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The Airport Time Capsule is a wireless router and network-attached storage (NAS) device manufactured by Apple. Model A1409 is the fourth generation revision of the Time Capsule released in June 2011.

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Time Capsule A1409 Doesn't Recognise WD 18TB Elements HDD

I've recently bought a WD 18TB Elements HDD and tried to connect it to the USB port on the rear of my A1409 Time Capsule. I've usually got an unpowered hub connected to the TC with three WD Elements HDDs attached (5TB, 6TB and 12TB) and they all run at once without issue.

I've formatted the new 18TB as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) GUID using Disk Utility; it appears to be setup the same as the other three WD drives. It works fine when plugged into my MB Pro.

When I plug it into the TC it spins up, then the TC light goes orange and it drops off the network (ie it's no longer available for my MB Pro to connect). When I unplug the WD 18TB drive, the light turns green again and the TC reappears as available.

I notice other threads advise the USB ports on these aren't all that reliable and a powered hub might resolve the issue. I'm willing to try that route, but unsure since the 12TB works OK when plugged in, and in fact the USB port will support a combined 23TB through the unpowered hub, so I don't know if this is the problem.

Hopefully wiser heads will have a solution. Thanks!

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First of all most of these Time Capsules USB ports are only USB 2.0. So while able to support a drive the speed of port is a bit anemic and as you are going with such a large drive you won't get the throughput you likely need.

Then we get into the USB power support which is your issue here as large drives will often need much more power! More so for a HDD vs SSD.

The killer is the larger HD drives disk mass increases as you add more platters, the head motors startup (torque) being the highest load time point. The USB standards make note of offering more power within USB 3.x

  • USB 2.0: 5.0V - 500mA
  • USB 3.0: 5.0 - 900mA

Here's a good writeup in more detail USB Decoded: All the Specs and Version Numbers

Backup and Large Data!

I had a similar issue, as my work was exceeding what I had for storage! As I'm an avid photographer and at one point had a part time business selling my work I needed to have my stuff accessible and I also didn't want to have only one copy of my work as that could be risky loosing many years of work.

I bought a collection of portable HDD's to use for off site backups and used a second set for rotation. That served me well at the beginning but as my work grew it became clear I needed something more. I then invested into a RAID box so I always had primary copy and then only used the portable drives for backup alone (still in rotation).

Even still the HDD's needed a sizable upgrade as the number of them was getting too large and becoming risky of not being able to recover my work. So I went with much larger SSD's reducing the number of drives then every three years I verified the integrity of the data to make sure it hadn't rotted as the early generation of SSD's had that as a risk. I only encountered the issue once and I replaced that drive with a newer one.

For guidance I follow Backblaze HDD Drive Stats making sure I haven't fallen into a low MTF HDD drive as well as Backblaze SDD Drive Stats while there SSD drives are mostly Seagate and Western Digital with a few others I haven't seen any testing with Samsung which I find interesting! But even with a low number and mostly used as a boot drive one has to consider the boot drive data is both static for the OS files, but very dynamic with caching! So there is a high degree of data churn and wear leveling taking place even on these drives. Which is why these SSD's can often fail from just too many rewrites, that is not the same issue of data rot! As they are really pushing these drives it gives you insight of what you can encounter!

So if you are like me I would alter your setup to a RAID if you need the data close by. And then look at least two drive sets for off site rotation. I mostly have drive sets setup by years as having one continuous backup that spans across so many drives also gets risky! I personally use Samsung drives based on my friends who work at a much higher level then even I ever did.

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That's brilliant, thanks Dan for your fast and detailed response!

I've considered shifting to RAID boxes but was unsure if my needs had reached that point. I'd decided to bumble on with the TC acting as nexus (despite the speed limitations of USB 2.0), and move to a RAID setup with my next upgrade.

I'm yet to adopt SSDs for storage as I've found the cost to size ratio prohibitive, but that has changed significantly in the last few years. Still the price of an 18TB SSD is fives time a HDD, and that's before adding the enclosure into the mix.

Those Backblaze Drive Stats are interesting and mildly concerning... I've had no trouble with my WD 12TB, but bigger drives appear to have a 300% AFR increase. Perhaps a RAID enclosure with a series of smaller, more reliable HDDs (or even SSDs) is a smarter choice.

In the interim, your reply suggests a powered hub might be the solution to get the A1409 reading the WD 18TB. Have I interpreted correctly? Or have I misunderstood and that's wishful thinking?

Thanks again!

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Incidentally, I'm pleased to have the chance to thank you for another matter altogether... I recently upgraded a failed A1286 Macbook Pro with a 15” Macbook Pro 2.6GHz i7 logic board based on your response I can change the cpu?. Thanks a lot for that, as I was able to resurrect my old faithful better than new!

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@samjandrewz - Some external drives offer a direct DC power input. While a powered hub might work, I just can’t tell you if that will be enough if you also share it with another high power demand device.

It’s still worth the try!

And thanks for the kind words! 🤘🤘

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@danj Thanks for the potential fix, I appreciate the caveat on the outcome. Sorry for the delayed response, I'd hoped to provide an update after trying a powered hub, but none of my local stores had anything suitable, so I'll try to track down something online.

I'll leave the post as unanswered for the interim in the hope another contributor has a definite answer.


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As a (very belated) update to this question: sadly, the powered hub didn't solve the problem. I'm aware there are limitations to the maximum size of replacement HDD which can be installed into the A1409, and I wonder if those same limitations apply to the maximum size of HDD which the device can recognise when plugged into the USB port.

If anyone has the skills, time and inclination to somehow hack and update the firmware to support larger HDDs, I'd happily reap the rewards of your efforts! Otherwise, looks like an 18TB HDD is more than the old girl can handle.

Thanks again to @danj for the responses above :)

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@samjandrewz - I hadn’t thought of the drives size limit being an issue as the macOS file system it’s self wouldn’t be an issue (HFS+) which is what the TC was designed for. But today we also have APFS which the TC won’t work with.

I would hang the drive directly from your system reformatting it to GUID with a journaled file system (HFS+) as you also don’t want exFAT or FAT32 which your Mac will work with but the TC can’t.

That then only leaves if the TC acting as a proxy here has a size issue. I would be surprised as the TC is newer than when HFS+ was released.

Until you double check the drives format making sure you can access it directly. Place a few files on it too! Make sure the files are accessible to everyone, to be sure the ACL is not the issue.

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