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  1. #1
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?

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    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?
    Hey Everyone, I'm new here and looking for advice on how to utilize my existing USB external drive (currently formatted as two NTFS volumes) with a new MacBook Pro that's on it's way.... and I'd like to have the drive accessible over my network.

    First, the way I've been working with my data for the past 6 or so years - I had my two data volumes on a NAS drive which allowed me to access my files from my Windows desktop and laptops. When I needed to get a new computer earlier this year, that drive stopped behaving - it didn't like Win7 and was nearing capacity anyway. The replacement didn't behave well with Win7 either and I was spending too much time trying to figure it all out. So, I got a 2TB Lacie USB drive. It's connected to my desktop but I never shared it over the network. And I sorely miss being able to access the data over the network.

    I store only work in progress + my dropbox folders on the desktop. All other data, including about 50,000 photos are stored on the external drive and I'l like to be able to access those from the Macbook Pro over the network. I'm keeping my Win7 desktop around for the near future but my intention is to not use it any longer. I think I'm done with Windows

    I'll use the Macbook Pro as a desktop for now, connected to my existing 24" monitor with a Henge Dock (probably). And while it's connected to the dock, I'd be able to connect the USB drive to the dock and access the folders on the drive (I realize I may need to first copy the data off, reformat the drive, and then copy the data back before I can access from the Mac). But when I pull the Pro out of the dock and use it in another room, I'll lose access to the USB drive (I'm not going to move that drive around with the laptop).

    Any suggestions how to get that USB drive to work as my main storage drive, accessible over the network from my new Pro?

    One solution might be to get a Mac Mini to use as a desktop - and connect the drive to that and share it over the network. But that's a pricey solution, although I will most likely want to get a Mac desktop some time next year anyway.

    Can I somehow use Time Capsule and connect the USB drive to that to make the data accessible over network? If so, would I copy the data to the internal TC drive use that as my working drive or would I use the USB drive as the working drive?

    If I use Time Capsule - would I be able to also have Time Machine automatically back up whichever I'm using as my working drive (whether it's the internal TC drive or the USB drive) to the other drive?

    Also, while I'm on the topic - I currently back up my most important files from the USB drive to an online backup service called iDrive. I'm using about 150GB of storage there at $5 per month. Is there a better solution to use with the Mac for online backup? I'm not comfortable with just backing up locally, especially since both the main drive and backup drive will likely need to be in the same room.

  2. #2
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?
    mrplow's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum.

    Lots to go at there and many different ways to configure a network.

    Here's my take on it. Not a definitive answer just my thoughts.

    Much of the way you go forward depends on your budget.

    I wouldn't use the direct attached USB drive on the network. I'd use it as a way of transporting or backing up data. Something that needs to be mobile or easily transported.

    I'd go for a dedicated NAS drive. Multi-disk - mirrored for backup redundancy if required.
    A dedicated NAS drive will perform much better than a stock USB disk attached to a network via a PC/Mac/Router. It'll be more robust, offer more features, be platform independant and will be almost set and forget. Some will even give you remote access to your files if required.

    A Time Capsule, while a capable piece of kit, isn't quite as flexible being a multi-role device (IMHO). If you're going the new router way I'd get an Airport Extreme and a capable dedicated NAS box (many are Time Machine compatible)

    If you're happy with your online backup provider then stick with them. I had a good experience with Carbonite if you want to start looking elsewhere. Otherwise stick with iDrive.
    External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

    Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post

  3. #3
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?

    Member Since
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrplow View Post
    I'd go for a dedicated NAS drive. Multi-disk - mirrored for backup redundancy if required.
    A dedicated NAS drive will perform much better than a stock USB disk attached to a network via a PC/Mac/Router. It'll be more robust, offer more features, be platform independant and will be almost set and forget. Some will even give you remote access to your files if required.
    I should have mentioned that budget is a big limiting factor. The types of NAS drives that you suggest are the best options ultimately but out of my budget. If I'm going to have a successful switch to Mac I will need to get a desktop Mac sooner rather than later and I'm hoping to do that early next year. I could not afford to spend $1,000+ on this type of NAS solution as well as a Mac Desktop.

    I mentioned the Time Capsule because it won't break the bank for me and my understanding from reading its description leads me to believe I can wirelessly share on the network a USB drive that's physically connected to TC and use it as my as my work drive from all my computers - and automatically back up that external drive to the internal TC drive. I'm looking for confirmation of this.

    I'm also wondering if the reverse would work - using the internal TC drive as my work drive and shared wirelessly - while doing automatic backups of the TC internal drive to an external USB drive that's connected to TC.

  4. #4
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?
    mrplow's Avatar
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    A 2tb Buffalo Linkstation duo will cost you about $200, cheaper than the time capsule.

    You seem pretty fixed on backup so I'm guessing your data is important so I'd urge you to stay away from the USB connected to the network solution. While it works I've always found it to be troublesome as a long term solution and never to robust or reliable.

    I don't know of a built in auto backup but you could achieve it with Automator or a sync app
    External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

    Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post

  5. #5
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?

    Member Since
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    MBP 15" 2.6GHz i7 16GB 1T; Mini (late 2012) 2.3GHz i7 16GB 1TB; iPhone 5; iPad 3; AppleTV2
    Quote Originally Posted by mrplow View Post
    A 2tb Buffalo Linkstation duo will cost you about $200, cheaper than the time capsule.

    You seem pretty fixed on backup so I'm guessing your data is important so I'd urge you to stay away from the USB connected to the network solution. While it works I've always found it to be troublesome as a long term solution and never to robust or reliable.

    Thanks for replying again.

    This is a great suggestion. The Linkstation Duo sure looks like it will do exactly what I'm looking for and at the right price point!

    So, how would I get my data from the existing external USB drive that's NTFS format onto the new Linkstation drive. should I configure the new Linkstation drives from the Mac and then connect the existing USB drive to the Mac and copy all the folders to the Linkstation drive?

    Will I need to format the new Linkstation drives first in order for them to be accessible from both Mac and Windows? If so, what format option should I look for?

  6. #6
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?
    mrplow's Avatar
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    The disk(s) comes pre formatted as ext3 or xfs. Which doesn't matter to you as this will be transparent in use over the network.

    The best way of transferring your data is as you say to connect the nas to the router and the USB drive to your Mac and copy the folders across.

    Also you may want to consider a single disk nas if you don't want the raid functionality
    External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

    Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post

  7. #7
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?

    Member Since
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    MBP 15" 2.6GHz i7 16GB 1T; Mini (late 2012) 2.3GHz i7 16GB 1TB; iPhone 5; iPad 3; AppleTV2
    Quote Originally Posted by mrplow View Post
    The disk(s) comes pre formatted as ext3 or xfs. Which doesn't matter to you as this will be transparent in use over the network.
    So right out of the box I should be able to access from either Mac or Windows after configure it for network and copy the data to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrplow View Post
    Also you may want to consider a single disk nas if you don't want the raid functionality
    Actually, I'm thinking I'll splurge for another $80 and get the 4TB model - in which case I might use the raid feature. For sure, that will make it easy if a single drive fails. Won't help in the case of fire, or some other catastrophe. That's why I also do offsite and/or cloud (not sure if I'll continue cloud).

  8. #8
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?
    mrplow's Avatar
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    Yes, connect it to the network and you're ready to go.

    The is a web interface, like a router, where you can figure all sorts of things but it will 'just work'.

    Though, personally, I'd keep the cloud backup. Platform indpendant, offsite backup, not to be underestimated
    External hard disk acquisition addict - but admitting the problem is the first step to a robust backup

    Please use the reputation system if you think you've been helped - top right of this post

  9. #9
    Switching - Using my USB Data drive as NAS with Mac?

    Member Since
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    MBP 15" 2.6GHz i7 16GB 1T; Mini (late 2012) 2.3GHz i7 16GB 1TB; iPhone 5; iPad 3; AppleTV2
    Quote Originally Posted by mrplow View Post
    Yes, connect it to the network and you're ready to go.

    The is a web interface, like a router, where you can figure all sorts of things but it will 'just work'.

    Though, personally, I'd keep the cloud backup. Platform indpendant, offsite backup, not to be underestimated
    I'm still exploring keeping cloud backup in the picture. While searching around I found Crashplan Plus - which offers supposedly unlimited storage for about $8 per month. But I can't believe that is truly unlimited and they will allow me to store 1/2 TB for that price. The good thing about Crashplan is they support sending the initial upload by shipping a hard drive with my data ($125 fee IIRC) and offer the same method of doing a full recovery if I ever need to.

    I need to confirm with them if "unlimited" is truly unlimited. Seems too good to be true

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