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I would like to have one dedicated hard drive for my files (but not OS installation) at my home computer, and I would like to make those files available anywhere via a file server. I want fast file access on my computer, so the drive should be directly connected (i.e. not a network drive). But when my computer is off (or on), I want access to those files by the file server. Is this possible?

To throw one more thing in, my computer is going to be a triple-boot system with Windows 8, Ubuntu Linux, and Hackintosh. I hope I'm not asking too much :)

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Look into NAS devices – cutrightjm Apr 17 '13 at 23:03
You can get NAS drives that also have a USB connection, if you got (and had on the PC) USB 3 then this would be faster than the LAN for the USB-connected PC, and all the rest could use LAN. – Dave C Apr 17 '13 at 23:06
@DaveC, you can't access the drive at the same time over the network and via usb. It's one or the other. – psusi Apr 17 '13 at 23:26
@psusi really? Isn't the point of such a drive to serve files to multiple clients at the same? – rmp251 Apr 18 '13 at 0:28
@rmp251, yea.. over the network. To directly access it via usb, the network server has to be disabled as only one system can directly access the disk at a time. – psusi Apr 18 '13 at 0:35
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You need to separate your goals out.

  1. File Server
  2. Turn PC off
  3. Fast

    1. If you turn a file server off, you can not connect to the drives. Period. No way around it, but your PC and your file server do not have to be the same thing.

    2. No problem, just don't use your PC as a file server and you can turn it off, leave it on or bring it to a friends house.

    3. This is a relative term, define fast. 100Mbps? 1Gbps? 10Gbps? Your budget sets the limit! with NAS (Network Attached Storage) these are essentially all-in-one file servers that you can plug in and go wired or wireless.

As far as your OS choices, the NAS is the better choice too, as sharing each drive / partition out for all 3 OS's and not porking the ACLs could be fun. With a stand alone file server you don't have to worry about that.

For speed, if you want 100MBps, thats 800Mbps, or less than 1Gbps. bits per second is what most throughput metrics use, so you need a drive and a network that can support 1Gbps to realize that goal (Should not be a big deal currently).

As for accessing the drive like any other drive, as long as you map the share thats not a problem, here is a share I have mapped:

enter image description here

Almost everything will see that the same as a regular drive. There are rare exceptions from especially shoddy software.

"Porking the ACLs" I mean screwing up who has access to it. If you are sharing it through a workgroup and again through SAMBA between Linux and Mac there exists the chance one will try to change the owner or access groups. Thus when you boot back to another OS your permissions and access are broken.

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Yes, I'm ok with leaving the file server on, but not the home computer. I guess I would define fast as at least 100MB/s. NAS sounds like the way to go, although @psusi above says it can't be accessed via the network and USB simultaneously (not planning on doing that but would like to know it wouldn't be a problem if I did). I don't know what "porking the ACL" means. – rmp251 Apr 18 '13 at 0:27
Basically I want the best of both worlds. I want the files to be accessible anywhere, but I want the drive to look and behave like a regular local drive. – rmp251 Apr 18 '13 at 0:30
@rmp251, added information – AthomSfere Apr 18 '13 at 1:03
Thanks for the help. – rmp251 Apr 18 '13 at 15:21

Well you can share the drive on the network. You will have to do this for each OS. Sorry if the computer is off, you will not be able to access the drive. Cliff

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AthomSfere's answer is good and I don't want to detract from that. I will add one more option a USB drive plugged into a router. Most routers with USB ports have the ability to plug in an external drive and make it accessible as a network drive. With USB 2.0 speeds these drives aren't that fast and were used mainly for backup. Now, however, with routers with USB 3.0 ports appearing they are getting close to NAS speeds (see here for one example).

They don't offer all of the functionality of a full NAS but will work for file sharing. Depending on where your router and computer are located you could also sometimes unplug from the router and plug directly into your computer.

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Thanks for the suggestion! – rmp251 May 17 '13 at 14:14

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