What network hard drives play well with the Airport Extreme?
February 17, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Can I use one of the ethernet ports on my airport extreme for a network disc or am I limited to USB?

I recently upgraded my home network from a Netgear 802.11 g router to an Airport Extreme. I have been mostly satisfied (especially with the increased speed and range from 802.11 n) but disappointed to find that the ethernet side of things is not implemented as well as on my old router. For example, I tried hooking up my network printer via ethernet on the Airport and never could find it on the network; it has a USB connection as well so I just switched to USB after futzing around with ethernet for a while and it works fine. Now I want to get serious about backing up with Time Machine, and want to know if anyone has had success using an NAS device via ethernet with an Airport Extreme/ Time Machine or should I stick with USB for that as well? Experiences with specific models of hard drive are particularly appreciated; I am looking at drives in the 2 TB size range (I have a lot of pictures) and may get a second drive to use for sharing files over the network. If I would be better off using USB, I will need to use a hub, so any advice there is appreciated as well. I have been using a cheap Belkin hub with my two printers, but it seems to be acting up (although I haven't had time to really troubleshoot; I just ended up hooking the printer I needed at the time directly to the Airport, which solved the problem). As always, thanks in advance for your help.
posted by TedW to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Yes, you should be able to do this. However, it sounds like you might not have the netgear configured correctly. Can you try plugging your laptop into the netgear router using a wire, disable the wireless network connection, then confirm that you can still get to the internet?

If that works then you can get any network NAS device you want, it won't matter what brand or type.
posted by odinsdream at 7:29 AM on February 17, 2009

A bit of clarification; I am no longer using the Netgear router; I have replaced it with the Airport. When I was using the Netgear I found the browser-based configuration much more straightforward than the Airport Utility for some things. I am sure I could easily do this with my old router, but before dropping a few hundred dollars on a NAS drive I want to be a sure as possible It will work for what I want to do with the Airport. In case anyone wonders why I want to use ethernet rather than USB if possible, it is because my desktop with >500 GB of files to back up is connected via gigabit ethernet to the Airport and in theory at least the speed advantage over USB would be worth it.
posted by TedW at 7:41 AM on February 17, 2009

Ok, so you already have a device hooked up via ethernet (your desktop), and you also have wireless clients. Can you ping the desktop machine from a wireless client? If you can, and all the devices are on the same subnet, you have connectivity.

Your NAS will do the same thing as your desktop machine, in terms of filesharing. There are not going to be NAS drives that will work and NAS drives that won't work provided you have network connectivity.
posted by odinsdream at 7:47 AM on February 17, 2009

I have a Time Capsule, which is little more than an Airport Extreme with an internal drive, and I hang a NDAS disk (specifically, this enclosure) off of it via ethernet as a media drive and it works quite well.
posted by eafarris at 2:47 PM on February 17, 2009

Should work. I have a WD MyBook World Edition NAS drive* that normally lives plugged into an Airport Express (configured as a WDS client) that works fine. I occasionally lug it over to my gf's place & plug it into her Airport Extreme, & it works fine there too (similar setup to yours).

The main thing to keep in mind is its IP - if it gets an address by DHCP it should be fine**, if it has / defaults to a fixed IP you'll need to make sure that's either changed to DHCP or configured to a fixed IP on the same subnet that the Airport is handing out.

(* Yes, I know, it's a POS - but I don't really use it as a NAS, rather as a gateway interface to my Topfield PVR. It plugs into the Toppy via USB, the ethernet is plugged into the Airport, and the NAS runs a couple of utilities to give me network access to the Toppy.)

(** Notwithstanding the usual caveats/problems with bare-bones clients and bare-bones DHCP servers. Using bootpd on OS X as a DHCP server can be problematic with simple devices; dunno about the DHCP server in the Airport series. The MyBook seems to have no problem though...)

posted by Pinback at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2009

...changed to DHCP or configured to a fixed IP on the same subnet that the Airport is handing out.

When I was trying to use my printer over ethernet I could not find the IP address and so could not add it in the print/fax setup in system preferences. All of the support info from Apple talks about printing and sharing hard disks via USB, but only mentions ethernet in passing; "Three Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for connecting computers or network devices" is the only mention of ethernet I can find on the Apple website. I guess my real question is how do I access the Ethernet functionality on my Airport? I cannot figure out how to get the IP addresses of the two computers connected to it, much less any other "network devices".
posted by TedW at 7:32 PM on February 17, 2009

Check with your printer instructions. Many have a function where pressing some sequence of buttons on the panel will cause a configuration page to be printed. This will include the current IP address.

Alternatively the Airport configuration utility may include the current list of DHCP leases, which will include MAC addresses that you can then match up with the printer.

You're already using the ethernet functionality on the airport with your desktop machine - since that's how it's plugged in. The printer will work the same way.

To find the current IP address of a Windows computer, go to Start, choose Run, then type cmd, then in the black window type ipconfig and hit enter.

To find it on a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Networking.
posted by odinsdream at 11:47 AM on February 18, 2009

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