Running Time Machine Backup Server on macOS

Time Machine backup is a MUST in this time and age, especially after you just paid couple thousands in Mac. Ultimately, no matter how ridiculous issue you just encountered on your machine, if you have a complete backup of the system, there should be no concern. I can’t believe I have to say this in 2019, Time Machine has been around since Leopard, and still provides better options than of its competitors. Make sure you are using a separate drive (e.g. external HDD, NAS) that is at least 1.5 times bigger than the target drive.

Now, let’s assume you have a MacBook. It’s a hassle to have a physical drive dangling around, when USB-C docks alone cost around $50-70. If this sounds familiar, start looking for a stationary Mac that can run High Sierra. Most expensive routers are nowadays delivered with NAS features, but today we will discuss Mac options. Apple has been phasing out OS X Server, which means for most household users looking for simple solutions for household problems, the answer is already embedded in your operating system.

(note: do not use internal drive of stationary Mac as the destination for Time Machine, as it will defeat the purpose)

  1. Plug in your external drive of choice to the stationary Mac.
  2. Erase the drive using Disk Utility; it must be Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
  3. Open Systems Preferences
  4. Under Sharing, open File Sharing.
  5. Add the new drive to the shared folder list.
  6. Right-click on the drive from the shared folder list, tick “Share as a time machine backup destination” option.
  7. Turn on the File Sharing from the service list.
  8. From the other, source Mac, mount the drive via network and select it as Time Machine backup disk.

Essentially, macOS now comes with a package to make a NAS-based Time Machine drive more easily available. You could have done the same with existing features and commands, of course. The key here is that now we have nice GUI control of which drive is NAS Time Machine drive.

I know some other critiques must have already said this, but this is one of those moments it rings painfully true again. Household networking devices are still distant to average consumers, and looking at the price tags some of the reputable manufacturers are putting on, Apple could have gone ‘CarPlay’ on this, providing Apple-issued firmwares for the routers, instead of sending all router related businesses to oblivion. Current lines of products are far from ‘it just works’ attitude we want. Downsizing may have been more appropriate for this situation.

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