Time Machine Backups To A Synology NAS

Image of Synolog DeskStation 212jI recently installed a Synology DS212j NAS and one of the first things I tested was using the Synology for Time Machine backups. Setting it up was easy and so far it’s been working fine. I set things up initially using Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) 3.2 although the screen shots below are from DSM 4 Beta. The upgrade from DSM 3.2 to DSM 4 beta didn’t require any changes.

Apple’s Time Machine will continue to fill up a disk as long as there’s data to be backed up and space to put it. Only when it runs out of space will it delete the oldest backups. While it is optional, my first step was for me to create two volumes on the DS212j. One for Time Machine and one for everything else. Dedicating a disk volume to Time Machine is not required, but I wanted a way to limit the space used by Time Machine. Because it made more sense in my mind I used Volume 1 for everything except Time Machine and dedicated Volume 2 to a Time Machine share. Since I was setting up a new NAS I simply started fresh with two volumes. A user’s disk usage across an entire volume can also be limited using a quota, which would include Time Machine usage so this would be another way to go, but it wasn’t my choice. The screenshot below shows my volume configuration (click for full size).

Synology Volume Manager screenshot

I probably would have been better off starting with a smaller volume, leave some free space, and expand if I needed the space. This is because shrinking the volumes isn’t possible and I may not need all that space for Time Machine. But I can also put other files on that volumes. Plus, I suspect I’ll be rebuilding this test box a few times,

Once I have a place for the the Time Machine share it’s time to create it. This is done through the “Shared Folder” selection in Control Panel.

Screenshot of the Synology Control Panel

Then just fill in the information for the share. You can call the share anything you want and the description is optional.

Setup of the Time Machine share

Encryption and hiding the share are optional and I don’t use them myself. While Time Machine can encrypt local backups it won’t encrypt network backups so you may want to use this encryption. Click OK to create the share. Then select the new share and click the “Privileges Setup” button.

The Synology Share Screen

Select the user(s) you want to have access to the Time Machine share. You can use the admin account if that’s what you want. But I create an ID for each person accessing the Synology NAS. The same ID can be used from multiple PCs

Screenshot of shre permissions screen

Now it’s just a matter of going to the Macs and selecting the share as the destination. It will automatically appear as a possible destination, just select it and go.

 Time Machine Drive Selection

I’ve been running Time Machine backups from  to Macs, both running the latest version of OS X Lion.

10 thoughts on “Time Machine Backups To A Synology NAS”

  1. Can the Synology be used for multiple Mac computer Time Machine backups? I would assume that they would each need a dedicated LUN or Volume for this to work?

  2. Hi Ray,

    Great article. I have one question, if you create two volumes on one disk is the use of RAID still possible?

    • @Sy – No that wouldn’t be possible. For RAID you need two physical disks (or more for the Synology models that allow more). In Synology terminology the “volumes” aren’t linked/connected. They are created on the underlying disks and would require more (edited: should say “at least”) two drives for RAID.
      You can mix RAID and non-RAID volume types on the NAS. Thanks for stopping by. -Ray

      • Hi Ray. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Say I have 2 drives in Synology, set up as RAID duplicated. At that point, wouldn’t the drives simply replicate, regardless of the volumes that exist on the drive? Or perhaps if I used the Quota solution, then the RAID would in fact work with TM. Thoughts?

        • @jerry – Yes, if two drives are Mirrored then the volume(s) will be mirrored.

          I also edit my previous comment where I said “more than two drives” where I should have said “at least two drives”

          I interpreted Sy’s comment to me asking about having one physical drive and creating two volumes and mirroring the volumes. This can’t be done.

          Does this clear up the confusion?


  3. I own WHS (1st version) and like the ability to pull disk and connect to any windows, to see the files.. ( in case of hardware failure on WHS)

    If synology hardware fails ( not hard drive).. can you connect internal disk to another Linux machine or add the drive to NEW synology product and see old file and back up?

  4. Hi Ray,
    I just bought the same DS212J and am uncertain how to approach setting it up for Time machine backup of 2 MACs. The user manual and help files suggest using personal quotas rather than separate volumes to limit the disk space allocated. Like you, I’m inclined to use a separate volume. Partly, this is because I’ve read lots of forum threads discussing problems with TM operation over WiFi and a number of people seem to suspect the space allocation. Even with a separate volume I’m nervous about how the two MACs’ TM sparse bundles will interact when they’ve filled up the volume. This is because when I’ve tested setting quota limits, my MAC still recognises the full folder size rather than the quota allocated. That doesn’t fill me with confidence. I’d ideally like to use one volume each, but the NAS seems to be acting as a special TM server that you can only point to one folder. In the absence of decent Synology overview literature, can you shed any light on how and why the NAS creates a special TM server (if that’s what it’s doing) ? Since you’re sharing a single volume (and folder?) have you tried using separate USERs for each MAC so that you can allocate space between them ? What are your thoughts please ?

    • @Greg – Hi. Yes, the Synology NAS can only use one share/folder for time machine. (This seems to be a common trait across TM servers I’ve seen). For me, wireless TM isn’t a good option due to the amount of data that would go from my laptop, so I just have one Mac doing TM backup. And like you, I read about a lot of wireless related problems with TM.

      I did set up a quick test using quotas and it seems to be a viable option. I have a 500GB volume which is empty. I set up my Time Machine share on that. I set up an ID specific to my Mac Mini Time machine and gave it a 1 GB quota on the volume. I pointed TM to it and it did see the limitations (saying 1GB of 1GB free) and when it started the backup it failed due to not enough space. It needed 65GB. Since the volume could handle it, it does appear to respect the quota. I could also connect to another share using my regular ID and see the full available space on the volume.

      There is a bit of a potential issue as setting a quota is not the same as reserving the space. So the regular share could take volume away from time machine. Also, each users quota would be cumulative and could be cumbersome to manage if there’s a lot of machines.

      I’ll set up TM on my laptop and see how it does. I set the quotas just a little bigger than the backup and I’ll see how well it does when it hits the quota. I don’t expect any problems sharing the TM server between Macs. I haven’t used WiFi in that situation, but have never had an issue in that case.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      [Updated 5/7: I posted about my initial quota testing here.]

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