Help me lower this time capsule into the ground...
May 22, 2008 11:24 PM   Subscribe

Time capsule/Mac trouble--help me start backing up my data with a minimum of muss/fuss!

Hi folks. I'm using a Macbook (new last fall) and I've just bought Leopard and a Time Capsule to use for backing up my data (after a catastrophic crash--PSA, MeFites, please PLEASE back up your data!!!). Here's the catch: I'm renting a room in a house, and so obviously I can't use the Time Capsule as the primary router. Time Capsule claims it can work through the existing network, which would be great for me even though it would be slower than if it were the network's primary router.

The problem is that while going through my set-up process for Time Capsule it does not recognize my Time Capsule again after I input my preferences. (This guy had exactly the same problem--check out his description to see my problem...) Anyway, the error message reads thusly:

"AirPort Utility was unable to find your Apple wireless device after restarting. The settings for this Apple wireless device have been successfully updated, but there was a problem rejoining the wireless network or finding the Apple wireless device. You may need to select your network from the AirPort menu and try again."

After doing some research, one possible reason for this seems to be that my landlady's wireless network uses WEP security, whereas apparently WPA security is now recommended, and runs much more smoothly with external devices. Most of the Time Capsule suggestions, then, involve changing the network from WEP to WPA but that doesn't help me--as a lowly renter, I don't want to mess around with their computer or their network setup.

Can anyone confirm or deny that this WEP/WPA stuff might be my problem, or suggest a workaround fix that would get me connected without tinkering with the network itself?

Failing that, can I can just connect my Time Capsule via USB cable when I'm at my desk and back up with Time Machine that way? (I say USB because I've got one sitting here in front of me--I don't want to shell out for an ethernet cable unless that's required...)

And if I did, will I then be able to switch back and forth seamlessly between usb and wireless connections as need be after I move out of here in two months?

Thanks in advance!
posted by roombythelake to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Best answer: To be clear: Are you trying to get your Time Capsule to join the existing wireless WEP network in your house, or is it connected via ethernet cable? Your post is a little unclear about this.

If the former is the case, you may want to try entering the hexadecimal version of your WEP password into the password field when configuring your Time Capsule. You can find the hex version of the password by opening the Keychain Access application, choosing the "login" keychain in the upper left, expanding the "Passwords" category on the lower left, and then finding the entry in the list for the WEP network. If you right-click on the entry, you can copy the password to your clipboard and then paste it into the Time Capsule configuration utility, which is a lot less of a pain in the ass than writing it down manually.

If that doesn't work, you could also just plug one of the LAN ports on the Time Capsule into one of the LAN ports of the existing router and set it into wireless bridging mode. Voila. Your Time Capsule would show up on the house network and you could use it to give you a secure WPA2 wireless connection.
posted by strangecargo at 11:55 PM on May 22, 2008

Response by poster: strangecargo, the former is indeed what I was trying, so I'm off to try your password suggestion now. Thanks for the comprehensive instructions. I'll report back after giving that a shot...
posted by roombythelake at 12:01 AM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Well, using the hex version of the password brought the same negative result. So tomorrow I'll buy a cable to connect the LAN ports and test out your other suggestion, re: bridging mode.

(I'm going to mark strangecargo's answer as a best even though the problem isn't necessarily solved yet. I'll report back on it, and in the meantime, if there are any other thoughts, folks, please keep 'em coming...)
posted by roombythelake at 12:30 AM on May 23, 2008

The version of the hex password that you copy and paste out of Keychain Access has a leading "0x" in front of it. The Airport Utility is incredibly vague about what format it wants the password in. It may be worth a shot to try the same hex password without the leading "0x". Otherwise, I'm stumped.
posted by strangecargo at 12:34 AM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm. There's no Ox (or 0x) leading off my hex password. For the record, it's a WEP 128 bit. But google says WEP 128 passwords usually have 26 hex characters, whereas the password I'm finding for mine has 32 (not including hyphens). But I'm sure I've got the right one, because I'm working from a fresh install of leopard and there ain't much else in there but this. It's listed under the right wireless network name and everything. (I'd post the string of numbers to confirm but methinks that's not the most secure thing to do...)
So maybe all this password stuff is just a red herring on my part. Unless other solutions crop up, I'll concentrate my research on bridging.
posted by roombythelake at 1:08 AM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: An Ethernet cable will cost you five bucks, and give you a nice, fast, reliable, secure connection. Debugging a flaky wireless network will cost you hours, and give you a nasty, slow, unreliable, insecure (WEP ack pfui) connection. What's your time and data security worth?
posted by flabdablet at 1:33 AM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: I was unable to get Time Machine to work without WPA on my wife's new MacBook.

Flabdablet is right on about the cable though. Seems your best bet in your circumstances.
posted by FauxScot at 3:56 AM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: Be very very wary of time capsule over wireless. Read the apple support discussion boards, specifically those related to Time Capsule and Time Machine, for many instances of people who have had their TM backups simply become useless due to backup image corruption.

I've experienced this myself, though when backing up to a Linux server instead of a TC device. I would advise not only making backups, but making several independent backups, rotating between them regularly (weekly, perhaps) so that you're not putting all your eggs in the one basket.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 5:34 AM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. On further research I'm not going to connect my Time Capsule to this network at all, for fear of screwing up one or both. I'll be moving out in two months and will have a more sturdy network to attach to then. In the meantime, I'm going to plug my MacBook directly to the Time Capsule with an ethernet cord, say, once a day, when I'm home. I'll run Time Machine, back up my stuff, and disconnect until the next day.

Obviously this is not the wireless dream I'd envisioned, but as flabdablet says, I don't have time, energy, or knowhow to fix our current outmoded wireless network if I bug it up, and FauxScot's anecdotal report indicates that without a WPA on the home network there's no point in trying. And yeah, 5MeoCMP, I'll also be taking secondary measures to protect my most important stuff in another location.

Thanks all!
posted by roombythelake at 10:04 AM on May 23, 2008

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