Set Up Airport Time Capsule

The Airport Time Capsule is no longer manufactured by Apple. But you can source one as a refurbished unit.

Or second user.

If you can find one. Keep tight hold.

As there’s little out there in the market to rival what it does.

In this article you’ll be guided though the set up of your Time Capsule.

And if you’ve had one for a while this article will help you to check it’s set up.

Got an Airport Extreme? It works in a similar way.

Fortunately, just like the rest of the Apple’s Eco system of products. The Airport Time Capsule is straight forward and easy to install and set up.

– When you understand how.

For those of you in a hurry you can take a look at the Table of Contents.

Scan the headings and go straight to the subject you’re burning to know about.

  Otherwise take a seat, settle in and have a read.

5 Quick Ways To Set Up Your Airport Time Capsule

1. Setting Up Time Capsule For The First Time On A Mac

First we’ll look at a basic install.

By design your Time Capsule comes ready to plug in, boot up. And it even installs itself with some basic settings.

Useful as that is.

You’ll need to set up Time Capsule for your own network.

What You Need To Install Airport Time Capsule

You’ll need your cable or broadband modem installed. Up and running with a connection to the Internet.

You may even have a wireless router as part of your modem.

Your Time Capsule needs access to the WAN to correctly boot itself. Or you’ll see the dreaded flashing amber light on the front.

You’ll can get the inside track on what the different status lights mean a little later on.

You’ll need a DSL cable, to connect your Time Capsule to your broadband router.

A power socket to plug your Capsule into.

And you’ll need to put your Time Capsule up at a reasonable height. On a table, or shelf.

It’s best that Time Capsule has open access and is not enclosed. This is so that you’ll have the best Wifi signal.

Your MacBook or iOS device. You’ll use it to configure your Time Capsule. Have it set up with its Wifi switched on.

Your Mac needs to run OSX 10.7 or later.

You can set up on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It needs to run iOS 6.1 or later.

You also can set up your Time Capsule using a Windows PC. Your Windows PC will need to have Airport Utilities installed. Plus Bonjour Print Utilities as well.

You can download the latest versions from the Apple App store.

Hardware Install Of Your Apple Time Capsule

Connect your DSL cable – the cable from your Internet or broadband modem. Into the Airport Time Capsule’s WAN port.

Airport Time Capsule Wan Port
Airport Time Capsule Wan Port

Usually, your cable provider provides you with the right cable. Or you can easily order one online.

It’s key that you plug in all the cables first. Do that ahead of plugging in your Airport Time Capsule’s power cable.

All cables plugged in?

Now you’re ready to plug your Time Capsule into an electrical outlet.

Your Time Capsule will boot up and get its IP address from your cable modem. Then it’ll set itself up in a default config. 

While it does this, you’ll see the status light turn on. And light up amber. That means your Airport Time Capsule is booting up and configuring itself.

The amber status light turns to solid green when your Airport Time Capsule has finished its boot up. And ready for you to configure.

Time Capsule’s Software Set Up

You set up your Time Capsule using the AirPort Utility App.


You can just as easily use the Airport Utilities software on your iPad, iPhone, iPad Touch to set up.

Or on a Windows computer with the software installed.

Set Up On A Mac

Open Airport Utility.

You do this by going to your Applications folder. And then inside that open up your Utilities folder. Double click to open the AirPort Utility application inside there.

Or you find the software using spotlight search.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Type in ‘Airport Utility’.

Airport Utility Search
Airport Utility Search

And start up the App.

Because you’ve already done your hardware install. And booted your Apple Time Capsule.

When the software opens on your Mac. You’ll see the Airport Time Capsule broadcasting. And set up with a default name.

Click on your Time Capsule and then click continue.

If for some reason you can’t see your Time Capsule on this screen. Click on your Wifi symbol at the top of your desktop.

Wifi Symbol On Your Desktop
Wifi Symbol On Your Desktop

Your new Time Capsule will be on the list of available Wifis. And you can pick it from there.

Note. You may need to wait a few seconds for your Wifi to cycle round to show you every wireless network.

Create A New Network On Your Time Capsule

You’ll now go to the ‘What do you want to do with this Airport Time Capsule’ screen.

Time Capsule Create New Network
Time Capsule Create New Network

Pick ‘Create a new network’ and then click on the ‘next’ button.

The next screen allows you to personalize your Airport Time Capsule. And the Wifi network on your Time Capsule.

Time Capsule Network Base Name
Time Capsule Network and Base Name

You put in here the name you’d like for your Wifi network.

After that give a name to your Time Capsule.

You’ll find it best to give your Capsule a name that’s quick and easy for you to find.

It makes it easier for you to spot your Wifi network. And your Time Capsule when you connect your Mac and Apple devices to it later.

Now Set Up Your Capsule’s Password

Set yourself a good secure password to prevent any hacking over the Internet.

Put that in now.

You’ll notice from the picture above that the ‘Use a single password’ check box has a check mark in it.

If you uncheck that box. You can assign a separate password to your network and another one for your Time Capsule.

This may be useful for those situations where you need to give out the network password. But you don’t want to give the same admin access to your Capsule.

To be honest there’s an option to set up a Guest Network for such a situation. So for most people assigning a single password is fine.

Click ‘next’.

2. Setting Up Time Capsule’s Guest Network

And here’s a valuable feature on your Apple Time Capsule. Setting up a guest network.

Guest Networks are useful for those visitors, welcome or not. That you need to have on your Wifi network.

But you’d prefer to keep them away from your main Wifi with your other Apple devices on.

On the next set up screen you’ll see that you can create a guest network.

Time Capsule Guest Network
Time Capsule Guest Network

Click the check box to turn on the guest network. And then give your guest network’s Wifi a name.

This way you can easily see it from your main Wifi.

You can then have no password. Or set the security level you want computers on your guest network to have.

You’ll find it’s best to set a password.

Because who wants every passer by on the street using your Wifi?

Before you know what you’ll have a crowd out there in no time.

Assign a password. Verify it and click next when you’re finished.

Completing Your First Time Set Up Of Your Airport Time Capsule

The next screen asks you if you want to send Diagnostics and Usage information to Apple.

Time Capsule Send Diag
Time Capsule Send Diag

Decide. Then check the box you wish and select ‘next’


Check the box if you wish and click ‘next’.

Your Airport Time Capsule will now reboot itself and apply your preferred settings.

After it reboots the Wifi will be broadcasting ready for you to connect up to. And your Capsule’s internal drive will be ready for you to use. You now should find it helpful to take a look at this article on the site. ‘How To Use Airport Time Capsule‘.

Find It Easier Watching A YouTube Time Capsule Setup Video?

Peyton has done a good job with this video.

Watch as he goes through the steps.

How to Set Up Time Capsule

Video Credit: Peyton

3. Set Up Time Capsule With iOS Or A PC

You’ll need the Airport Utility App downloaded and installed on iOS. Or your Windows PC when you’re using one.

On your Windows PC you’ll need Bonjour Print Utilities installed as well.

Be sure to download and install the software direct from the Apple App store.

Windows PC Set Up

Connect up cables as described above. It’s in the Hardware Install Of Your Apple Time Capsule section.

Boot up your Airport Time Capsule. It’ll boot up with its default settings.

Start up the Airport Utilities software on your PC.

All the screens you see will follow along just the same as in the Time Capsule’s Software Set Up above. So pop back up this post and follow along.

IOS Set Up

You connect up your cables to your Time Capsule.  As described above in this article in the Hardware Install Of Your Apple Time Capsule part.

Then boot up your Time Capsule to its default set up.

Things are a little different in the iOs set up.

On your Apple device you go to settings and pick network.

Be sure to have your Wifi turned on so your Apple mobile device can see the network.

Pick ‘Set up a new Airport Base Station’

Platform Set up on iOS
Platform Set up on iOS

Wait a few moments while the software gathers information about the network.

IOS Gathering Data
IOS Gathering Data

Once Airport Utilities has done that. You’ll see the screen to ‘Create a New Network’

Pick create a new Airport time Capsule network.

IOS Create a new Wifi Network, give it a name
IOS Create a new Wifi Network, give it a name

Then, as you would if you were setting up on a Mac. You can now give your Time Capsule’s Wifi network a name.

And then your Apple Capsule’s base a name. After that you’ll get a chance to put in your password.

It’s key to set up a good strong password. As this helps protect your network from shady characters on the Internet. Hacking is the last thing you.

Job done. And now you’re ready to learn how to use your Time Capsule. Have a read of my article here ‘How To Use Airport Time Capsule‘.

4. Backing Up To Your Time Capsule

Your Airport Time Capsule is among the best network based backup devices for your Mac. Thanks to its excellent Wifi coverage and ease of connection to Time Machine.

Time Capsule identifies where your Apple devices are on your Wifi network. And focuses (beams) the Wifi signal to your device so you get the best signal possible.

To Set Up Your Time Capsule Backup To Time Machine

The main thing to remember is that your do the set up of Time Machine on your Mac.

It’s the Time Machine software on your Mac that finds the Time Capsule. And uses the drive in the Time Capsule to back up to.

To do this …

Go to your Mac. And each Mac that you want to back up to your Airport Time Capsule.

Make sure you turn the Wifi on.

Go into the Time Machine application on your Mac. There are several ways to do this.

Click the Apple logo in the top left hand corner of your screen. And select System Settings (Mac OS Ventura or later). On earlier Mac releases it’s System Preferences from the drop down menu.

From Mac OS Ventura Or Later

1. Start System Settings.

System Settings From Apple Menu

Scroll down the System Settings to the General option. Click on there. Then Scroll down to Time Machine and click.

2. Click The Button Add Backup Disk.

System Settings General Time Machine
System Settings Time Machine Add Backup Disk

Click on your Time Capsule. Then click Setup Disk.

3. Show Time Machine in Menu Bar

In System Settings click on Control Centre. Then scroll down to Time Machine. Then Click the option ‘Show In Menu Bar’.

System Settings Time Machine In Menu Bar

On Mac OS Releases Earlier Than Ventura

In System Preferences click on Time Machine.

Or from spotlight search at the top of your desktop.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Type in System Preferences.

Spotlight Search System Preferences
Spotlight Search System Preferences

You’ll go to the same menu where you can select Time Machine. 

Time Machine in System Preferences
Time Machine in System Preferences

Once in Time Machine.

Uncheck the box to turn off Automatic backups. Now, you’re ready to set up Time Machine.

Time Machine Select Disk
Time Machine Select Disk

And then click on Select Disk.

Because your Mac’s Wifi is on. Time Machine will automatically find your AirPort Time Capsule’s internal drive.

You’ll find it listed under available disks.

Time Machine Available Drives
Time Machine Available Drives

You’ll see the name you gave the Time Capsule when you set it up.

Click on your Time Capsule’s name and then click ‘Use Disk’.

From then on Time Machine will use the AirPort Time Capsule to do your backups.

You check mark the check box to show the Time Machine in the menu bar at the top of your desktop.

This is a quick way to access stopping or starting your backups.

You can just use that menu.

Time Machine To Time Capsule Backup Tips

Couple of quick tips.

For the first time back up of your Mac you’ll want to directly connect your Mac to the Time Capsule.

Because Time Machine will back up everything on your Mac. And it will suck up your Wifi bandwidth. And you’ll find it difficult to access the Internet while your backup happens.

Your first backup could take some time. Depending on how much storage you’re using on your Mac. 

It’s far better to do the first backup wired.

You do that by direct connect with an Ethernet cable from your Mac to your Time Capsule.

And that means sourcing a USB C to Ethernet adaptor cable or USB hub with Ethernet.

After your first backup the rest are incremental backups.

And so are easily done over Wifi.

Check the box in Time Machine for automatic backups.

Then whenever your Mac is in range your incremental backups will kick off.

5. Adding An External Hard Drive To Your Airport Time Capsule

Your fifth quick way to set up the Airport Time Capsule is to add an external drive.

Why add a drive to your Time Capsule in the first place?

Adding a drive allows you to create a networked shared drive. Plus, you can expand the available storage on your Time Capsule.

The storage then becomes both a shared disk you can access over Wifi and store files on.

Or you can have as an extra backup disk for Time Machine.

Connecting a USB drive to Airport Time Capsule is easy and simple. process that will take less than five minutes to do.

Note that.

Your Airport Time Capsule can’t format your external drive itself.

Format your USB drive ahead of connecting up to your Time Capsule.

You can do this by plugging your drive into a Mac. And formatting the drive as APFS, or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

Or if you want you can format as ExFAT. So that you can use your external drive to store files from your Windows PC. And share files between Windows and your Mac. You’ll find an article on the site that talks about shareable drives. Just click this link here.

Expanding Your Time Capsule Storage

Assuming your external drive is already formatted. And/or partitioned up as you want.

You plug in your drive into the USB port on your Airport Time Capsule.

Apple Time Capsule USB Port
Apple Time Capsule USB Port

Understand that the port is a USB 2.0 port for type A connection.

USB 2.0 disks are more challenging to buy these days. But a USB 3.0 external drive uses the same physical connection. And is backwards compatible.

The faster drive will simply slow down to match the speed the Time Capsule.

Now go to your Mac.

Or the device you manage your Time Capsule from. And open AirPort Utility.

Airport Utility Graphical Interface
Airport Utility Graphical Interface

Select Edit. Enter your Time Capsule’s password.

Click ‘Disks’

This will let you manage the drives on your Time Capsule.

Click ‘Enable File Sharing’.

Now you need to think about how you set up the security on your external drive.

The main drive on your Time Capsule has a password. The Time Capsule’s password.

You can set up the external drive to use the same password as your Time Capsule. Or give it a different password.

Click ‘Secure shared disks’.

Now choose either ‘With disk password’.

If you’re setting a separate password.

Or ‘With device password” to use the existing Time Capsule password.

This is crucial. It protects your files and drive from Internet hackers.

When you’re done click update.

Then choose base station and ‘Restart’.

This will ensure that your external drive and Time Capsule are completely synchronized.

You can now close the software.

To use your drive on your Mac have a look at my article How To Use Airport Time Capsule‘. And read the section ‘With An External Drive Attached’.

Apple’s Time Capsule Setup Guide

You’ll find it useful to take a look at the Set Up Guide that comes with the Airport Time Capsule.

It’s a little brief – as the Time Capsule is capable of so much more. But it does cover the basics.

Apple’s Airport Time Capsule Setup Guide

Time Capsule Status Lights

It’s worth understanding what the status light colors mean. These lights are on the front of your Airport Time Capsule.

No Status Light Or It’s Off

Means your Airport Time Capsule has no access to power. It’s unplugged.


Means your Airport Time Capsule is booting up.

Flashing Amber Status Light

Means that your Airport Time Capsule is unable to see the Internet.

Means that your Airport Time Capsule can’t see the Internet.

This may mean that your WAN cable is unplugged. Or your Internet supplier may have problems. Or your modem has problems.

It could be something that has nothing to do with your Time Capsule.

Check you’ve Internet connection to your modem.

It may also mean that there’s a new firmware update available for your Apple Time Capsule.

To check this. Start up Airport Utility. Click on your Time Capsule. Click on the version number. And you’ll see if you’ve the latest version.

If you don’t then you can update the firmware.

Flashing Amber can also mean a problem with your internal drive. And it could be failing.

You can go into the software. Click on your Time Capsule. You’ll see an amber circle to the right of your Time Capsule’s picture.

Double click to open the window. And step through the issues reported.

You can make changes. Or decide to ignore if they’re non-crucial or unimportant.

Don’t forget to apply your changes when you’re done.

You do that by pressing ‘Update’ to restart your Apple Time Capsule.

When you’ve dealt with all the issues you should get a nice solid green light after reboot.

Solid Green Status Light

Means your Airport Time Capsule is happy and working.

Flashing Amber And Green

There was a problem on start up experienced by the Airport Time Capsule and it’s going to restart itself.

If you’re having problems with your Airport Time Capsule it’s a good idea to go into Airport Utility.

Pick your Time Capsule and the software should show you any issues it finds with your Time Capsule. 

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