Introduction: How to Build a Media File Hub for Your Home (for MacOS and Windows)

Want to create a hub for everyone in your house to share movies, music, and files?

What you will need:
•  Wireless Router (I recommend the ASUS RT-N56U. Its the router I have and it works perfectly for this)
•  Computer with internet access (preferably multiple computers—otherwise, whats the point?)
•  External hard drive, with plenty of room for your files
•  Files that you would like to share amongst family and friends

I will cover the portion for the Mac users in steps 1-4 and for Windows users in steps 5-9, with a side note on accessing the hub when away from the house at the end.



NOTE: This is for at-home personal use and information only. The creator of this article does not condone illegal file sharing in any way, shape, or form. It's bad, Mkay?

Step 1: Installing Your Router €”Mac

If you already have a router set up in your home, feel free to skip this step.

Setting up your wireless network is a crucial step in being able to connect to the hub. Unfortunately, different brands of routers have different methods of setup, so it is important that you make sure you have a copy of the setup instructions provided by the manufacturer. Follow them carefully!
the instructions typically follow a pattern:
1.  disconnect all cables/wires from existing modem setup
2.  plug your router into the nearest power outlet
3.  using a couple network cables, connect your computer to your wireless router's LAN port and the modem to your wireless router's WAN port
4.  plug your modem into the nearest power outlet
5.  You may have to install software bundled with the router (if supplied) and follow the setup guide on your computer screen. This is unlikely as Mac Operating Systems can usually connect right away.

Remember, this is just a general pattern, your router setup may be very different and you are strongly encouraged to follow your manufacturers guide, especially if some of my steps didn't make any sense.

Step 2: Connect the External Hard Drive to the Wireless Network (Method 1) €”Mac

There are multiple methods of going about this step, each with their own pros and cons:

Method 1: Connect your Hard Drive to your Router
This method is preferable if you don't own a desktop computer, but it requires either a router with a USB port or you going out and buying an NAS box. The NAS (Network Attached Storage) plugs into your router with an ethernet cable, and you install hard disk drives into the NAS box. An NAS will be faster and more reliable than plugging an external hard drive into the router via USB, but you will have to shell out some dough.
 
        1.  Plug the external Hard Drive into the router and turn it on
        2.  Format the drive if prompted
        3.  You should be able to see the drive if you go into either Finder > Shared > [Router Name] or Finder > [your name]'s Mac > Devices > Network > [Router Name]. If you don't see it you may have to connect to your router's settings as directed in the manufacturer's guide or by typing http://192.168.1.1 in your browser window.

Step 3: Connect the External Hard Drive to the Wireless Network (Method 2) €”Mac

Method 2: Connect your Hard Drive to your Computer
This is easier if you own a desktop computer as you don't need to worry about your computer connecting to the hard drive. This method will also be faster for whoever's computer is connected directly to the hard drive to upload/download files. However, the  hard drive must always be connected to the computer and the computer must be on whenever somebody wants to access it, which could be a major pain if you aren't operating from a desktop.

      1.  Plug the external hard drive into your mac and turn it on
      2.  It most likely won't need to be formatted, but I've included steps on how to reformat it just in case:
         a.)  If it does need to be reformatted, bring up Disk Utility (found in Applications > Utilities). Click on the external hard drive in the sidebar, then "Partition."
         b.)  From there, click on the box labeled "Partition Layout" and choose "1 partition"
         c.)  Choose "MS-DOS (FAT)" for the format. This will make it compatible for any Windows users you might have in the house.
         d.)  Click Apply, and your hard drive is reformatted.
      3.  To connect the hard drive to the network, go to Sharing in System Preferences. Turn File Sharing on, and click the "+" under Shared Folders. Browse to your external hard drive under Devices and click Add. You can then personalize user access to your liking.

Step 4: Sharing Music, Movies, and More €”Mac

At this point all users in your network should be able to see the external hard drive, whether it is connected to the router or to your computer. I'd suggest creating folders dividing your movies, music, pictures, and files to make things easier to look through. If your router is strong enough, you can stream movies directly from it; otherwise simply drag and drop files to/from your computer to share with friends and family. These files, depending on their format, can also be played on internet-connected media devices such as videogame consoles. Xbox 360 will see and stream movies in .avi format, for example, so you can watch some movies on your TV!

Step 5: Installing Your Router €”Windows

If you already have a router set up in your home, feel free to skip this step.

Setting up your wireless network is a crucial step in being able to connect to the hub. Unfortunately, different brands of routers have different methods of setup, so it is important that you make sure you have a copy of the setup instructions provided by the manufacturer. Follow them carefully!
the instructions typically follow a pattern:
1.  disconnect all cables/wires from existing modem setup
2.  plug your router into the nearest power outlet
3.  using a couple network cables, connect your computer to your wireless router's LAN port and the modem to your wireless router's WAN port
4.  plug your modem into the nearest power outlet
5.  You will most likely have to install software bundled with the router (if supplied) and follow the setup guide on your computer screen.

Remember, this is just a general pattern, your router setup may be very different and you are strongly encouraged to follow your manufacturers guide, especially if some of my steps didn't make any sense.

Step 6: Connect the External Hard Drive to the Wireless Network (Method 1) €”Windows

There are multiple methods of going about this step, each with their own pros and cons:

Method 1: Connect your Hard Drive to your Router
This method is preferable if you don't own a desktop computer, but it requires either a router with a USB port or you going out and buying an NAS box. The NAS (Network Attached Storage) plugs into your router with an ethernet cable, and you install hard disk drives into the NAS box. An NAS will be faster and more reliable than plugging an external hard drive into the router via USB, but you will have to shell out some dough.

        1.  Plug the external Hard Drive into the router and turn it on
        2.  Format the drive if prompted
        3.  Go to Start > Computer and select Network from the sidebar. If you don't see your external hard drive in either Computer or Media Devices (depending on how the hard drive is formatted) you may have to connect to your router's settings as directed in the manufacturer's guide or by typing 192.168.1.1 in your browser window.

Step 7: Connect the External Hard Drive to the Wireless Network (Method 2) €”Windows

Method 2: Connect your Hard Drive to your Computer
This is easier if you own a desktop computer as you don't need to worry about your computer connecting to the hard drive. This method will also be faster for whoever's computer is connected directly to the hard drive to upload/download files. However, the  hard drive must always be connected to the computer and the computer must be on whenever somebody wants to access it, which could be a major pain if you aren't operating from a desktop.

      1.  Plug the external hard drive into your pc and turn it on
      2.  It may need to be formatted if this is the first time plugging it into your pc; this is done with the included software for the hard drive. Once that is done you should see the drive under Computer > Hard Disk Drives.

Step 8: Connect Hard Drive to Network €”Windows

Right click on the hard drive and select "Share with," and then select "Advanced Sharing." A dialog window will then open.
From there, click the "Share this Drive" check box and hit Apply. The drive should now be visible on any computer on the network.

Step 9: Locate Hard Drive, Upload and Download Files €”Windows

For your computer, the hard drive will always be located under Computer > Hard Disk Drives. Any other computer connected to the router will have to look under Network in the sidebar of the windows explorer. Once in the hard drive folder, you can easily drag and drop files to and from your computer! These files, depending on their format, can also be played on internet-connected media devices such as videogame consoles. Xbox 360 will see and stream movies in .avi format, for example, so you can watch some movies on your TV!

Step 10: How to Access Your Files When Away From Your Home

Ending note: It is possible to access your hub even when you are not on your network, but it takes a bit more knowledge about computers and File Transfer Protocol (FTP). I know ASUS hosts FTP links for their customers so they merely have to type in the FTP link in their browser to connect, such as ftp://[YOUR ROUTER HERE].asus.com. With other routers you might not be so lucky, and you might just have to connect the external hard drive to your computer and know the IP address of your computer. To see what your IP address is, just google search "my ip address."  If you go the FTP route, I'd suggest using an FTP client such as FileZilla for windows or CyberDuck for Mac in order to upload/download files, as they will give you more freedom and flexibility with multiple downloads, upload, etc.

Comments

author
togo1919 (author)2015-03-31

Works well for me, too. I'm using both a 2TB Raid-1 NAS and archiving to the 2TB USB 3.0 hard drive for extra safety.

I also do incremental backups to a drive that I keep in my car every month. Just a bit of paranoia - I want to make sure all my photos, videos, and music remains intact.

I prefer to avoid the FTP setup - though it's reasonably secure.

author
techboy411 (author)2012-11-05

lol it shows an crt with a BSOD!|!!!!!!

author
amandaghassaei (author)2012-11-01

good idea! how big of a hard drive did you set up?

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