Many modern wired and wireless routers include a USB port that allows you to connect printers, webcams and even external hard drives, which you can share on your local area network. Connecting an external USB hard drive to your Wi-Fi router enables both wired and wireless computers to access the drive and use it for storage or for retrieving files you need to share on the network.
Connecting and Sharing the Drive
Connect the AC adapter to the external USB hard drive if it requires one and connect it to household power.
Plug the mini-plug adapter end of the USB data cable into the port on the side or rear of the external hard drive, then connect the larger, flat end of the cable into the port on the back of the router labeled "USB," "SharePort," "Connect USB" or something similar.
Turn on the external hard drive if the device has an AC adapter and a power switch.
Open your preferred Web browser, enter the IP address for the router into the address bar and press "Enter." Log in to the router with the administrator username and password. If you do not know the default IP address, username or password for the router, refer to the device's user guide or owners manual for the information.
Click the appropriate USB port tab in the router control panel. Depending on the router you own, the appropriate tab might be labeled "Storage," "USB Devices" or "NAS (Network Attached Storage)." However, some routers may label the USB port tab with the name they use for the connection, such as "SharePort," "USBConnect" or something similar.
Verify that the device name of the external hard drive appears in the list of connected USB devices. If the hard drive does not appear in the list, reboot or restart the router. You can usually find the "Reboot" or "Restart" link or button on the "Advanced" or "Advanced Settings" tab. After you reboot the router, the device should detect the hard drive automatically and display it on the USB port tab of the control panel.
Click the "Create Share" or "Share this Device" button or link next to the device name of the hard drive. The router creates a share for the USB hard drive and displays its IP address in the device list. If you want to format the drive and erase all of the files on it, click the "Format" or "Format Disk" button. Otherwise, click the "Save" or "Save Settings" button to save the configuration changes for the hard drive and exit the router control panel.
Access the Shared USB Drive
Go to one of the computers from which you want to access the external USB hard drive connected to the router. Click the Start button, and then click "Computer."
Click "Map a Network Drive" in the Windows Explorer window that opens. A new Map Network Drive window appears on the screen. Click the "Drive" drop-down list and select a drive letter for the USB hard drive or leave in place the default value selected by Windows.
Type the network path of the external USB hard drive in the "Folder" drop-down field. Type the path in the format "\\192.168.1.100\ShareName" without quotes, where "192.168.1.100" is the IP address assigned to the hard drive by the router and "ShareName" is the share-name value displayed in the control panel on the USB port tab of the router's configuration settings. Refer to the settings again in the router control panel if you forget the precise values needed to map the computer to the USB drive connected to the network router.
Click and enable the "Reconnect at Logon" option in the Map Network Drive window, and then click "Finish." After a few seconds, Windows Explorer displays the file and folder contents of the external USB hard drive.
Save or move files to the external hard drive connected to the router just as you would an internal drive or an external drive attached directly to the computer.
Map the external USB hard drive on other computers connected to the router as needed, using the same method.
- Some routers allow you to share specific folders on the hard drive rather than sharing the sharing the entire volume. This allows you to choose which folders you want to share as well as those you want to keep private on the network.
- You must map the external drive on each machine connected to the router.
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