Setting up an AirPort disk

Christopher Breen
21 April, 2009
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Apple’s AirPort Extreme base station may be a great platform for adding wireless LAN to your home, but its capabilities don’t stop there. By plugging an external drive into the unit’s USB port,you can easily use it on your home network. Here’s how.

First, be sure that the drive is formatted as a Mac OS Extended volume (you do this in Disk Utility). Plug the drive into the AirPort Extreme Base Station’s USB port and launch AirPort Utility (which you’ll find in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder at the root level of your startup drive).

Select the Base Station within the AirPort Utility window and click the Manual Setup button. In the window that appears, you’ll see a Disks tab. Click that and you should see the name of the disk connected to the Base Station. (If you’ve plugged a USB hub into the Base Station and attached multiple hard drives to it, you’ll see all the devices plugged into that hub.)

In that same window, click the File Sharing tab. This is where you make the disk(s) tethered to the Base Station available to your Macs as well as determine which password will be used to access them (options include each account’s password, a disk password you create, or the password required to edit the Base Station’s settings). Additionally, you can configure guest access from a pop-up menu (Not Allowed, Read Only, and Read and Write), enable WAN access, and configure the disk(s) for Windows File Sharing. Tweak this window as you like and click the Update button to save the settings. The Base Station will be updated and you’re done with AirPort Utility.

To use the disk(s) from one of your Macs, open any Finder window and under the Shared heading in the sidebar you’ll see the name of your Base Station. Select it, click Connect As, enter the password you set in the File Sharing tab, and click Connect. Any drives attached to the Base Station will appear in the window. To mount one, just double-click it. Its contents will appear in a window and its icon will materialise on the Desktop. (You can also get to the disk by pressing Shift-Command-K to produce the Network window and double-click on your Base Station entry within this window.)

Disks attached to an AirPort Extreme Base Station can now be used with Time Machine (in the early days of Time Machine and Extreme Base Stations they couldn’t). Nice to have the feature, but backing up this way isn’t speedy.

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