Apple last week bumped up its Time Capsule wireless backup appliance to 2TB and 3TB models, priced the same $299 and $499, respectively. In addition, Apple appears to be now using consumer public drives from Western Digital (bumped up from Hitachi Deskstar drives). That, plus the $499 price point puts the new 3TB Time Capsule pretty much out of reach on price-conscious buyers. In fact, you’re better off, as we explained, hooking up an external USB drive to your 1TB Time Capsule.

But if you hate the clutter and yearn for a sealed, elegant solution with only one plug, you needn’t pony up $200 extra for a 3TB Time Capsule: It would seem that the wireless gizmo accepts 3TB internal drives, if properly partitioned. According to a HardMac reader:

I personally installed a 3 TB WD Caviar Green 3To (by chance!), when it came out 5 months ago, in a 1 TB Time Capsule that I bought around that time as well. I formatted it with Airport Utility to have the 3 partitions that are necessary for Time Machine and it was immediately recognized as a 3 TB disk. I’ve been using it ever since without any problem.

One caveat…

You must replicate the three partitions from the old disk on the new one. So, owners of a previous-generation Time Capsule could simply add an internal 3TB unit and breathe new life into their rusty, old wireless appliance. Either that, or – if you can cope with the ugliness of such a solution – get a perfectly good 3TB USB Seagate or Western Digital hard drive from Amazon for about $150, plug it into the back of the latest 2TB Time Capsule and you have 5TB of addressable space. And if you don’t own a Time Capsule, Apple now offers a refurbished 1TB model for just $209.