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Best Alternative to Time Capsule

A couple of sudden computer failures over the last few years forced me to start thinking about backup strategies. I'm not storing nuclear launch codes on my computer (or other devices, like my iPad and phone), but I do have lots of stuff like music, pictures, and other files that I'd like to save. I use a Mac and so initially I looked at Apple's Time Capsule (the device) that works in conjunction with Time Machine (the backup software installed on OSX Macs).

What made me rethink the Time Capsule

Unfortunately, the price was rather high ($299 for 2 terabytes), the backorder was long ("4-6 weeks"), and, disconcertingly, I read way too many reviews saying the things died at around 18 months, or just after the warranty expired. Since a suddenly-dead backup drive completely, um, defeats the purpose of a backup drive, I decided to broaden my search. Like most Apple products, the Time Capsule is sleek and gorgeous, but its shortcoming prompted me to do some investigation into alternatives.

Why cloud backup was not going to work for me

I looked at a few online/cloud backup services, but they were too pricey for the 100GB+ I was planning on storing.

I had just bought a new DSLR camera, and my brother warned me that I would soon be loading hundreds of gigabytes of photos and videos. My broadband at home is pretty good, but I dreaded trying to maintain a connection for that large of a set of files.

Besides, my partner has a 4-year-old Mac that is on its last legs, and we wanted to get everything off that thing before it met its inevitable demise.

My requirements

What I was looking for was:

  • reliability: a product from a manufacturer that had a much better reputation for quality and reliability
  • Time Machine compatibility: easy integration with Time Machine (I did not want to have to figure out another backup software)
  • secondary backup: some sort of meta-backup in case the main drive failed
  • value: good cost/benefit ratio
time-capsule-alternative
Opening up the top shows that this 4 TB drive is actually two 2 TB drives. (That's what makes the internal RAID 1 backup fairly simple)

Opening up the top shows that this 4 TB drive is actually two 2 TB drives. (That's what makes the internal RAID 1 backup fairly simple)

The back shows a power port, a USB port (for connecting another external USB drive), and an ethernet port (for far faster transfers than through your Wifi router).

The back shows a power port, a USB port (for connecting another external USB drive), and an ethernet port (for far faster transfers than through your Wifi router).

What I ended up going with...

I bought the Western Digital My Book Live Duo 4 TB. Here are the details:

  • reliability: Western Digital seems to enjoy a fairly good reputation for reliability. It does offer a 2-year standard warranty over the standard 1-year warranty for Apple's Time Capsule.
  • Time Machine integration: works seamlessly with Time Machine for easy backups from my Mac
  • secondary backup: Uses RAID1 technology to split the 4 TB (across 2 separate physical drives) into 2 drives of 2 TB each; the first drive backs up my stuff, and the 2nd backs up the first in case it fails.
  • value: $368 from Amazon; $70 more expensive than a 2 TB Time Capsule, but with double the storage and more features that I can use

Other advantages of the My Book Live Duo over the Time Capsule:

  • Backing up several computers: Setup with multiple computers was incredibly easy through a Web interface. My partner and I each created our own folders on the drive for Time Machine backups, as well as some shared folders for media (music & video) and an archive (stuff I wanted to delete off my Mac's HD but wanted accessible down the road).
  • Remote access: You can access files remotely from the My Book Live Duo to linked computers, phones, and tablets using an app called WD 2go. There's an additional photo browsing app called WD Photos that allows you to look at photos stored on Western Digital network drives like this one.
  • Media streaming: You can stream video or music to any DLNA-compatible phone, computer, tablet or device directly from the Live Duo. We've stored movies (mp4, avi, and wmv files) in the "public" video folder, and streamed it to our iPad (iPads are usually really finicky about playing videos outside a few accepted standards)

An advantage of the Time Capsule over the My Book Live Duo:

  • Wifi router: The Time Capsule functions as an AirPort Extreme Base Station, which can serve up to 50 simultaneous clients.
  • Looks? This is obviously debatable. Do you prefer a low-profile, glossy white appliance (the Time Capsule), or an upright, matte charcoal black one (the My Book Live Duo)? I guess it depends on your décor. Maybe you don't care either way.
Western DigitalWestern DigitalAppleApple

My Book Live Duo

My Book Live Duo

Time Capsule

Time Capsule

4 TB

6 TB

2 TB

3 TB

Release date (current model)

January 5, 2012

January 5, 2012

June 21, 2011

June 21, 2011

Hard drive capacity

4 terabytes (4,096 GB)

6 terabytes (6,144 GB)

2 terabytes (2,048 GB)

3 terabytes (3,072 GB)

Price (retail)

$429.99

$529.99

$299

$499

Wifi access point

No

No

Yes (802.11a/b/g/n)

Yes (802.11a/b/g/n)

Backup redundancy

RAID1 supported

RAID1 supported

None

None

Time Machine compatibility

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

USB ports

1 (add'l external drive)

1 (add'l external drive)

1 (external drive or network printer)

1 (external drive or network printer)

Dimensions

3.9 x 6.2 x 6.5 in (99 x 157 x 165 mm)

3.9 x 6.2 x 6.5 in (99 x 157 x 165 mm)

7.75 x 7.75 x 1.43 in (197 x 197 x 36 mm)

7.75 x 7.75 x 1.43 in (197 x 197 x 36 mm)

Weight

4.73 lbs (2.15 kg)

4.98 lbs (2.26 kg)

3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)

3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

pulkitsinghal on November 13, 2012:

1) If the time capsule's lifetime seems to average 18 months, what has the lifetime for this product been for you? How many months and still going strong?

2) Does WD readily and easily provide a replacement 2TB hard drive to pop-in if one of the two blows up?

Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on March 16, 2012:

tsmog: Good point, and thank you for your comment. I too have an ancient computer & an external hard drive that are just collecting dust, because I don't know how to get the data off of them easily. I just put it off.

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on March 15, 2012:

Great article and one that is appreciated. Having not one but two hard drives in a drawer in my office with lost? or irretrievable data - stories, journals, mood-charts, etc, just article drives home a message. Having a very good method for backing up a PC is obvious and with this well written article provides a means. Great food for thought for the average consumer and PC user

Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on March 07, 2012:

Thank you for the feedback, guys! I think Seagate is also a good manufacturer of hard disks, although I couldn't find anything from them that would be similar in functionality to the Apple Time Capsule. I really am paranoid about drives failing!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 07, 2012:

Wow, this is SO useful. One chore that has been sitting in the back of my mind for quite some time has been to get all of my data baked up in at least two locations, and I had thought I ought to consider cloud storage options... thank goodness you've gone and done all that research- now I'll not have to!

The the Western Digital My Book Live Duo 4 TB looks like a great option. I've LOVED all the WD hard drives I've bought. I'm seriously considering getting this so I can back up everything in one place... then I can use all my subsidiary external hard drives for a second copy of everything and my goal is met!

Thanks for the fantastic Hub.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on March 06, 2012:

I'm about convinced that the majority of people that "do what we do" on sites like this...know a ton more than I do about gear, and the rest of the net.

I'm sure you are one of those :-/

I steadily destroy computers...but I'm getting better at NOT doing it.

I've gone through a ton of hard drives...mostly, I just have to have the Windows OS re installed though...

You know, my uncle that does most of my computer repairs for me had always said "Western Digital," and the one drive of that brand I had....is the only drive I've ever had fail that wasn't able to be re formated and used again.

I don't know if this is applicable (or any of this comment, really) but Seagate is the brand of drive that I now use, and though I've had one of those get some bad sectors, or what not....it's still a usable drive with my OS and a ton of data on it (mostly music) - so I at least tell people that Seagate is a good brand.

Apologies for my long winded and probably not relevant enoughness.