How can I network-enable my external hard drive?

April 8, 2014
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Here is my problem. I have a Western digital TV box with an external 1TB HDD plugged in. This way, I can watch movies on my big screen TV. But that WD TV model does not have ethernet or WiFi connections, so I have to unplug my HDD, bring it to my computer, upload my movies and reconnect it to the WD tv box.

I want to connect my HDD to my WiFi router (if that’s possible) but my D-Link does not have USB plugs. Aside from using an old pc to use as a media storage server (I don’t have the space for a server), is there a way to just plug in my HDD to my D-Link with some kind of adapter?

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  1. Oron J
    April 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    As don't believe there's any way to add a USB port to a router without one, but you can acheive what you're after with a suitable router, a NAS or a USB sharing device, or a streaming device.

    New router THere are routers out there that have USB mass storage support built in. This will do the job but a) they are few and far between and b) the performance (USB, WiFi, ADSL or whatever) is sometimes very poor, especially on cheaper devices, so make sure there are plenty of good reviews about a device before buying one.

    NASNAS (which stands for Network Attached Storage) is essentially a small file server. There are also NAS adapters which effectively convert an external drive like yours into a network drive and come closest to what you asked for. As with USB-enabled routers however, you need to read the reviews carefully as some of offer terrible performance, while others are much better. One catch is that, as far as I know, you wouldn't be able to connect the HDD to the TV and the NAS adapter at the same time, but it may still be more convenient than having to move your HDD about.

    USB hub A USB hub such as the Belkin device Hovsep mentions or a switch (better yet), can share a USB device (the hard drive) between different systems (the TV and the computer). The great advantage of this method is speed. The device is connected to your PC using a USB cable and runs at (presumbly) USB 2.0 speeds while not interfering at all with your network. The downside is you'll need to run a USB cable from the PC to the HDD (and there's the 5m limit for USB 2.0).

    Finally, you could get a streamer (a cheap one being Google ChromeCast, but there are many more sophisticated versions out there). These devices handle the downloading of the file from the network (e.g. your PC or a NAS), render the movie and send it as a standard TV signal (e.g. HDMI) so you can watch it on your TV even though the TV itself is not networked. It would require you to use your computer as a server, but all that means is it would need to stay on while you watch the telly.