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How to Set Up and Access a Network Drive on a Mac

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With constant internet access and generous cloud storage, the need for home network drives has diminished. But that doesn’t mean you should write them off. Setting up network attached storage (NAS) for your Mac still has its uses.

If you have data restrictions, transferring large files over the internet may not be viable, and constantly connecting external drives isn’t always convenient. NAS is simple to set up in macOS, so let’s discuss the process.

How to Set Up Network Attached Storage in macOS

If you’re not going to be physically connecting the NAS drive to other devices, the format you use doesn’t matter. If, however, you will be plugging the external disk into both Macs and Windows PCs, you should format it as FAT32 or ExFAT to ensure compatibility with both operating systems.

Related: How to Easily Share Files Between Mac and Windows

You should also check that your router has a USB port and that it supports NAS. Sometimes network devices supplied by internet service provides can be a little basic, so upgrading may be necessary.

If everything looks good, you’re ready to follow these steps to set up network attached storage for your Mac:

  1. Connect your external hard drive to your router’s USB port.
  2. Access your router through its IP address.
  3. Perform any additional setup. Seek advice from the manufacturer if needed.

You can usually find your router’s IP on the device itself. However, macOS provides a simpler solution if you’re connected to the appropriate network. Here’s how you can quickly find your router’s IP address on a Mac:

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  1. Go to System Preferences > Network.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. Select the TCP/IP tab.
  4. Note the IP address beside Router.
macOS network TCP/IP preferences with router IP highlighted

Typing your router’s IP into the address bar of any internet browser will take you to the configuration portal for the device. From here, you’ll generally need to log in and locate the appropriate settings within the interface. Sometimes configuration is as simple as clicking a button to enable NAS.

How to Access Network Attached Storage in macOS

Once you’ve attached an external disk and configured your router, you’re ready to map the network drive. Here’s how to access NAS in macOS:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Select Go > Connect to Server.
  3. Type either smb:// or afp:// (depending on the protocol you want to use) followed by your router’s IP address. For example, smb://192.168.1.1.
  4. Click Connect.
  5. Select the volume you want to use and click OK.

Mapped network drive showing in Finder

The mapped drive should now show up in the Finder sidebar under Locations. Logging out or restarting your Mac will cause the NAS to disconnect, and you’ll need to map it again. If you need to access the disk regularly, you should consider setting it to mount automatically at login.

How to Automatically Mount a Network Drive in macOS

Mapping a network drive every time you want to use it can be a hassle. Luckily, you can add the disk as a login item so it automatically connects whenever you start or log in to your Mac.

Here’s how to automatically mount a mapped network drive in macOS:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups.
  2. Select the Login Items tab.
  3. Click the Plus (+) button.
  4. Locate the volume you want to use and click Add.

Add login item screen in macOS with network drive selected

As a login item, your NAS drive will automatically connect whenever you log in to the relevant user account. If you also want the disk to auto mount for other users, you can follow the same steps in their profiles.

NAS Is a Convenient Storage Solution

Setting up network attached storage is a quick process if your router’s interface is intuitive, and mapping the drive is fairly straightforward in macOS. If you’re a heavy NAS user, adding the volume as a login item on your Mac is a smart move.

When you use multiple devices or want to easily share files with others in your household, NAS is a quick and convenient storage solution. Some devices even support Time Machine backups, which is handy for portable Mac users who may not remember to regularly connect an external backup drive.



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