed to address network drives. There is a work around for this though and fixes some of the errors that occur with Time Machine over a network.

1. Make sure that the Time Machine drive is mounted (shows in the Finder).
2. Double-click that drive so it opens and shows the sparsebundle file. Do not panic. This is one large file rather than the series of folders that Time Machine normally uses. That is normal.
3. Double-click the sparsebundle file which opens that file in the Finder just as an external drive does. That "drive" should show in Disk Utility. You can now use Disk Utility to perform tasks just as you would any other drive.

Do not use Finder or Disk Utility to delete folders or otherwise alter the contents of the sparsebundle file.

Note: I have not used this fix recently because my drive is currently directly connected to my Mac. AFAIK this still works.
 
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However, after reading what each of you wrote, I do believe it would be wise to keep on using Time Machine with a drive plugged directly into the computer.

Personally, and I didn't see it mentioned anywhere, but for a good reliable backup, I know I would be using Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) probably first and foremost for a local clone backup at least somewhere in your mix.



- Patrick
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"What I did was to mount the network drive in Finder and then go to SysPrefs/TM and point to the mounted drive. Done. TM detected that the drive was mounted remotely and did a backup creating the sparsebundle backup all by itself. I don't even know what the format is on the NAS (and I don't really care, it just works). The NAS does not, BTW, show up in Disk Utility at all as the NAS is not directly attached. But it does show in Finder."

Thanks Jake for posting these instructions, but I still managed to goof up.
I took the USB drive that Time Machine has been using when connected directly to the computer and connected it to the router.
I used Go - Connect To Server and it showed on the desktop and on the Finder "Servers" list.
Then I opened Time Machine preferences and tried went to "Add Remove Disk". It was on the list. I started a backup and Time Machine reported "Disk Not Available".

Next I did a fresh start by connecting the disc to the USB on the computer, erasing it with Disk Utilit & choosing Extended Journaled. I ejected it & then removed the disc from Time Machine's list.
Next, I did the above steps to mount it as NAS (it mounted) and Time Machine still does not have it on the Add Disk list.

Where did I goof up in the process?
I used Disk Utility to make sure the drive was fresh with no contents.
 
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Try this: erase and format the drive while directly connected to your Mac. Any format will do, I think. Pick one that your TP-link can use.

Move the drive to the TP-link and connect it to the USB port there.

On the Mac, open Finder, then in the sidebar under "Locations" pick "Network." Or use the "Go" menu and pick Network from there. The networked drive should show in any resulting list. Click on it and it should mount. May take a little while to connect and negotiate the mount, so give it a little time.

Once it is mounted, it should in the sidebar and should be visible in Finder. You can select it and see the empty drive in Finder.

Now go to System Preferences/Time Machine and select the target drive. The Network drive should show there.

If it doesn't, then I have no more suggestions to try. That sequence has always worked for me.

Good luck.
 

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Which specific TP-Link router you are using. Some routers expect any drives that are attached to their USB ports to be formatted in a specific way (FAT32. NTFS, etc.).
 
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Thanks Again Everyone for helping me with this odd problem.

The router is Archer C7 AC1750 hardware Version 4.

Thank You for the step-by-step of what worked for you Jake and for the explanation of how it all works, SlyDude. Your reminder of having a good clone in the backup plan is much appreciated, Patrick. I really have to be more consistent about updating my clone more often.

I am starting to think my computer has an idiosyncrasy fouling up the project.
-----------------------------------------------------------
Here Is What Happened When I Followed the Step-By-Step Jake provided:

Try this: erase and format the drive while directly connected to your Mac. Any format will do, I think. Pick one that your TP-link can use.
Available To Me in Disk Utility - Erase Are: FAT, Ex Fat & Extended Journaled
Tried FAT first TP-Link said they prefer FAT or FAT 32


Move the drive to the TP-link and connect it to the USB port there.

On the Mac, open Finder, then in the sidebar under "Locations" pick "Network." Or use the "Go" menu and pick Network from there. The networked drive should show in any resulting list. Click on it and it should mount. May take a little while to connect and negotiate the mount, so give it a little time.
Locations isn’t in my sidebar and oddly it is not available to choose in Finder - Preferences - Sidebar.
I used Go - Network to view the drive.
The list was empty.

I went back to GO & used Connect To Server Automatic connecting by adding it to Log In Items never has worked, but that is another project.
Oddly, two drives were available to mount: sda1 & sad 2. I chose sda1 Next i tried sda2, but no drive showed up.
In Finder, it shows under “Shared” in the side bar.
I can open a Finder window of it & move files manually in & out.


Once it is mounted, it should in the sidebar and should be visible in Finder. It is in the sidebar under "Shared"
You can select it and see the empty drive in Finder. This worked great
Next I went to Go - Network and tplinkwifi.net shows. Clicking its Down-Arrow reveals that both sda1 & sda2 are present, just as you described.

Now go to System Preferences/Time Machine and select the target drive. The Network drive should show there.
Now The Glitch: Time Machine's "Select Disk" still doesn’t show the connected drive.
——————————————————————
I Re-Started the process, but chose Extended Journaled for the format.
I still had to use Go - Connect To Server, but this time sdb1 was the only choice.
Once mounted, I could move files on & off if it manually.
Time Machine still does not show the drive in the Choose Disk list.


Then, being a glutton for punishment, I tried with EX FAT. No Luck

Next- I re-booted the router & waited for it to complete re-booting. I tried again with no luck. Next I re-booted the computer. Still no luck.

If it doesn't, then I have no more suggestions to try. That sequence has always worked for me.
I do appreciate that you took the time to share this step-by-step that works for your computer!

This is one crazy hiccup, Isn't It?
 
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Here is how I have Finder configured in Finder-Preferences-Sidebar:
2019-07-20 03.12.45 pm.png

I think that setting makes the "Locations" options appear in the Sidebar as it finds all Bonjour computers, external servers and external drives.
 
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Thanks Jake for posting a picture of your Finder Preferences.

Mine has different choices (different OS X version, I believe t the reason). I check-marked Bonjour to see if Servers showed up. It didn't.

Under Preferences - General there is a box marked Connected Servers. When i checked it, the Finder sidebar showed Shared and the router attached storage showed up under that heading. I can click it & use it like any external drive that is connected to the computer. Well, almost just like...

Time Machine and the router connected drive still do not 'see' each other, but I think I found out why today.
TP-Link's published directions say (and show) to choose Time Machine in the router's USB configuration. It is not in my router's USB configuration page, so I wrote to them. The reply was that the router I have can't be used with Time Machine. Settles that puzzlement!

Maybe there is a work-around, but I haven't found it (yet) and am not sure I would trust any work-around I come up with.

A.png

B.png
 
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Maybe there is a work-around, but I haven't found it (yet) and am not sure I would trust any work-around I come up with. /QUOTE]


I have no idea if this would work or not, or at least part of the suggestion, but I thought of your problem when I came across it while looking for something else which seems quite typical for me:
How to setup Time Machine with your NETGEAR router
How to setup Time Machine with your NETGEAR router | Answer | NETGEAR Support

Yes, I know you don't have a Netgear router.... but maybe they talk the same one language ????



- Patrick
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Thanks for that link Patrick. For the benefit of those following this thread be aware that Readyshare is the name that Netgear uses for their file sharing setup. It may or may not be under the same name for other manufacturers. Also, there are many routers that do not support attaching a USB drive to it. Even if the port is there it may only work for other kinds of devices (printer sharing for example).
 
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Also, there are many routers that do not support attaching a USB drive to it. Even if the port is there it may only work for other kinds of devices (printer sharing for example).

A very good valid point Sly and often overlooked or not understood. And who reads the specs or any owners manual if one is even included.???



- Patrick
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If you read the thread and what Paul said in Posts 1, 5, 9, and 12, he can attach the drive through the TP-Link router, and can read/write to it as a drive, it is just that for some reason TimeMachine cannot see/use it for backups. So that is not the issue, that the router doesn't support attaching the drive. It does, it just can't be used for TM for some reason. Probably because of the internals of the router not playing well with what TM expects.

For Paul, I wonder if you could use the drive as a CCC target? Do you have CCC or SuperDuper?
 

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You're right Jake. I posted that comment mainly because there are some who may not realize that some USB ports are not intended for drive use.
 
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Update From TP-Link-
I wrote & asked why Time Machine is not a choice when the instructions show a picture of the page where Time Machine is selectable.
They wrote back and said the Archer C7 is NOT compatible with Time Machine. So this might be the end of the adventure.

But, my mind can't help wonder why Time Machine does not see the drive as a disk- only as a NAS? Finder doesn't either.

Thanks Jake for the Netgear instructional link.
It looked promising when I got to the part about "If Time Machine can't see the drive". Sadly, no luck following that step.

I tried getting Super Duper to use the drive & it can't see it. Next, since it is still on my computer, I tried getting CrashPlan to use it. No luck. It can't see it either.

I'm starting to wonder if I skipped a giant step:
I'm not sure how to explain this, so I'll try. Is it possible that I have to "install" a disk on the sdb1 or turn it into a disk?

It was formatted Extended Journaled in Disk Utility

Finder's Sidebar shows the attached USB drive as "tplinkwifi.net" which is the url for the router's configuration page. It is ejectable just like a directly attached external drive.

Double-Clicking it opens a Finder window that has sdb1 in it. Opening sdb1 allows me to drag & drop files back and forth into the Finder window. Dragging a file straight to the sidebar tplinkwifi.net does not work. (I can drag to other attached externals, but they are actual drives.)

The Desktop shows an icon for sdb. Dragging a file straight to the sdb1 icon on the desktop does work.

Is it possible that sdb1 must be made into a real disk?
I've seen web pages showing how to use a USB as NAS and many of them show a normally named drive as the example. Mine absolutely does not have the name I gave it when I formatted it with Disk Utility. But, if I plug it directly into the computer, the name I gave it is used.

I think I am getting confused about the difference between sdb1 and a disk drive.

I apologize, but my brain can't figure out a better way to explain this. Some photos are attached.

I might be chasing an impossible dream, or chasing something that is not stable to use- but it will be interesting to make it work.

Thanks Again for helping with this interesting situation.
Paul
PS: I really have to stop thinking so much. I just thought- "Hmmm.. I wonder if there is an external drive that can connect to one of the router's ethernet ports?"
Oh Yeah- They call that a computer!

A) Finder Window.png

B) When sdb1 Is Double Clicked.png
 
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