Apple AirPort Time Capsule design flaw could lead to total data loss

The recent incident with Western Digital's My Book Live NAS devices getting wiped remotely has emphasized the need for data backups, sometimes even redundant data backups. But what if the backup device itself is the one that gets irreparably broken? That is the potential nightmare that owners of Apple's discontinued AirPort Time Capsule could face soon, no thanks to a design flaw in both the enclosure itself as well as the hard drive used inside it.

It's probably not fair to put all the blame on Apple, but the company might have been aware of the design issues with the Seagate Grenada HDDs available at that time. The specific models in question are the ST3000DM001 and the ST2000DM001 2014-2018, and both use a parking ramp made of two different materials. These materials degrade over time at different rates, and, unfortunately, the AirPort Time Capsule's design exacerbates that further.

According to the German data recovery company Datenrettung, the poorly-ventilated Time Capsule causes the parking ramp's material to degrade faster than normal. Without any fans to help keep things cool, the ramps that hold the read/write heads when not in use eventually break from wear and tear. Since the Time Machine backup device had been discontinued in 2018, there are no official repairs available for it anymore. No recalls were ever made for the Seagate hard drives or the AirPort Time Capsule.

It probably wouldn't be as bad if it were only the parking ramps that broke. Unfortunately, this causes the read/write heads themselves to be deformed, which, in turn, causes damage to the discs themselves. The next time the Time Capsule is turned on, the deformed heads scratch the discs, destroying the data stored there.

Unfortunately, there is no easy data recovery available once that happens, and the data is lost forever. Datenrettung technicians suggest backing up the data stored on those capsules now and switching to a different backup solution before the inevitable happens.