Your Apple AirPort Time Capsule Has A Design Flaw That Could Result In Complete Data Loss

Apple AirPort Time Capsule
If you are still relying on Apple's discontinued AirPort Time Capsule to back up you data, you may want to seek out an alternative. Otherwise, you could lose all your files to what a data retrieval company is calling a flaw in the physical design, which in the firm's experience, can actually warp the hard disk drive (HDD) inside.

The AirPort Time Capsule is a defunct router line that Apple introduced in January 2008. It combined 802.11n wireless connectivity with a "server grade" HDD, with the promise of delivering automatic wireless backups for every Mac in a person's home. Apple initially offered two variants, one with a 500GB HDD for $299 and a 1TB mode for $499, then a year later it offered up a 2TB Time Capsule for $499 as well.

"Bring Time Capsule home, plug it in, click a few buttons on your Macs and voila—all the Macs in your house are being backed up automatically, every hour of every day," Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who is now deceased, said at the time. "With Time Capsule and Time Machine, all your irreplaceable photos, movies and documents are automatically protected and incredibly easy to retrieve if they are ever lost."

Sounds great, except for two things—Apple stopped selling the product a few years ago (April 2018), and according to Datenruttung, a data recover company in Germany, there is a risk of total data loss because of a "fault in the design."

The company says it is often asked by customers to recover data from Time Capsule units, and in almost every instance, the culprit is the same.

" A broken parking ramp and as a result a destroyed and deformed read / write unit as well as severe surface damage to the data disks," Datenruttung says (via Google Translate). "We have to assume that this is a fault in the design of the Seagate Grenada hard drive (ST3000DM001 / ST2000DM001 2014-2018) built into the Time Capsule."

Those drives use two different materials for the parking ramp, and because of poor ventilation on the Time Capsule, those materials heat up at different rates and get damaged over time, the company says.

"The damage to the parking ramp then leads to the read/write unit being destroyed and severely deformed the next time the read/write unit is parked. If the Time Capsule is switched on again or if it wakes up from sleep, the data disks of the Seagate hard drive are destroyed because the deformed read/write unit rubs against them," Datenruttung says.

That's obviously not good. Even worse, this type of damage can make it immensely difficult to recover data, even by professionals—it takes a "great deal of effort," and even then, it usually only amounts to partial data recovery rather than the entire drive's contents.

"If you are still using a Time Capsule, please back up your important data as soon as possible and then remove the device before it is too late," the company says.

That said, you should definitely be backing up your important data. It's also a good idea to implement multiple backups for any files you deem super important and would be bummed if lost forever, like family photos and videos, sensitive work documents, and so forth.