First, work out how much disk capacity you need. If you are planning to use a Nas as a backup drive for all household computers, for example, it will need at least as much capacity as the combined data stored on all the individual drives. To find out this amount, click Start followed by My Computer (or Computer), right-click the hard disk icon and choose Properties. Now note down the ‘Used space’ figure. Repeat this for all the drives on all the computers, and add up the numbers. We recommend adding at least half as much again to the total used space, but you may want to consider buying a Nas that’s able to cope with as much as double the amount of data you think you need.
Next, decide on a Nas and the disk or disks you’re going to use with it. We’re using a Qnap TS-210. This has two drive bays and can work with either one or two hard disks. Other devices may have more bays, or just the one. If you have spare hard disks that you intend to use, bear in mind that any data they contain will be wiped. Remember, the drives inserted into the Nas device need to have sufficient combined capacity to cover the amount of data calculated in Step 1. Also, be sure to buy (or use) the correct type of disk (IDE or Sata) for the Nas device you have chosen – all modern Nas devices should use Sata disks.
All Nas units are subtly different in the way they are set up, but they follow a broadly similar path. Open the device’s case – usually there will be some screws on the back or front, or a back plate may slide off to reveal the drive bays. Insert the disk or disks so that the connection sockets on the backs of the disks match up with the plugs built into the Nas device. Then close it up. Plug the Nas device’s network cable into your router, connect the power cable and switch it on. Insert the installation disc that came with the product into your computer’s CD or DVD drive, and launch the software to begin the configuration process.
This is where things can get tricky. If you’re lucky, the computer will detect the Nas device – if so, just follow the prompts – but we have experienced numerous situations where manufacturer’s software has failed to detect the Nas. This is especially true when connected through Homeplug adapters or a Wifi connection, so in an ideal world try connecting both the device and the computer directly to the router using an Ethernet cable. Now check the Windows network settings to ensure you can access files on the network. In Windows 7 or Vista, right-click the Network icon in the Notification Area, click the Open Network and Sharing Center link and check the options at the bottom of the page. In XP, click Start followed by Run, type control folders and press Enter. Now select the View tab, scroll to the bottom of the list and click to tick the ‘Use simple file sharing (Recommended)’ box.
If the device is detected by the software, you will see it in the list, as shown. For our Qnap model, the next step is to click the item in the list, then click Configure. From here, configuration will be done by going to the device’s address in a web browser. Clicking the Configure button should lead there, or you can type the displayed IP address digits into a web browser’s address bar. You will be asked to supply the username and password, which will be listed in the manual – in our case both are ‘admin’. From here you can change the username and password and format (prepare) the disks for use.
To format the disk or disks, click Disk Management in the menu, then Volume Management (on other models, look for similar options). Although most Nas devices can combine two disks into a single ‘volume’, we are going to keep them separate for simplicity. Click ‘Create single disk volume’, or the equivalent, and follow the prompts for each disk. You can then go back into the finder software and click the device’s entry in the list, then click Connect (it may be called Map or something similar in your software) to make Windows recognise the disk with a drive letter so you can access it from My Computer/Computer.