Your Apple Time Capsule has died, but don’t despair. Here you can find all the information that we’ve gathered on this matter over the last few months.
Step 1: Make up your mind
You have several options:
• Try to get a replacement Time Capsule (see step 2a)
• Repair it (See step 2b)
• Have it repaired (see step 2b-2)
• Don’t do anything at all
Regardless of the option you choose, you may want to recover the data from the Time Capsule hard disk (see step 3).
Step 2a: Call Apple or contact your reseller
Call AppleCare or contact your reseller to tell them about your dead Time Capsule. You will be asked if you have AppleCare. IMPORTANT: any active AppleCare agreement will do (it is impossible to get AppleCare on the Time Capsule itself).
This effectively means that you can have AppleCare on a computer you purchased after you purchased your Time Capsule. Keep in mind that AppleCare is what Apple calls their 1-year standard warranty, so it’s not neccessary to have puchased additional 3-year extended AppleCare (Protection Plan) to apply for this option (you just need to have a computer within the 1-year warranty period).
2a-1: Yes, I have AppleCare
This is the easiest route, Apple will send you a replacement Time Capsule without much hassle and will require you to return your failed unit. If you’re lucky, you get a newer model, or even one with a bigger hard disk, but that is entirely up to Apple, so don’t get your hopes up. You may also get a refurbished model. If you need to get your data off the Time Capsule hard disk, then proceed to step 3. If not, then you can stop reading now and make that call.
2a-2: No, I don’t have AppleCare
In this case, before november 15, 2009 Apple would tell you that you’re plain out of luck (some professional naggers did manage to get a replacement, but many didn’t). Fortunately, things have changed quite a bit. Apple will want your Time Capsule serial number which they check to see if it qualifies for an out-of-warranty replacement. Apple told us that they grant replacement requests for “certain serial number ranges”, but we’re skeptical about that (see “What causes their sudden death?” in the sidebar, right).
Step 3: Get your data back
This step is optional. Apple requires you to send your failed Time Capsule back, and that means the enclosed hard disk too. If you need to access the files on your Time Capsule hard disk, then you have to open the Time Capsule, which unfortunately isn’t just a matter of turning a few screws (thanks Apple!).
IMPORTANT: although Apple now has a policy for replacing out-of-warranty Time Capsules, it does not have a policy about whether it is okay for you to open up your failed unit. We have reports from people who were given the green light to open up the Time Capsule to recover their data, but we also have reports of people being warned that they would void the warranty if they did. In either case: take care not to damage the Time Capsule (especially the rubber foot) when you open it.
3a: Open up the Time Capsule
Solid instructions for this process can be found on AppleFritter (scroll halfway the page). Once more: take care, especially with the rubber foot.
3b: Connect the Time Capsule hard disk
Now you have the hard disk out, but you need to somehow connect it to your computer. Unless you already have an external SATA hard disk or a Mac Pro, you may have to buy (or lend) either an external 3.5 inch SATA hard disk enclosure, or a SATA dock (kind of like a floppy disk drive of the olden days, but for SATA hard disks) or a USB-SATA cable. If you own a Mac Pro (or PC tower with SATA connectors), you can mount the hard drive into one of the drive bays.
As soon as you connect it (usually over USB), then the different partitions (three in fact), will mount and you can search for your data and copy it over.
If you’re paranoid about Apple handling your personal data (not a bad thing these days), then you can erase the hard disk after you have completed step 3b. Make sure to write zeroes to the disk and not just do a “quick erase”. Instructions can be found in the “Erase” dialog of Disk Utility.
We do have proof that Apple is erasing the hard disks of returned units thoroughly (we tried to recover the hard disk of our refurbished replacement Time Capsule, but nothing turned up, which was a relief), but better safe than sorry, right?
Step 2b: Repair
If for whatever reason you don’t want Apple to replace your failed Time Capsule, then you have the option to repair it, or have it repaired.
2b-1: Self repair
If wires, soldering irons and Dremels are your thing, then Ray Haverfield (a.k.a. LaPastenague) has plenty of information for you on how to repair your Time Capsule.
2b-2: Have it repaired
If you don’t want to run the risk of electrocuting yourself, then Ray Haverfield offers a repair service for Time Capsules, but he’s also kind enough to keep a record of repairers around the globe.
In either case, you may want to get your data back first. See step 3 to find out how.