How do I turn a hard drive into attached network storage?

Jeff B July 20, 2014
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I just got a Seagate hard disk drive and it’s not compatible with my router. The HDD does not have an ethernet port.

My question: Do I buy a wireless USB hub or a USB to RJ45 adapter? For either, me please let know which brands are preferable.

I wanted to use my new HDD as backup storage.

As always, thanks in advance!

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  1. Jeff B
    July 21, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I'm not sure how my title ended up like that but oh well. These are all really great answers and sure gives me a lot to think about. I originally wanted to plug my giant 5TB into the back of my router. Like I said it's not on the approved device list from the router mfg. I was hoping to plug it into the routers ethernet port via an adapter. I saw something close to that when searching for answers on here.

  2. Oron J
    July 21, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Jeff, the issue is a bit more complex that you might imagine, in that USB drives and "network drives" are actually very different devices. A NAS (Network Attached Storage) device is essentially a file server - a computer with a network interface, an operating system and access to a hard disk.

    In other words, you can't get an adapter to simplyk "change from USB to RJ45", you need a full NAS instead. There are NAS adapters (like the ones mentioned by Hovsep and Jan, or others you can find on eBay) which will do what you want, but they the good ones are not cheap (they typically cost more than the hard drive) or if cheap, they're no good (unreliable and *extremely* slow).

    As for USB hubs and switches, my limited experience (in the context of printers) has taught me one thing "never again". What they do is they emulate USB over network protocols, which works fine, provided that you establish the connection between exactly two devices and leave it there. However, since the hard drive/printer etc can only talk to one computer at a time, the switch will automatically connect it when required and disconnect when not in use. PCs take time to connect to USB devices, and do not always do so gracefully, so the result is that you find yourself in a maelstrom of "detected USB device" and "USB device disconnected" messages, and very little oportunity to do actual useful work.

    So, what's left? You can get a decent NAS adapter such as the Synology EDS14, you could connect the hard drive to an existing PC and share it over the network that way (I know this isn't what you envisaged, but it'll work, and it won't cost you extra), or you can buy a separate NAS with built-in hard drive(s). In fact, many NAS devices will allow you to extend the storage via USB, so you could still make use of the the drive you bought. Some good brands in the NAS market (for home use) include Synology, QNAP, DLink, Seagate, WD (Western Digital) Lacie and Buffalo.

  3. Jan F
    July 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    A USB to RJ45 adapter is a pure passive device. It's purpose basically is to use a network cable instead of e.g. buying a 5m USB cable. It does not provide network capabilities ~ the hard drive would still be a Direct Attached Storage (DAS).

    If you want it to be a true network storage you will need a device than can act as a server for file based operations for example a USB NAS adapter.

    Right now I can only name the Synology EDS14
    http://www.synology.com/en-global/products/overview/EDS14

    I know that both, Seagate and Belkin used to have such devices but I can't seem find them on their websites. I wouldn't be surprised if they vanished from the market as companies like Synology have pushed actual NAS server into the consumer market. On top of that most routers now offer USB ports to do the very same thing.

    A niche product would be the Transport Sync.
    http://www.filetransporter.com/products/transporter-sync/
    It is primarily intended to turn your USB hard drive into your personal cloud storage (like pogoplug used to do) but it can also act as a normal SMB/CIFS file server.

    I have no experience with wireless USB HUBs. They do seem capable to share a hard drive but I can't tell you how they actually interface with system, whether they are presented as direct attached storage and therefor depended on the file system or do offer SMB/CIFS access.

  4. Hovsep A
    July 20, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Addonics Network Attached Storage (NAS)
    http://www.addonics.com/category/network.php
    plug external drive in one end and then connect an Ethernet cable to the other end that runs to your router.

    Wireless 4-Port USB Sharing Station
    http://www.iogear.com/product/GUWIP204/