Scammy pricing for 'upgraded' old Apple Airport Time Capsule

; Date: Mon Feb 24 2020

Tags: eBay Scams

While hunting for Airport Time Capsule's to buy, I came across this listing that's an outright scam - if you know what's involved. The listing is for a first generation Time Capsule device, that has been professionally upgraded to have an 8 TB hard disk. The price? A shocking $453 (US). Oh, my.

The head of the eBay listing is shown here. The important points are:

  • Apple Airport Time Capsule A1254 - the 1st generation Time Capsule
  • The A1254's went on sale in February 2008, with either 500GB or 1TB disk
  • Professionally upgraded "to a huge 8TB capacity" from it's original 500GB
  • Fully tested, refurbished, etc.

I happen to have two of these devices sitting on my desk, and am evaluating different Time Capsule devices for my use today. The other day I happened to write a tear-down of the Apple Time Capsule A1254 (the very same model) and have therefore documented how ridiculously easy it is to perform said upgrade.

Namely, it should take maybe an hour to upgrade one A1254, because it requires:

  • Open up the bottom of the case
  • Detach the temperature sensor and other gear from the old drive
  • Detach the cables from the old drive
  • Attach the temperature sensor to the new drive
  • Attach the cables to the new drive
  • Insert the new drive in the caddy
  • Close up the case
  • Re-glue the rubber mat to the bottom of the case
  • Reboot the Time Capsule
  • Use the Airport Utility to cause it to reformat its disk

Don't let the number of steps fool you, since I gave a comprehensive description of the process. The time for each of those steps is very short.

Apple Airport Time Capsule innards

That's how simple the inside of the A1254 is. The drive simply lifts out, there's a bit of hardware to remove and attach to the replacement drive, and you put it into the case.

Below is a table of the costs using current retail prices for used A1254's and 8TB hard disks. The cheapest, using retail prices, is about $160 in costs. It should be possible to decrease the costs, for example by buying disks at wholesale.

The eBay seller wants an additional $300 on top of those costs.

Additionally, the buyer is then saddled with the 1st generation time capsule, A1254. The A1254's specs aren't so good, and even the 2nd generation A1302 is hugely better than the A1254.

Another issue is whether the A1254 is prone to overheating and therefore reducing drive lifespan. As I noted, the A1254 is prone to overheating - with both of the A1254's in my possession, the top of the case is around 120 degrees F making me worry what the temperature inside is, and whether that will impact drive longevity. By contrast I also have an A1409 Time Capsule (the 4th generation), and in the same test scenario the top of its case is 90 degrees F, or 30 degrees cooler.

A much better approach to this is to buy an Apple Airport Extreme - and to buy an OEM external drive in a case. The Airport Extreme's have a USB port, and one can attach multiple external drives to the USB port, using a USB3 hub, meaning it can function as a multi-drive NAS. The A1408 4th generation model runs about $20-30 on eBay, and as you can see an external 8TB hard drive costs about $150. Therefore you should be able to put it together with no surgery required for well under $200.

I have that exact setup on my desk right now.

I am planning on upgrading the A1409 in my possession as well - replacing its 2TB hard drive with an 8TB drive. A1409's seem to be going for $50-100 on eBay, and you can see the range of drive prices below.

The costs this seller faces are therefore:

Device Cost
Apple Time Capsule A1254 Going price on eBay is about $20-40 plus shipping
Seagate BarraCuda ST8000DM004 8TB 5400 RPM 256MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s $147
Seagate IronWolf 8TB NAS Hard Drive 7200 RPM 256MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" $219
WD Red 8TB NAS Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM Class SATA 6Gb/s 256MB Cache 3.5 Inch $213
WD Gold 8TB Enterprise Class Hard Disk Drive - 7200 RPM Class SATA 6Gb/s 256MB $258
Seagate IronWolf ST8000VN004 8TB 7200 RPM 256MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s $219
Toshiba N300 8TB NAS Internal Hard Drive 7200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s 128MB Cache $209
Seagate IronWolf Pro 8TB NAS Hard Drive 7200 RPM 256MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" $267
WD My Book 8TB USB 3.0 Desktop Hard Drive $159
WD Elements 8TB USB 3.0 Desktop Hard Drive Black $141
Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB USB 3.0 Hard Drives - Desktop External $149
Seagate Expansion 8TB USB 3.0 3.5" Desktop External $139


I was almost done with this, and out of the corner of my eye noticed:

It's the same deal from the same seller. The difference is it is the A1470 - which is the 5th generation Time Capsule. The asked-for price is $820.

A see several 2 TB A1470's on eBay right now for about $100 apiece. Therefore, the cost is maybe $250 up to about $320, for which this seller is asking $820, or over $500 in profit.

The A1470 is a hugely improved model over the A1254. But is it really worth $820 to get one with an 8TB drive?

The equivalent alternative is to buy an A1521 Airport Extreme. Both use the same case, and have approximately the same innards. The A1521 goes for about $50-100 on eBay, and can be used the same way I suggested with the A1408 - namely its USB port supports multiple external drives.

About the Author(s)

( David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.