Time Machine & Network Drive


Just bought a network disk last week to backup some stuff on from my dads computer. But instead of buying a normal external USB drive, I decided to buy a network drive so I could use it myself.

After some research I choose for the Lacie Network Drive. It has a simple web interface for configuration purposes and it’s accessible through AFP, SMB and FTP.

For Windows/Linux users, SMB would be enough, but since I work on a Mac, I needed the AFP protocol. Leopard is a great OS and it has many great features. One of it is Time Machine. Time machine takes hourly snapshots of your disk and lets you browse through your backup history to recover lost files.

By default, Time Machine only backups to external drives connected trough USB. But I found out it’s pritty easy to let it automatically backup to a network drive. First, enable unsupported volumes in Time Machine. This can be done by opening Terminal and enter the following command:

defaults write com.apple.systempreferences TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

Now when you want to select a disk, your network drive should show up in the list. But that’s not all. For some reason, Time Machine is unable to create the initial sparcebundle. Well, it actualy starts creating it, but during the process, it just fails. So, we just create it ourselfs.
Go to Disk Utilities and click on “New Image” with the following settings:

  1. Save As ComputerName_MACAddress (some say you can choose the name yourself, but I didn’t want to take any chanses.
  2. Change partition to “No Partition Map”
  3. Change Image Format to “Sparce Bundle Disk Image”
  4. Custom Volume size. Set the maximum you want to use on your remote location. Don’t worry if you don’t have the room on your Mac. Sparce Bundle Disk Images grow in size dynamically.
  5. Create it and move this file to your network drive.

Now, go to the Time Machine interface again and tell it to start backing up. Now Time Machine should start backup your stuff to your network drive. It should even do so every hour automatically. When you are on location, and Time Machine can’t access you drive, you won’t get any errors. It will just retry every hour.

You might find posts where people say that backing up on unsupported drives is a stupid idea and it is unreliable, but untill today, I haven’t found any problems. I even recovered a few files for testing and it worked perfectly. But even so, don’t shoot me if something goes wrong.

I just had one small problem when my router assigned a new IP to the network drive. Time Machine didn’t seem to find the drive anymore even when it was showing up in Finder. So I just fixed the problem by assigning the IP myself (not through DHCP anymore) and problem solved.