Set Up Airport Time Capsule

There are of course other external hard drives available that are capable and easy to install. But none work quite like the Airport Time Capsule. Why?

The Airport Time Capsule combines three extremely valuable functions in one simple device.

The first is fully featured 802.11ac Wifi. That provides fast Wifi support to your Apple appliances.

The second valuable function is that the Apple Time Capsule contains a hard drive that you can purchase in 2TB or 3TB sizes.

The Wifi combined with the disk storage allows the Time Capsule to act as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) serving as disk backup to your Apple Mac’s on the network.

The third feature as well as the Apple Time Capsule’s internal drive is, you can attach via its single USB port either another external hard drive expanding the network storage on the Time Capsule further or connect a USB printer to serve your Apple network.

The Time Capsule also scores bonus points for being able to expand your network’s Wifi if you already have an Airport Time Capsule or Airport Extreme and

you have the ability for a Time Capsule Guest Network

Fortunately, just like the rest of the Apple’s Eco system of products the Airport Time Capsule is straight forward and easy to install – once you understand how. Because

Apple design’s its products that way …

Let Me Explain 5 Quick Ways To Set Up Your Airport Time Capsule

For those in a hurry you can take a look at the Table of Contents and select a heading to go straight to and find out how on that subject. Otherwise take a seat and have a read.

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

The first quick way we’ll look at is the basic installation. By design there is no additional software to install since the Time Capsule comes ready to plug in, boot up and installs itself with some basic settings.

Useful as that is you will need to set up Time Capsule for your own network

What You Need To Install Airport Time Capsule

  • Your cable or broadband modem installed and up and running with a connection to the Internet. It may even have a Wifi router as part of the modem. The Time Capsule needs access to the WAN to correctly boot itself or you’ll see the dreaded flashing amber light on the front. I’ll explain the different status light colors and what they mean a little later.
  • A DSL cable, to connect your Time Capsule to the modem.
  • A power socket to plug your Capsule into and your Time Capsule placed at a reasonable height (on a table, or shelf, if you are placing on your entertainment unit it is best that Time Capsule has open access and is not enclosed) so that it has the best chance to spread its Wifi signal.
  • The Mac or iOS device you are going to use to configure your Time Capsule with the Wifi switched on. Your Mac needs to run OSX 10.7 or later or if you are setting up using an iOS device such as your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that needs to run iOS 6.1 or later.
  • The Time Capsule can be set up and configured using a Windows PC. The Windows PC will need to have Airport Utilities installed and Bonjour Print Utilities. The latest versions can be downloaded from the Apple App store.

First Time Set Up Of The Airport Time Capsule

Connect the 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 select and order one from Amazon.

It is important that you plug in all the cables ahead of plugging in the Airport Time Capsule’s power cable.

Now you are ready to plug into an electrical outlet.

The Time Capsule will boot up, get its IP address from your cable modem and set itself up in a default configuration.

While it does this you will see the status light turn from being off, showing your Time Capsule was unplugged

To amber, which means your Airport Time Capsule is booting up and configuring itself.

The amber status light turns to solid green when your Airport Time Capsule is booted up, working and ready to be configured.

Set Up Airport Time Capsule As A New Network And Base Station

As a primary base station, connected to your cable modem you will have the beauty of faster backup speeds and fantastic Wifi performance for your Apple devices.

Open up the AirPort Utility application.

(Note you can just as easily use the Airport Utility on your iPad, iPhone, iPad Touch or Windows computer to set up the Airport Time Capsule)

On your Mac.

To find the Airport Utility.

Select the Applications folder and within that the Utilities folder. Double click to open the AirPort Utility application.

Or find via spotlight search.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Type in Airport Utility.

Airport Utility Search
Airport Utility Search

And start up the application.

Once in Airport Utility your Mac will see the Airport Time Capsule broadcasting, booted up and set up with a default name.

Pick the Time Capsule and then click continue.

If for some reason you’re unable to see the Time Capsule in this screen, then you can instead click on your Wifi symbol at the top of your desktop.

Wifi Symbol On Your Desktop
Wifi Symbol On Your Desktop

The new Time Capsule should be on the list of available Wifis and you can select it there.

(You may need to wait a few seconds for your Wifi to cycle round to show you all the Wifi networks it can see).

You will now be taken 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 the Airport Time Capsule’s Base Station and the Wifi network of the Airport Time Capsule by allowing you to enter the network name.

Time Capsule Network Name and Base Station Name
Time Capsule Network Name and Base Station Name

You enter here the name you would like for your particular Wifi network.

Then you can assign a Base Station name.

Give a name that is quick and easy for you to identify as the Wifi network and your Time Capsule base station when you connect your Mac and Apple devices to it later.

Create and verify the password you would like to assign to your Base Station and network.

Set a good secure password to prevent any hacking of your network and Base Station over the Internet.

You’ll notice from the picture above that the ‘Use a single password’ check box is ticked.

If you un-tick it you can assign a separate password to your network and another one for your Base station.

This may be useful for those situations where you need to give out the network password but do not want to give the same admin access to your base station. To be honest there is an option to set up a Guest Network for such a situation so for most people assigning a single password is fine.

Select ‘next’

2. Time Capsule Guest Network

And here we are at the second quick way to set up Airport Time Capsule that’s valuable.

Guest Networks are useful for those visitors

Welcome or not, that you need to give

access to your Wifi network but you would prefer to keep them away from your main Wifi with your Apple devices on.

The next set up screen you’ll see on the install allows you to create a guest network.

Time Capsule Guest Network
Time Capsule Guest Network

Click the check box to enable the guest network and give the guest network’s Wifi a name.

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

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

I think it’s best to set a password because who wants every passer by on the street using your Wifi? Before you know it you’ll have a crowd out there.

Assign a password, verify and click next when you’re finished.

Completing Your First Time Set Up Of Your Airport Time Capsule

The following screen asks whether you wish 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’

The Airport Time Capsule will now reboot itself and apply your preferred settings. On reboot the Wifi will be broadcasting ready for you to connect to and the internal disk will be ready for you to use.

Now you are ready to take a look at my article on the site on how to use the Airport Time Capsule

Find It Easier Watching A YouTube Time Capsule Setup Video?

Peyton has done a good job with this video.

How to Set Up Time Capsule

Video Credit: Peyton

Watch as he goes through the steps I’ve discussed above.

3. Set Up Time Capsule With iOS Or A PC

You’ll need the Airport Utility App downloaded and installed on your iOS device (iPhone, iPad or IPad Touch) or the Windows PC

On the Windows PC you will need Bonjour Print Utilities installed in addition.

Be sure to download and install the software direct from Apple for iOS or the Windows PC

On a Windows PC the set up procedure using Airport Utility is the same as on a Mac.

Connect the cables as I’ve directed above, Boot up your Airport Time Capsule in its default settings and head into Airport Utilities.

All the screens will follow along the same as I have described for the set up on a Mac as above.

IOS Set Up

Connect up the cables as I’ve described above and boot up your Time Capsule to its default configuration. Then

On your iPhone, iPad or IPod Touch go to settings and select network.

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

Select ‘Set up a new Airport Base Station’

Base Station Set up on iOS
Base Station Set up on iOS

Data will now be gathered 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’

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

Pick create a new Airport time Capsule network.

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 base station a name, after that you will get a chance to assign a password.

It is important to set up a good strong password as this helps protect the device and your network from shady characters on the Internet from hacking into it.

And now you are ready to learn how to use your Time Capsule. Have a read of my article here.

4. Time Capsule Backup

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 for the back up your Macs. The 5th generation of Time Capsule identifies where the Apple devices are, that are using the 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 the set up of Time Machine is done on your Mac.

It is the Time Machine software on your Mac that finds the Time Capsule and uses the hard drive on 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 your Wifi is turned on.

Enter the Time Machine application on your Mac. There are several ways to do this, select the Apple logo in the top left hand corner of your screen and select System Preferences.

Then select Time Machine. OR

select System Preferences from your dock (if you have System Preferences on your dock). Then you can select 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 be taken to the same menu where you select Time Machine.

Time Machine in System Preferences
Time Machine in System Preferences

Once in Time Machine.

Slide the switch on the menu to ON to switch on Time Machine ready to be configured.

Time Machine Select Disk
Time Machine Select Disk

And then click on Select Disk.

Because your Mac’s Wifi is on, Time Machine should have automatically found your AirPort Time Capsule‘s internal disk. It will be listed under available disks.

Time Machine Available Drives
Time Machine Available Drives

You’ll see the name you gave the Time Capsule earlier.

Pick your Time Capsule and then click ‘Use Disk’.

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

Couple of quick tips. You may want to select the check box to show the Time Machine in the menu bar at the top of the screen. (see image immediately above) This menu is a quick way to access stopping or starting backups. You can just use that menu.

The other tip is, as this article is about the set up of your Airport Time Capsule for the first time, you may at this point want to turn the Time Machine backup off. And directly connect your Mac to the Time Capsule for the first backup.

As Time Machine will be backing up everything it will be sucking up Wifi bandwidth and you will find it difficult to access the Internet while the backup is going on.

The backup could take some time, possibly overnight and may even be longer than that, depending on how much data you have – for the first backup.

It is far better to do the first backup wired – directly connected via an Ethernet cable and then the subsequent incremental backups can easily be done over Wifi.

Not sure how to do this? Have a look at my article on ‘How to use Airport Time Capsule‘, the section on Ethernet connection.

Directly connect your Mac for its first backup.

Pop back into Time Machine and turn the backup on. Once the first backup is complete, disconnect the Ethernet cable. Sit back and leave the incremental backups to be done over the Wifi.

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 hard drive.

Why add an external hard drive to the Time Capsule in the first place?

The connection of an external hard drive will allow you to create a networked shared drive and expand the available storage on your Time Capsule.

The storage then becomes both an external hard drive you can access over Wifi to store files and/or act as additional disk to backup to with Time Capsule.

Connecting an external hard drive to Airport Time Capsule is an easy and simple process that will take less than five minutes to complete.

Note that the Airport Time Capsule is not able to format the external hard drive itself.

The external hard drive must be formatted already and if you wish partitioned up. You can do this by plugging the drive into a Mac on the network and formatting the drive as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system if you are using with Macs only.


If you want you can create partitions as ExFAT so that you can use the external hard drive to store files from your Windows PC or share files between Windows and your Mac. I have another article that discusses how you can do this on your Mac.

Expanding Time Capsule Storage

Assuming the external drive is already formatted correctly and/or partitioned as you want, first

You must connect the external hard drive through the USB port on the Airport Time Capsule.

Apple Time Capsule USB Port
Apple Time Capsule USB Port

Understand that the port is a USB 2.0 port. 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 drive will simply slow down to match the speed the Time Capsule is able to send the data to it.

Plug the external hard drive into a power outlet and switch it on.

Now go to your Mac or the iOS device you manage the Time Capsule from and open the AirPort Utility.

Airport Utility Graphical Interface
Airport Utility Graphical Interface

Pick your Airport Time Capsule. Select Edit. You will most likely need to enter the Time Capsule base station password.

Click ‘Disks’

This will enable you to manage the disks on the Time Capsule.

Click ‘Enable File Sharing’.

Now you need to think about how you set up the security on the external disk. The main disk on your Time Capsule is secured with the base station password. You can set up the external hard drive to use the same base station password or assign a different password.

Click ‘Secure shared disks’

Now choose either ‘With disk password’ if you are setting a separate password or

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

This is crucial to protect your data and external hard drive from being hacked over the Internet.

When you’re done click update.

Then choose base station and ‘Restart’.

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

Close Airport Utility.

To use the external hard drive on your Mac have a look at my article here

And read the section on Use the Airport Time Capsule as an External Hard Drive.

Extra Info

Apple’s Time Capsule Setup Guide

It may also be useful for you 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 is also worth understanding the different colors the status light on the front of the Airport Time Capsule flashes and what it means.

By default the status light is set to be;

No Status Light Or It’s Off

Means your Airport Time Capsule is unplugged and has no access to power.


Means your Airport Time Capsule is booting up.

Flashing Amber Status Light

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

  1. This may mean that your WAN cable is unplugged or
  2. your Internet supplier may have problems or your modem may have problems that have nothing to do with your Time Capsule. Check that you have Internet connection to your modem.
  3. It may also mean that there is a new firmware update available for your Apple Time Capsule. To check, start up Airport Utility, select your Time Capsule, click on the version number and you will see if you have the latest version. If you don’t then you will be offered to update the firmware.
  4. It may mean a problem with the internal disk and it could be failing.

Either way if you go into Airport Utility, click on your base station, you will see an amber circle to the right of your base station picture.

Double click to open the window and step through the issues reported. Make changes or select to ignore the issues if they are non-crucial issues or unimportant.

Don’t forget to apply your changes when you’re done by pressing ‘Update’ to restart your base station.

Once all the issues are dealt with you should get a nice solid green light after reboot.

Solid Green Status Light

Means your Airport Time Capsule is booted up, happy and working.

Flashing Amber And Green

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

If you are having problems with your Airport Time Capsule it is always a good idea to go into Airport Utility. Select your Time Capsule and Airport Utility should show you any issues it finds with your Time Capsule.


Thank you for sticking with me to the end. I hope you found our journey through the five quick ways to set up Airport Time Capsule useful.

I hope you agree that Apple has made it easy to install, use, and troubleshoot its Airport Time Capsule. No wonder that the Airport Time Capsule is popular with Mac and even Windows users!