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Apple says Time Machine over AirPort Disk is unsupported feature

AirPort Extreme owners using a recently resurrected feature of the WiFi routers that lets externally connected USB hard drives act as wireless backup volumes for Time Machine shouldn't come knocking on Apple's door if problems arise, the company now says.

Dubbed AirPort Disk, the functionality was once a highly touted feature of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. But in the weeks leading up to the operating system's release last fall, Apple edited its website, removing all such references to the backup solution.

"With a hard disk connected to your AirPort Extreme Base Station, all the Macs in your house can use Time Machine to back up wirelessly," read one description of the feature that was redacted in October without explanation. "Simply select your AirPort Disk as the backup disk for each computer and the whole family can enjoy the benefits of Time Machine."

At the Macworld Expo a few months later, Apple appeared to introduce its answer to the missing feature in Time Capsule, a proprietary hardware solution that essentially pairs an AirPort Extreme with a built-in "server grade" hard drive for primary usage with Time Machine.

Though Time Capsule was a welcomed addition to Apple's product matrix, some customers remained frustrated over the company's silence on Time Machine's support of AirPort Disk given that they had purchased AirPort Extreme products in anticipation of the feature shipping as part of Leopard.

Last month, it seemed as if Apple was attempting to rectifying the situation through the release of a series of software and firmware updates, which re-enabled the ability to select USB hard drives connected to AirPort Extreme base stations as wireless backup volumes for Time Machine.

This now appears as if it was some kind of mistake on company's part, according to Tidbits' Glenn Fleishman. He recently mailed Apple with some questions regarding the feature for a review he was working on and received a reply from an unnamed representative stating that Time Machine backups over AirPort Disk is "an unsupported feature."

This means that should something go astray with a user's data backups, Apple isn't responsible and AppleCare reps will have no insight on how to properly diagnose and address the issue.

In his report, Fleishman noted that Apple has refused to provide a formal explanation of the matter. However, he speculates that AirPort Disk support was accidently re-enabled when a debugging feature wasn't properly shut off before the recent software updates were released.

This of course presents the likely possibility that Apple will once again disable the feature with a forthcoming update.