You might want to keep in mind that the USB port on the AirPort Extreme moves data at about half the speed of a USB port on a computer, so things are going to slow down noticeably when you do this.
You might want to test things out first to see if this is acceptable.
I imagine that you have a significant iTunes Store investment on that hard drive. Have you thought about how you will regularly back up the hard drive attached to the AirPort Extreme?
Would there be any speed/performance issues with playing music files?
Could I not get around this by connecting to Macbook via USB to add new music files to the library when required or am I missing the point?
I have a back up of my music files on an old PC which isn't ideal. What would you recommend as an alternative?
Access time to the drive will be slow. Open iTunes and then wait 9-10 seconds for play options to appear.
Try it out as a test. You may do better. I never did.
You will need to use a third party application like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper to make automatic daily/weekly backups of the hard drive to another hard drive.
You can do this manually using the Finder, but it's a hassle unless you have a lot of time and patience.
I don't know what the best solution is.
Since I had to have another hard drive anyway to back up the hard drive that was attached to the AirPort Extreme, I decided because of slow access and backup difficulties to instead use the iTunes hard drive connected directly to a Mac Mini, which is connected by Ethernet to the AirPort Extreme. Works great.
Then, Time Machine backs up the Macs and the attached iTunes hard drive so everything gets backed up on a regular basis.
I actually just got going on this idea myself. I have about 300 GB in music, and 900 GB in photos. I bought a MacBook Pro Retina so I could move around and still be able to do all that I could with a desktop computer—now I can edit photos when I'm on the couch or the toilet! However, I couldn't have all my photos and music on my rMBP, given the huge space requirements of 1.2 TB, and it would be silly for me to spend all the extra money on a larger SSD when I don't need the space for more than multimedia, and 256 GB is enough for my OS, applications, documents, etc., everything except photos, music, and movies. I opted for putting my iTunes library on an external drive hooked up to my Airport Extreme. I copied it there and run it off the external drive. (Hold "option" when opening iTunes, and point to your iTunes library on the external location). Verify that it's all good in iTunes' Settings: (under "Advanced": look to see the location of iTunes Music folder, point it to the right spot if it's not, test out a song, and smile). A great aspect of this is that I can close down iTunes, take the hard drive with me and plug it in to my USB port, then reopen iTunes, and it will all be good to go, because OS X displays volumes in the same way, regardless of if they're connected locally or over a network. A downside is that I need to mount the drive from my Airport Extreme when I boot up, but OS X makes automatic mounting of network drives ridiculously easy: all you have to do is go System Preferences>Users>Login Items, click "+" then navigate to your network drive—no AppleScripts or command lines needed.
My hard drive is a 2TB 2.5" (probably 5400rpm) hard drive with a USB 3.0 connection—though I wouldn't expect the Airport Extreme would do anything faster than USB 2.0 speeds, but USB 3.0 is sure nice when plugged into the rMBP when I need to do it that way. The rMBP copies (compressed) files to the drive wirelessly at a speed of about 9.8 MB/sec, and copies compressed files from the drive at a speed of about 10.2 MB/sec. Although I don't have movies in iTunes, I have streamed 1080p movies over it, and it worked fine in VLC, without any of that pixely lag, but fastforwarding takes about 6 seconds to catch up if it hasn't buffered that far ahead yet. But you asked about music…
Except when starting up from having the Airport Extreme-mounted HDD spin down—which I suppose could be disabled—the access time is no slower than when I had an internal library. I'm not just saying that either I have lots of music, mostly Apple Lossless audio. The important thing for me is skipping around, rewinding, or fastforwarding, and there is no slowdown that I can see when doing that.
Of course, always back up your stuff in at least one other place.
Hopefully this helps.
"Of course, always back up your stuff in at least one other place."
I am interested in using my airport extreme in the same manner. How do you backup 1G+ to an additional external drive on a regular basis? Connect it via a computer to your network? This would be painfully slow...what other options are available?
Thanks in advance.
Indeed, it is painfully slow if you do your backup for a media hard drive over a wireless network, given the limitations of the 802.11n speeds of the Airport Extreme. What I've been doing is wireless backups of my Macintosh HD through Time Machine, and plugging the media hard drive and backup hard drive into my computer when I do a weekly backup of my (non-movie) media, by drag-and-drop copying. However, when I move in a few weeks, I'll just do it all wirelessly by doing the first backup with 3rd party software—probably either Super Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner—and then schedule incremental backups with the respective 3rd party software to back up the changes at night every couple of days… it usually wouldn't be more than 15 GB of changes, which would be < 1 hour of backing up. The only downside to that is that the computer would have to be on. Not a huge deal though.
I didn't mention it, but I actually have three drives plugged into my Airport Extreme, using a USB 3.0 hub. It's currently like an 11 GB Time Capsule .
I currently have my iTunes library and metadata on a 4TB HDD which is attached to my Mac Mini. I have had absolutely no problems accessing and playing my content through my Apple TV's.
I recently purchased an Airport Extreme with the idea that I would be able to attach the 4TB HDD to it, and use my Macbook Air as my iTunes controller and still play my content through my Apple TV's. The ATV is recognizing the iTunes database (it displays all of the content on my HDD) but whenever I attempt to play that content I get an error message that says "An Error Has Occurred. Please try again later."
I continue to get this error even after I have shut down and cold started all of my hardware. On another post I read that a powered USB Hub connecting the HDD and the Airport Extreme might solve the problem. It didn't solve it for me.
I talked to an Apple Genius in the local Apple store and he said my setup should work. I just got off the phone with Apple Support who told me they think the ATV is not smart enough to handle all of the connections.
Is there some suggestion you might have to help out?
The only guess I have would be that the Apple TV needs to get library information from a computer that has the library database file on it instead, but that would be pretty weird anyway. Nonetheless, I actually have my library database files, iPod games, and album art stored on my computer's internal hard drive—occupying about 2.2 GB—since it seemed to be way faster handling it that way, and problems don't tend to arise if the drive has connection-issues over the airport: the "iTunes Media Folder location" shows up blank, but then goes back to normal if my drive is connected and I close and restart iTunes; I can also see my whole library without the drive being connected, which is cool.
Just a follow-up: I have just setup the most recent (Summer 2013) Airport Extreme. This is connected to an external disk via a USB cable. I am currently watching a video stream to an AppleTV3 on whilst my Mac is backing-up using Time Machine (to a 2nd volume).
To reference video or audio from the disk iTunes needs to be running on the Mac, but it seems to work very well.