Getting Time Machine to Work With Windows Home Server 2011 (OSX 10.8.5 ONLY – Mavericks and subsequent updates break this)





2014-05-01 – backing up to WHS 2011 from current versions of OSX is just not feasible. I have not been able to determine a way to correct the current issues. For confirmation, please see the link below and also in the comments. We Got Served is one of my most trusted WHS resources.


For years now, I have avoided using Macs. My wife always gets a real kick out of my avoidance, since I seem to also deal well with Macs in general. She thinks there is no real reason not to use a Mac. Professionally, I had a few support cases with Mac desktops and laptops, and in our home, the lion’s share of devices are Apple devices.

I am also a terror about backing up data. Not only have I seen the losses myself, but I have watched them on nearly a daily basis at my previous job. Losing your favorite song/pictures/videos sucks. And so much of all of that is solely digital now.

So, in keeping with these philosophies, I make an effort to get the household Macs backed up to our home server. In the past, that was generally a pain to set up, but Apple has made it even harder with the recent 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion) update. It used to be that while using terminal, you could set a switch to have Time Machine recognize an “unsupported volume.” That is, anything that is not a Time Capsule. That was great because all you needed to do was create a backup volume and drop it in a share and select that volume in the Time Machine settings. Not super-easy, but not super-hard. With the new OS update, that switch no longer effectively works.

There are several reasons why I have a problem with this.

One, Apple’s classic closed system. I hate it. It’s one of the reasons I prefer not to use Macs. Don’t get me wrong, Macs are spectacular machines, that are insanely easy to use. Provided you use them exactly the way Apple wants you to. I just don’t like that kind of restriction and am always looking for the next best way to hack something.

Two, we are getting to a point where smart households will really have a technical “Admin.” With streaming services, even retail customers are no longer just individuals – they are households with lots of devices that need to be interoperable. Can I listen to the family owned music on all my devices? Movies? Pictures? Sure. But if I have one Apple product (computer), now all my devices have to be Apple products. Can you see the steam rising out of my ears?

Three, I hate being forced to use specific products or services to do the things I want to do. I shouldn’t have to pay a premium for an external hard drive just because it has the catchy name “Time Capsule.” If I want to use a server for backups, then I should be allowed to do so.

Four, backing up to a network share is pretty standard practice. There is absolutely no reason an automated backup to a home server should be restricted, except that Apple feels it adds a level of complexity to support calls. And I am really bothered when someone tries to keep things so simple for themselves that they interfere with my best practices.

So, I have been using a Windows Home Server to stream all our data to whatever device (client) is a part of our household. Want to walk around with your Kindle and watch Star Wars? No problem. Same movie on the iPad? No problem.

But I don’t kid myself. My wife wouldn’t backup a thing if the back up wasn’t automatic. My daughter has so much data that saving individual files to our home server would literally take half her day. That’s what makes Time Machine so valuable. You turn it on and let it do the work. But the recent update killed that functionality for networked backup. Sort of. Now you have to take a different step.

These instructions:

were my backup bible for the longest time. However, OS X updates have killed a lot of what the author has outlined in the post. Here are my corrected instructions, which should help with any networked backup volume. Before you start, make sure you have a strong WiFi connection, or are preferably connected to your home network via ethernet cable.

***PLEASE NOTE*** I cannot be responsible for the actions you choose to take by following my tutorial. I cannot be there to guide you or advise you while you do this. I have made the utmost effort to provide clear instructions, but any time you make changes to your Mac via terminal, you are taking the risk of breaking something. I have tested this only with WHS 2011 but have seen that the same commands work with a NAS during my research. I cannot guarantee this will work for you. I cannot be held responsible for risks you take. -end disclaimer***

1. Make sure you have an account on your home server or NAS for the person using the Mac. The server account username and password should match the username and password for the Mac. This just reduces complexity and keeps things simple for the user. The Mac user account should also have admin privileges on their Mac.

2. Your server should have a top-level shared directory (folder) named “MacBackups” or similar – no spaces between words in the name. Make sure the account in #1 above has read/write access to that share.

3. Mount the share on your Mac. The way to do this for Windows Home Server 2011 is to click on the “Shared Folders” shortcut in the WHS Launchpad. After entering the appropriate password, you will be asked to select which drives to mount (each shared folder is a “drive”). Select your MacBackup folder. If you are using a NAS or different server software, research how to mount a network volume on OS X.

3. In the Spotlight search, type “terminal” and hit “Return”. Type the following command into the terminal:

sudo defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

It is suggested that you copy/paste the command into terminal, to avoid typos, then hit “Return”. Because you are using the temporary super user “sudo,” the Mac user will need to enter their password. This command allows Time Machine to recognize the drive you will mount later in this tutorial. Please be aware that, because we are using “unsupported volumes” it is possible to corrupt your backup if you lose network connectivity or interrupt the backup in any way. This means you shouldn’t close the lid to your Macbook while the Time Machine Backup is running.

4. Leave your terminal window open and go to System Preferences >> Sharing and confirm your computer name (found at the top of the window) has no spaces in it. If there are spaces, remove them or replace them with hyphens. Copy the computer name and paste it into a text editor document (Notes is fine).

5. Go back to the terminal and type the following:

ifconfig en0 | grep ether

This will toss out your ethernet MAC address. Copy/paste this information to your Notes document on a new line and remove the colons. The MAC address should be alphanumeric only.

6. Create a sparse bundle image for Time Machine to use as a backup image. You should do this in terminal by copy/pasting the following command. You will need to replace the information in brackets “{}” with specific information that I will describe below. Copy/paste this command to your Notes document with your computer name and MAC address on a separate line. Do not copy/paste the line below into terminal!

hdiutil create -size {100g} -fs HFS+J -volname "{username}TimeMachine" {NAME_XXXXXXXXXXXX}.sparsebundle

{100g} – this is the maximum size in GB of the backup file. You should replace this with the largest amount of backup space you think the user will need, e.g. “500g” is half a terabyte. My daughter might need that much space, but my wife would need a fraction of that.

{username} – the Mac username. If the person’s login is “Tim” then the volname would be “TimTimeMachine” – no spaces, otherwise your sparse bundle image will not mount properly. Honestly, you can name this pretty much anything you want, but I suggest you stick to the naming model I have used, especially if you have more than one Mac in the house that needs networked Time Machine backups.

{NAME_XXXXXXXXXXXX} – “NAME” is replaced by the Mac computer name and the  twelve Xs represent your MAC address. Replace those placeholders with the correct information. It should look something like “Tims-Mac-mini_002d881f0d33.sparsebundle”

Once you have confirmed these edits in your Notes document, copy/paste into terminal and hit “Return”

This will create a sparse bundle image file in your Mac user’s Home folder.

7. Copy paste this file into your server backup directory (the one you mounted in step #3). Once the file is copied, delete the original file in the Home folder. Now, double-click the sparse bundle image to mount it.

Time Machine will only recognize the sparse bundle (backup image) if it is mounted. To confirm that it is mounted, type the following commands into terminal (hitting “Return” after each):

cd /Volumes

This will list your mounted volumes. Your Time Machine file should be listed.

8. One last step in terminal. Copy/paste the following command into terminal, but make the changes indicated below before hitting “Return”:

sudo tmutil setdestination /Volumes/{backup image name}

So your command would look something like “sudo tmutil setdestination /Volumes/TimsTimeMachine”

Now click on the Time Machine icon at the top of the screen, select “Open Time Machine Preferences…” and confirm that the backup was set up properly. You may have to turn on Time Machine. Do the initial backup (I would suggest over LAN, if you can) and confirm everything goes well.

After each restart, the user will have to mount the MacBackup share and the Time Machine file inside – they should do this immediately after they get to the OS X desktop. Again, advise the user that they should wait until the Time Machine backup stops before closing the lid on their Macbook or shutting down. By default, Backups run every half hour on Mountain Lion. Unfortunately, Apple has made this process a bit of a pain to handle, especially for the folks who would typically have a Mac. If your Macs are usually just on your network, I would set a login item for the backup directory and file mounting process. If not, coach the person on mounting the necessary items themselves.

I hope this helps those who would like to set up Time Machine with a server or NAS and please let me know if you have anything to add, or if you think I have corrections to make or if you just want to say “hi.”


10 thoughts on “Getting Time Machine to Work With Windows Home Server 2011 (OSX 10.8.5 ONLY – Mavericks and subsequent updates break this)

  1. Very interesting! I have only had a few encounters with MACs and all related to enigmatic or non-existent ways of using or – worse – analyzing digital certificates stored on them. But concluding from that experience I can only agree to you!

    I also agree to this: “we are getting to a point where smart households will really have a technical “Admin.” ”

    This can be more demanding than working with large corporations. In a big company there are more users, but from a psychological perspective it feels exactly the same if a small business owner (or home owner) has issues with his/her precious single PC or if there are issues with 1000 users at a company (and you work with a few admins).
    Then the devices and software are less standardized – the ‘worse’ the smaller a company. So households should be worst. In a big corporation the IT department could force 1000 users to use only, say, Windows 7, and a specific type of smartphone, but in small ‘unregulated’ IT environments you find any sort of device and software – much more (weird and uncommon) interfaces to manage.

    1. Yeah, home networks are definitely more involved that corporate ones. Large businesses usually have standards in place – users will use only one vendor, e.g. Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc. or Apple. At home, anything goes.

      In our house we have three Macs, three iPads, two Kindle Fires, a Nexus 7 (android tablet), three Windows laptops, one of which dual-boots Linux, four smartphones, three Xbox 360s, an OUYA, a Wii and a Wii U. The Wii isn’t used much any more. All these devices keep me pretty busy.

      Software called “Plex” has been a real godsend, since the younger kids can just watch shows or movies directly on their iPads.

      And, for me, streaming any movie we own to any of our TVs (Via OUYA or Xbox) without going through a physical library of DVDs and Blu Rays really makes things more easy to deal with on movie night.

      The really demanding thing is the setup. Afterwards, maintenance is usually pretty easy, but far more time-intensive than in the corporate environment.

    1. Mavericks does break the local image listing. I have not had a chance to test later updates, since my experimental Mac has gone on to other hands. I’ll put a warning in the title and work on a resolution.

      For years now, Apple’s position on this has been that updating backup images over network are not supported, but LAN connection is often faster and more dependable than USB.

  2. Carefully replicated what you describe, image was made etc…last step sudo tmutil etc does not work terminal window on Mac says that smb file system is not suited due incompatible filesystem smfs (error45) in other words i’m stuck 🙂

  3. should have read better, I am on 10.9.1 (Mavericks) and the title states :
    OSX 10.8.5 ONLY – Mavericks and subsequent updates break this, don’t know if this was also in the title when I found this tutorial but anyway now it’s clear, back to scratch 🙂

  4. Hi Phil, had a work-around which was able to make a copy to my NAS (Qnap), the challenge was/is to be able to make WHS 2011 work with TM 🙂 So far no luck and since the last update to Mavericks(last Monday I think) the TM backup to the NAS is also broken and does not work anymore … My first Apple laptop and I’m not impressed so far. I’m going to experiment with the following: use Parallels and see if I can make a copy or an image with Norton Ghost or Acronis of the desired directories…. Have fun 🙂

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