Tech 911Tech 911Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? We’d love to answer it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Tech 911” in the subject line.I will never fault someone for asking a tech question that feels “basic,” because we all had to get our start somewhere. Few of us popped out of the…
Tech 911Tech 911Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? We’d love to answer it! Email email@example.com with “Tech 911” in the subject line.
I will never fault someone for asking a tech question that feels “basic,” because we all had to get our start somewhere. Few of us popped out of the womb knowing how to access a network share in Windows, what a workgroup was, or how to map a network drive.
In this week’s Tech 911 Q&A, Lifehacker reader Matthew asks a relatively simple, but important question about home networking. Let’s dig in:
“I’m interested in setting up a very basic home network — really just a shared harddrive that I can access from any of the computers in my home — but I’m not sure how to get started.
Is it as simple as just plugging in an external harddrive to the USB port on the back of my router? That seems too easy. Or do I need a special harddrive that connects via an ethernet port? How do I configure it to “appear” on my devices? I wouldn’t expect it to be automatic, but I’m not familiar with the configuration settings required to make it work. Is special software needed, or are all the tools necessary built into Windows?
I’m eager to learn more.”
How to set up drive and/or folder sharing in Windows
I’m thrilled that you’re excited to learn more about the wide world of networking, Matthew. I got my start in technology journalism covering hard drives, and really hit it big with my router guides at Wirecutter. Your question tickles two of my big, geeky interests, and I’m happy to help you out.
You have two primary options to share a hard drive with the other computers in your home. You can connect this hard drive to your desktop PC (internally or externally), or to your laptop (likely externally), and then share that hard drive to your network via Windows. Everything you’ll need for this is built directly into Windows, and I’m happy to walk you through that process right now.
For the sake of argument, and since I don’t have a spare external enclosure sitting around, I’m going to assume you already connected this drive to your system somehow. You’ll get the best performance if you go internal, using one of your system’s free SATA ports; an external enclosure will perform best over a USB 3.0 or USB-C connection, and is a lot more portable, but it likely won’t perform as well.
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Now that you’ve done that, you’ll probably have to hit up Windows’ Computer Management screen to assign your hard drive a letter. (If you purchased an external hard drive that comes in its own enclosure, it’s probably already initialized for you, and you’ll be able to find it right in File Explorer. If not, continue with these steps.)
Type “Computer Management” into your start menu, and then click on “Disk Management” under “Storage” in the screen that appears: