Easy Time Capsule repair

Ok, so the power supply of my Apple Time Capsule got fried due to a not-so-efficient cooling strategy of the designer. Basically the built-in power supply stops working and all of a sudden the Time Capsule does not power on any more.

Several fixes were already proposed, but they all focussed on replacing the built-in power supply. The problem with that is that the 3.5″ internal hard drive needs both a 12V and a 5V rail. So either you fix the original supply, you connect an ATX power supply or you take a 12V supply and build your own DCDC convertor to generate the 5V net from the 12V of the supply.

I was looking for a more simple solution and came up with this…

Instead of trying to revive the internal 3.5″ hard drive I replaced it with a 2.5″ laptop drive. The original drive was already running for quite some time either way, so replacing it with a new drive would help increasing the reliability of the Time Capsule (TC).

The advantage of the drive swap is that laptop hard drives typically only require a 5V rail. Moreover, laptop drives consume less power, heat and noise when they are active. The TC itself requires no 12V net so after the drive swap we can power the device through a simple 5V/3A wall wart.

Some action-shots of the upgrade…

First open the TC, and carefully remove the drive. Don’t forget to detach the temperature sensor from the drive. It is located under the foam sticker. Remove the broken power supply.

Then remove the metal bracket by unscrewing the two black screws. This bracket will be used to mount the laptop drive in the TC.

Drill the mounting holes and attach the drive with two screws.

Test-fit the data connector of the hard drive. You might need a little assistance for this 🙂

Then, let’s work on the power supply. First of all: when you remove the cover, only remove the part at the low-voltage side of the supply. The hot side (that is the part where the mains socket is connected to) has a few capacitors without bleeder resistors. This means that they keep a mains voltage level for a few days after the last time mains voltage was applied to the supply. If you inadvertedly touch them, you’ll feel it 🙂 Should the cover break completely when you try to get access to the low-voltage side, make sure you discharge the high-voltage caps first. Then, unsolder the wires from the old power supply. You’ll need to remove the grey goo that is used to keep the wires in place. Then, solder two wires that will be connected to the plug socket for the wall wart. The negative wire should be soldered to the ratsnets that consists of 5 wires, the positive should be soldered to the ratsnest that consists of 4 wires. Isolate the remaining single wire that was used for the 12V net. Add a socket for the wall wart and glue it in place after the cable opening for the mains cable was adapted with a dremel.

Glue the temperature sensor on the new drive.

First test that the TC boots without powering the drive to ensure that everything is working fine.

Then shut it down, attach the hard drive and restart it.

Finally, put the cover back on the device. Enjoy your upgraded, more silent and more power efficient TC. It should last longer now since most of the heat producing parts have been removed from the space-constrained enclosure of the TC.

Parts used:

  • 5V/15W power supply (Conrad 510820 – 89)
  • Laptop hard drive (verified with Samsung spinpoint M7 drives of 500 GB and 640 GB)

Now this makes me wonder, why did Apple not design the device around a 2.5″ hard drive in the first place?

16 thoughts on “Easy Time Capsule repair”

  1. I just removed the bulging capacitors and replaced them with new capacitors. 30 minutes of work max. Cost 2,30 euro for two capacitor equivalent to the price of a cheap coffee. Time capsule looks identical to what it was before and works nicely.

  2. Hi Kristof,

    I agree, this is a solution too. For anybody trying to do this: just ensure that the caps are completely discharged before touching them. Unless you like being zapped by the remaining energy in the caps of course 😉

  3. Hello Kristof,

    This guide looks very interesting. I like that you replace the hard drive with a 2.5″ one to prevent future heat problems and failure.

    I am wondering about the wall wart you use, I need to buy one, but I’m not sure which one to buy. I’ve tried searching for the Conrad 510820 – 89 but I can’t seem to find any usable results. Can you help me and tell me which power supply to search for, maybe on Ebay or Amazon?

    Also when you mention “the plug socket for the wall wart”, where do you get this when buying the power supply separately? The wall wart usually just contains this: http://www.audiophilejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/wall-wart.jpg and no plug socket?

    Thanks for you time.

    Best regards,

  4. Hi, I’m very bad about wiring. Do you mind to clarify a little bit more about how you wire?? Particularly the description of the “ratsnets”. I can only tell there are two connectors, one for the time capsule board and one for the hard drive. Thank you in advance.

  5. Hi Høgni,

    for the power supply: you can use any 5V power supply that delivers at least 15W. I see the order number I reference in the post is indeed no longer available. An alternative is Conrad order # 512693 – 89.
    For the plug socket, you can look at something like this (Conrad # 738793 – 89) but of course you should ensure that it matches the plug that is mounted on the power supply.

    Kind regards,

  6. Hi Michael,

    concerning the wiring: it is rather easy. When you desolder the connector and the wires, you end up with multiple ‘loose ends’ or ‘ratsnests’. One end contains 4 wires, the other 5 wires, and a final one only a single wire.

    If you see this, then follow these instructions: “The negative wire of the power supply should be soldered to the ratsnets that consists of 5 wires, the positive wire of the power supply should be soldered to the ratsnest that consists of 4 wires. Isolate the remaining single wire that was used for the 12V net.”

    Plug the connectors back in the logic board and in the hard drive and you should be all set.

    Kind regards,

  7. Hello again,

    Thank you very much for your fast and helpful reply!

    Best regards,

  8. Thank you very much Lieven for you explanation. I will give it a shot. Finger cross 😛



  9. Just made the mod myself using a safemag power block, added a magsafe connector which I bought from internet, a converter to convert the 14.5 V to 5 V and and added a small laptop drive just like you did.

  10. Hi Kasper,

    actually, any 2.5″ drive should do. I chose a 650 GB laptop drive I had laying around. The exact model: I would need to open the TC again to check what brand it is 🙂

    Kind regards,

  11. I read your post and realized you’re not usndo one switching power supply, but a simple font, like cell phone charger. The use of a single source of this kind is not problematic? Only found a single source with 4A, got a problem?

  12. Hey Marcelo,

    you indeed need to select a power supply that can generate enough power to supply the Time Capsule. A 5V/4A version should be sufficient. If you have a 12V version then you need to convert the voltage down to 5V of course.

    Kind regards,

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