Network USB Devices
June 29, 2009 10:59 PM   Subscribe

I need to get my external hard disks and my multifunction printer off my desk. I have a mac. I have a multi-function printer. I have 3 external hard disks. I scan lots of things. I print stuff. I run time machine. Help me move my USB peripherals to the other side of the room.

I tried the Airport Extreme. Scanning functions don't work.

I've tried the Belkin Network USB Hub. Completely sucked. Froze my computer 3-4 times a DAY.

What are my options? Haven't tried wireless USB, but I'm considering it. The Belkin Network USB Hub is the perfect option - too bad it doesn't work at all. Anyone know of alternatives?

Requirements: I must be able to print. I must be able to scan. I must be able to run time machine automatically. Ideally, I'd like to plug a USB hub into my magical networking device and plug any USB device into it for access from my mac.

I have a wireless network and hot network ports available in both locations (at the computer and the area where I'd like to move the printer/drives to).
posted by shew to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
NAS/print server? Keep your Time machine USB external on your desk.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:47 PM on June 29, 2009

Is there a reason that you can't use long usb cables? Max length is 16 feet.
posted by zerokey at 11:48 PM on June 29, 2009

I've got a Brother MFC7840W (wireless) multi-function mono laser printer. It works with with my Time Capsule just fine, though it also has its own wireless assets which I have turned off. I scan, print, fax with it. The computer is not a Mac (Win XP, SP3 machine), but it works.

In order for it to work as a scanner, I have to have its 'Control Center' running on my machine. Not sure what the equivalent is in Mac land, but what you are describing seems like well traversed territory and you may have given up too soon. Getting things to work in Windows usually requires a lot of tinkering around, and the trouble with Mac (if you can call it that) is that it usually does everything for you. You miss out on all the brick throwing, phone screaming, document pondering, RMA goodness that eventually leads to success and you can easily develop the bad habit of instant gratification. If Windows has taught me anything, it's to maintain an attitude of modest expectations and to place great value on never touching something once it works "to improve it". My perserverence is just genetic.

I'd work the problem some more before throwing in the towel and buying long cables. To quote a funny church sign, This isn't rocket surgery.
posted by FauxScot at 1:24 AM on June 30, 2009

USB 2.0 has a maximum cable length of 5 meters. But USB also allows up to five hubs. So you can actually stretch things out to 30m or so, as long as you have a hub every 5m.

This might seem really ugly and clunky (having a hub every 5m), but you can buy Active Extension Cables which are 5m USB cables with a tiny one-port hub built in to the cable itself. They don't need external power or anything, they pretty much look like ordinary USB cables with a small plastic box at one end. Cost should be between $10 and $20. Make sure they are advertised as "active" or "repeater" cables.

For max distance, use four of these active cables, plus a final multi-port hub for you disks, etc. This should get you at least 25m, which is really quite a lot.
posted by ryanrs at 1:29 AM on June 30, 2009

I have a Belkin wireless USB hub which takes most USB devices including multifunction printers and hard drives and works at the other end of the room. If you dont have any luck on googling it I will look up the model number when I get home.
posted by london302 at 2:48 AM on June 30, 2009

Update: My post sounds like i didnt read the question properly. Which is partly true but what is completely true is that my Belkin wireless hub works.
posted by london302 at 2:57 AM on June 30, 2009

What about an old PC you can use to share the printers and drives through?
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 6:39 AM on June 30, 2009

I don't know what brand of multi-function printer you have, or whether it has a wifi card, but here's what I was able to do:

I have a HP Photosmart 2700 with built-in wifi. I set up the printer to connect itself to my wireless network. I then "found" the printer from my computer. The HP scanning software auto-detects it and is able to scan just fine.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:42 AM on June 30, 2009

I've looked and looked for this magical device as well. USB over LAN is just really not feasible at this point. The best you are going to be able to do is get a NAS and a router with a print server function. I too got an airport extreme, and am having problems with it as well. I look forward to any suggestions on how to get the airport extreme to "just work" on the print serving and file serving fronts.
posted by bigmusic at 7:43 AM on June 30, 2009

Although it's not wireless, a "usb repeater" may be the best solution. That will get you beyond the normal USB cable length. There are also USB repeaters that run over Cat5, but I'm not sure if they would work if there's a switch in the middle. The Cat5 ones will also be a lot more expensive. Googling variations of the search terms "usb repeater extender cat5" should give you lots of ideas.
posted by paulg at 9:56 AM on June 30, 2009

Yes, depending on how long a cable you're looking for, you need a repeater or what's called an "active" USB cable - here's a 16 foot model. You could get several and daisy-chain them (plug them in to each other), but I've never tried that.

You could also try, as other people have said, a NAS device that also acts as a print server; that would take care of your time machine and in some cases your external drives, and the USB printer/scanner would plug into it. Here's a model I've liked. But that would require an Ethernet connection, and I can't say anything about whether the Scan functions will work, as I've never tried it.
posted by bartleby at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2009

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