Repair and disassembly guides for Apple Time Capsule wireless network devices.

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Upgrade drive in 1st Gen TC or will power supply fail?

Hi all,

I've researched how to swap hard drive in a Time Capsule but I keep getting conflicting information as to whether or not I should bother because of the power supply.

I have the 1st-gen 500GB model (A1254) and I just bought a WD Green WD20EARS 2TB drive to drop in there. I've seen a lot of posts with folks replacing the drive that don't mention any power supply issues; over on the Apple forums I have a guy telling me the power supply won't be enough to spin up the drive AT ALL, and that I'm better off just looking for a used later-gen model. I also don't know if this drive will spin down at all so it's possible the unit or drive will burn out quickly anyway.

So which is it -- can I replace the drive in this thing or not?

TIA, JVK

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John I think you have two different issues intermixed here.

The issue here is making sure your new drive does not require more power than what you are replacing. From what I remember this model has a Seagate ST3500630NS Drive Its specs:

  • Startup current (typical) 12V (peak) - 2.8 amps
  • Voltage tolerance (including noise) - 5V ± 5% & 12V ± 10%
  • Temperature (°C max) - 37.7 (operating & non-operating)

For the Western Digital WD20EARS 2TB Drive

  • Startup current (typical) 12V (peak) - 1.75 amps
  • Voltage tolerance (including noise) - 5V ± 5% & 12V ± 10%
  • Temperature (°C max) - 60 (operating) 70 (non-operating)

The second issue is the reliability of the power supply unit in the Time Capsule its self. This is were things get iffy. The first gen units did not hold up well and Apple does not offer parts for it anymore.

Let me add: The WiFi services on the this model was just so so: 802.11n {draft}. Review the following: Wikipedia: AirPort Time Capsule Newer units had better WiFi throughput.

So doing the upgrade:

  • From a HD perspective - Quite doable
  • What about the lifespan of the unit - Iffy, no parts from Apple, will need to make your own.
  • WiFi Performance - Not bad but not as good as the newer 802.11n units.

So there you have it.

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Thanks Dan. I do intend to just use the device as a backup appliance on my network and turn off the wifi and router functions. As long as the new drive works in it (and the unit supports it) then I'm not worried about the components; if it fails I'll replace it then.

From what I've read, there are two main issues to consider when replacing drives in this old unit: startup current and constant spinning. From the specs you posted it looks like the drive will start up but it remains to be seen whether it will run constantly or sleep in-between backups. If it spins all day then it's liable to burn out from all the heat generated, no?

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There is a fan unit inside which is not well vented. I would take a look at how the TC is vented in & out. You want the get the heat out from both the HD and the power supply. Apple uses the WD green drive in the newer units so I think you'll be alright.

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If it's lived until now, it'll probably be OK for a while longer.

I have a WD Red 3TB drive in one - it just works.

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Without mentioning any names I will tell you that I have read in many forums the following declaration: "Every Apple Time Capsule" running 24/7, purchased in 2008 will be dead by 2010".

But, I can tell you that these reports of death have been greatly exaggerated... I recently installed a Seagate ST4000VN000 4TB HDD into my FIRST GEN Time Capsule (Model A1254), and everything has been working perfectly as before. Not only that, but this is my second drive upgrade for a venerable piece of equipment.

I bought this Time Capsule in late 2008 and used it with the original (Hitachi 1TB) drive - 24/7/365 in a poorly ventilated NYC apartment with no climate control – for about 2 years until that drive became too small for the backup needs of 3 machines. I installed a WD20EARS 2TB in late 2010 using the excellent tutorial described here at iFixit and that drive worked just fine until it conked out about 2 months ago and began reporting backup failures. Without a second thought I cracked open the TC again, installed the new Seagate NAS, and began backing up again in about 10 minutes.

I do subscribe to the notion that too many backups are almost enough... so I have redundancy options in place to avoid data loss at all costs and I have no doubt that TCs can/will fail prematurely from overheating (as an Apple customer since 1998 I have absolutely had my share of failed devices for any number of reasons). Don't leave yourself in a position to learn the hard way, however, there is no reason to avoid this easy upgrade if you are replacing with a comparable drive. My only concern was whether a drive higher than 3TB could be recognized by the hardware. So hopefully this helps out someone else who has the same question as me.

As a side note: The original 1TB Hitachi I pulled out of the TC has outlived the WD drive I replaced it with! I am currently using that drive for media storage in a Newer Technology Ministack v2 attached to my 2007 Mac Mini (functioning as home theater PC).

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I'm thinking of replacing my HDD and so found this question. Not sure if it worth the effort over just adding a usb drive. I did want to note that it is now 2016 and my original drive in the time capsule bought in 2008 is still functioning. It is the 500GB A1254 model. It's been running for eight years without issue.

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Hi Mark,

I had mixed success with adding external USB drives to my 1st Gen Time Capsule, which is why I decided to replace the internal drive.

UPDATE: it was a success and my 2TB drive is working fine in the enclosure. I did remove the bottom rubber mat to allow for better venting in case it ran hot, otherwise no issues.

JVK

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John Knowles will be eternally grateful.
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