The latest software upgrade from Apple finally lets you use Time Machine backup with an Airport Extreme, and a new rev of the Airport Express gives both Mac and PC users 'N' speed.
The latest update to Time Machine and Airport finally opens the door for the long-promised Time Machine backup via a disk connected to the Airport Extreme's USB port.
While this functionality was originally touted as a feature in Leopard, it mysteriously got pulled from the final release. Subsequently, Apple introduced Time Capsule, an Airport Extreme base station with integrated hard drive that provides over-the-air Time Capsule functionality, leading some critics to say that Apple was trying to charge for a feature that it said would be included in the upgrade to Leopard.
Now, however, if you are using an Airport Extreme with firmware version 7.3.1, and you've updated Time Capsule (via software update) you can plug in a USB drive (it needs to be formatted as HFS+) and Time Machine will recognise the drive and let you back up to it. Wireless Time Machine backup will work for multiple machines, just like it does with Time Capsule but you'll need to be patient, even with a newer Mac with 802.11N.
In the past week I've had lots of experience with Time Machine and have used it to backup and restore my computer multiple times (I've had trouble with my new MacBook Pro). It's been a remarkably pain-free experience and has gone to the top of my 'reasons for upgrading to Leopard' list. It's great to see Apple finally supporting it on all existing Airport Extreme base stations.
New Airport Express
In related news, Apple this week also revved its Airport Express base station. The new Airport has the same physical size as the older unit but now supports the faster 'N' wireless specification and also provides AirTunes streaming via a built-in 3.5mm audio minijack for analog or optical digital sound. Airport Express can share a network connection with up to ten users, and also has a USB port that allows for wireless sharing of a USB printer. The new Airport Express is shipping now and retails for $129.