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Putting a hard drive up for grabs on the network is done primarily by sharing folders on your computer with other computers on the network. But it’s possible to connect a hard drive directly to the network — a hard drive that doesn’t have a computer attached. It can happen in one of two ways.

First, you can connect an external USB hard drive to a router that features USB ports. Plug the hard drive into the wall and then connect it to the router. The hard drive may be instantly recognized, or it might require additional configuration.

The second method to connect a hard drive is directly. This method works only when the hard drive features its own Ethernet port: Simply plug the hard drive into its power supply, plug the hard drive into the router with an Ethernet cable, and you’re done. The hard drive appears in the Network window along with other drives shared on the network.

  • Viewing and accessing network hard drives can be done in Windows.

  • In Windows XP, networked hard drives appear in the My Network Places window.

  • Not all external hard drives feature an Ethernet port. Expect to pay more for a stand-alone network hard drive.

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