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Back to the Mac 009: How to use a Synology NAS for Time Machine backups [Video]

Synology just launched its newest prosumer NAS box, the DS1618+. This 6-bay machine comes with a quad-core 2.1GHz CPU, and 4GB of DDR4 non-ECC memory that can be upgraded to 32GB of ECC RAM.

What makes the DS1618+ particularly special is its expandability — and not just eSATA storage expandability that we usually associate with Synology products. The DS1618+ features a PCIe 3.0 x8 expansion slot that can accommodate either an M.2 card for cache, or a 10GbE NIC for significantly faster throughput. Such an addition makes the DS1618+ ideal for connecting to machines with 10 Gigabit Ethernet, such as the iMac Pro.

There are many reasons why individuals and companies employ the use of NAS boxes. In household environments, they can act like a media server, storing high quality video rips for local streaming. Others, perhaps those in corporate environments, like to use NAS setups as a storage solution for video editing.

But there is another key reason why you might want to consider a NAS, especially in light of Apple’s decision to abandon its AirPort and Time Capsule products — Time Machine backups. In this hands-on video, I show you how I use the DS1618+ as a quiet and reliable Time Machine backup solution.

There may be a few differences between various NAS versions, but the basic methodology of setting up Time Machine backups is the same. Before starting, you’ll need to go through the basic set up process for your NAS. Synology’s DSM does a good job of walking you through the initial set up step-by-step. This written tutorial assumes that you already have drives installed, and have a volume created from those drives.

Synology provided me with a DS1618+ loaner unit and it came equipped with 4 x 4TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives. Using these drives, when combined with the DS1618+’s Quiet mode setting, results in remarkably quiet operation. Fans are audible, but hardly an annoyance, and although mechanical hard drives are being used, I could hardly tell unless I put my ear up to the box. It’s much quieter than some of the direct attached storage solutions that I’ve tried recently, and a quieter setup than the DS1817 that I tested a few months ago.

It is recommended that you use Synology’s Hybrid RAID (SHR) for redundancy in case of a failed drive, which provides another advantage over a single disk Time Machine backup like the Time Capsule provides. In this tutorial I’m using just four 4TB drives in the 6-bay DS1618+. This affords me about 10TB of free storage when taking into account SHR.

Thanks to Btfrs, which is supported by Synology’s + models like the DS1618+, I can establish a specific storage quota for my Time Machine backups as well. Storage quotas guarantee that I will still have space left over for other things besides Time Machine images.

Video walkthrough

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How to use the Synology DS1618+ for Time Machine backups

In this tutorial we’re using all default settings where possible, but you can customize your settings to meet your specific needs.

Step 1: In DSM, go to Control Panel → Shared Folder → Create to make a new shared folder called Time Machine.

Step 2: Go to Control Panel → User → Create to make a new user called Time Machine.

Be sure to provide Read/Write access for the Time Machine user to the Time Machine shared folder.

You’ll also need to provide a Quota for the Time Machine user. I recommend providing at least four times the amount of storage as the total amount of items you’ll be backing up. For example, if you plan on backing up an entire 1TB machine, provide a 4TB Quota. Keep in mind that the size of your machine’s primary drive doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be backing up that much. Time Machine allows you to exclude certain folders that you don’t want to back up.

The more storage you allocate, the further back your Time Machine backups will go.

Step 3: Go to Control Panel → File Services and make sure AFP is enabled.

Click the Advanced tab and check Enable Bonjour Time Machine broadcast via AFP. Click Set Time Machine Folders, select the shared folder called Time Machine configured in Step 1. Click Apply twice.

Step 5: In macOS, open Finder → Go → Connect to Server.

Type: afp://<ServerNameGoesHere>.local and click Connect. In my case, it would be afp://Luigi.local

Enter the username and password you set in Step 2.

Step 6: In macOS, open System Preferences → Time Machine and click Select Disk. Select the Time Machine shared folder and click Use Disk.

Step 7: In Time Machine Preferences click Show Time Machine in menu bar, and click on the Time Machine menu bar icon and select Back Up Now to start your backup.

Keep in mind that initial backups will take a while, especially if you’re connected to your NAS via Wi-Fi. For initial backups, I recommend using an Ethernet connection to your router if at all possible. You can exclude certain folders from appearing in your Time Machine backup by clicking Options in Time Machine Preferences, and using the + button to exclude folders.


If you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan of Synology and I really like the DS1618+ for a few reasons:

  • DSM is a joy to use
  • Much more storage capacity than a Time Capsule and easy expandability
  • Back up multiple Macs throughout your house/office
  • It’s very quiet when combined with Seagate IronWolf NAS drives
  • You can expand it with a 10GbE NIC, which is perfect for the iMac Pro
  • You can expand it with an M.2 card for SSD Cache
  • You can completely disable the unit’s lights for distraction-free operation
  • It works with Btrfs for easy per-user storage quotas
  • It has six bays so it can work with a variety of RAID solutions
  • USB ports work with wireless dongles for a completely wireless operation

The biggest downside in my eyes? Cost. Not only is the DS1618+ pricey, but you’ll also need to add storage costs on top of the price. It’s definitely a big investment, but the benefits are multifaceted when it comes to having a NAS. These machines can do much more than simply act as a Time Machine solution.

Time Machine backups stored on a Synology NAS

This is a very high level walkthrough of setting up a Time Machine backup with a Synology NAS. There are lots of ways that you can go about personalizing the setup to your needs and liking, but this basic set up procedure should help get you on your way.

Do you use Time Machine backups with your Macs?

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Avatar for Jeff Benjamin Jeff Benjamin

Jeff produces videos, walkthroughs, how-tos, written tutorials and reviews. He takes pride in being able to explain things in a simple, clear and concise manner.