Dying Apple Time Capsules spark complaints

Backup devices failing after about 18 months, Mac users report

Users of Apple's Time Capsule have taken to the Web with complaints about their dead storage and wireless devices and are tallying the hardware failures in an effort to convince Apple that there's a problem.

The Apple Time Capsule Memorial Register , which went live last weekend, has already logged 260 dead devices.

"To show that you're not alone in this process, we've opened the Apple Time Capsule Memorial Register," the site says on its front page. "Please take a moment and submit a few details of your beloved Time Capsule. You will instantly notice it will make you feel better, but will also help others facing the same difficult period in their lives."

The register was created by a Mac user who goes by the moniker "zmippie" on Apple's support forum. "In the end, hopefully, by getting a better view on the size of this premature TC failure, we can poke Apple to take action," zmippie said in a message posted last Saturday. "I don't think this problem ends after the first batch of TCs have all died, because apparently the design hasn't been changed since the initial release early 2008."

Reports of failed Time Capsules have been common on Apple's support site for months. Most users adding to the two most popular threads -- which together boast more than 60,000 views and over 600 messages -- claim that their Time Capsules failed without any warning.

"My Time Capsule was running just fine, then spontaneously just powered off by itself," said a user identified as elroySF , who kicked off one of the two main threads on the issue in late August. "I'm guessing that there's a power connection fried, because if it were a power supply failure the lights would not have blinked on at all."

"My Time Capsule has just failed too, after 18 months of use," reported "DiGiTaL_DaN" on the same thread Monday. "The power is dead. I hope Apple sees this is a design flaw, and extends the warranty. Seems like it should have a more substantial external power supply."

Scores of Time Capsule owners reported on the support forum that their devices had gone dead about 18 months after purchase, although some said that theirs had died after just a few weeks or month of use. According to the Time Capsule Register site, which asks users to record both the purchase date and date of death for their devices, the average lifespan of a failed Time Capsule was 17 months, 4 days.

Users have speculated that the Time Capsule's power supply gave up the ghost, or an internal connection to the power supply failed. One user has posted step-by-step instructions ( download PDF ) on how to resurrect a dead device by using an external power supply.

Apple's warranty for the Time Capsule is 12 months, but devices used by customers who purchased an add-on AppleCare warranty plan for a new Mac are also covered by the three-year deal. Several users on the support forum said that Apple had replaced their dead Time Capsule if it was under warranty.

Others, however, were frustrated at the sudden expiration of their primary backup device, which uses Mac OS X's Time Machine software to back up Macs via a wireless connection.

"Called Apple and they said it sounds like it's dead and offered to make me an appointment with a Genius," said MaxaMac last Saturday. "Can anybody tell me why Apple is not stepping up to the plate here? This thing cost me $US500.00 + tax and now it has been reduced to a very functional paper weight."

Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the Time Capsule register site, or to questions whether it was investigating the problem or considering extending the device's warranty.

Apple currently sells two models of the Time Capsule: a 1TB backup device for $US299 and a 2TB model for $US499. Most of the failed Time Capsules have been older 500GB and 1TB devices.

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Gregg Keizer

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