Using a USB drive with an AirPort base station

You can share a USB drive over your network by connecting it to a compatible AirPort base station.

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All models of these base stations provide a USB 2.0 port to which you can connect a compatible, properly formatted USB drive:

  • AirPort Time Capsule 802.11n
  • AirPort Time Capsule 802.11ac
  • AirPort Extreme 802.11n
  • AirPort Extreme 802.11ac

The disk must be formatted as Mac OS Extended, FAT16, or FAT32. Apple recommends Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for additional resilience in case the drive is disconnected or turned off while in use. AirPort base stations don't support encrypted formats or disks formatted as APFS, ExFAT, or NTFS.

After connecting the formatted USB drive to your base station, choose Finder > Preferences, then select ”External disks” to see the shared drive in the Finder sidebar. Your base station might also support using Time Machine with that disk.

A disk formatted as Mac OS Extended is shared using the SMB/CIFS and AFP protocols, and Mac computers can identify it using the Bonjour protocol. A disk formatted as FAT16 or FAT32 is shared using the SMB/CIFS protocol.

Power requirements

The USB port of your base station can provide power to bus-powered USB drives that follow the USB 2.0 power specification. If your USB drive or hub came with its own power supply, you should probably use it.

Compatibility with Time Machine

Time Machine supports compatible USB drives connected to all models of these base stations:

  • AirPort Time Capsule 802.11n
  • AirPort Time Capsule 802.11ac
  • AirPort Extreme 802.11ac

The disk must not be encrypted, but you can set up Time Machine to encrypt backups to the disk.

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