Help setting up a wireless network

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jonwatson87, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. jonwatson87 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2013
    #1
    Right, this is my desire:

    I want to be able to connect to my peripherals wirelessly, so that they're accessible on all devices on my network.

    The peripherals include - printers, with scanners and external hard drives.

    We have a new iMac and a couple of Windows 7/8 machines, so the solution needs to be compatible with both.

    I've tried a couple of the cheaper options, to no avail, including:

    Belkin Home Server: F5L049 (WAY out of date and does not offer support for OS X 7 or 8)

    Netgear Music Extender: XAUB2511 (could not get this to work reliably or stably. Connection to the hard drive was slow and frequently timed out or lost connectivity. Printer wouldn't show up at all on the Mac and wouldn't allow the device to be accessed. Though much newer than the Belkin, Netgear couldn't offer me any solution to solve this problem)

    Either they're too out of date or offer too little support for Mac, and suffer stability and speed issues.

    Everything else I've looked at has either confused me by getting too technical or has shockingly bad reviews (this is mainly for cheap print servers I've seen on Amazon).

    The problem is that I need the solution to be wireless. I live in rented accommodation and can't trail network cables all over the place. My router is right next to the phone line, in the living room, and the printers and all other peripherals are in the study. I need something that wirelessly connects to my router.

    So, essentially what I'm looking for is something that allows me to wirelessly use my printer and scanner on all my networked computers, and preferably something with inbuilt storage so that I can store my media library and any files I'm working on centrally.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? Are there any budget wireless servers out there that I can use to store files and network my peripherals? Preferably something small, quiet, well reviewed and easy to use. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. My research has not served me well so far...

    Is it really so much to ask that things just WORK as advertised?! *sigh*
     
  2. dangerfish macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    #2
    I'm not sure but you may be trying to make this more difficult than it needs to be. All you should really need is a wireless router and turn on sharing for any folders, disks or printers you want to share. A wireless router will allow you to network all your computers. Then just turn on whatever sharing preferences you wish. Do your printers and scanners have wireless built in? If not, you're going to need to connect them via ethernet to a router, to a PC via USB or to a wireless print server. Do you really need separate network storage? You can buy a router that will allow you to connect a usb network HD or you could buy a Time Capsule. But the best option would just be to use Drop Box and keep all the shared files you want access to in that location. Do you need a media server? You can use Plex (http://www.plexapp.com). You can really do everything you need to do with Apples routers (Airport Express, Airport Extreme or Time Capsule). They are a bit more expensive, but the "just work".
     
  3. jonwatson87 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2013
    #3
    Thanks, dangerfish!

    Sorry, I didn't fully explain. Not all the computers are on all the time. In fact, only the Mac is, and it's not in a place that I can connect everything to it. Nor is the router. It HAS to be where it is in the living room, and all the other equipment simply can't be. So I can't plug stuff into it directly or trail cables to other rooms.

    I'd to be able to print and scan without having to turn on a separate computer in order to use its shared device.

    Also, with shared folders and dropbox etc. you're still using space on the main HDD of the computer. I'd like to try and store my media collection and large project files externally to my Mac, but have access to them on other computers if I'm not using it. Otherwise I'm just going to end up slowing things down clogging up the system with a load of stuff on each and every device.

    I did think about Apple routers, but this wouldn't solve my printer problem, as it's in a different room, and has to be! There's no network connection socket in the study, and I can't cram the printers in next to the router in the living room...
     
  4. dangerfish macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    #4
    So if you leave your iMac turned on all the time, plug an external HD into it via USB or FW. You can use this for your file sharing. It will show up in the sidebar of Finder on your other Mac's. Not sure where it would show up on a PC but it can be shared.
    Your printers or scanners will have to have built in WiFi to connect to your network or you'll have to attach a wireless print server to each printer. The other option is to use an Airport Express to connect to your printers. It will allow you to connect a non wifi printer to your network and print from any computer.
    To summarize, if your peripherals don't have wifi built in, you would need an Airport Extreme, USB HD plugged into the iMac or to the Airport Extreme and an Airport Express for each of your printers.
     

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  5. jonwatson87 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2013
    #5
    Makes sense. An Airport Express would probably do the job, if it could run my external HDD as well as the printer. For convenience and Windows sharing I'd rather not have it connected directly to the Mac.

    However, I have a feeling they're only setup to be used with printers and won't work with non NAS HDDs.

    What I'm really after is a unit that can handle both, so I don't need anything plugged in locally.

    An Airport Express is an expensive solution just for the printer and no additional functionality.

    I'll carry on with looking. There must be a product somewhere out there that does what I need it to do... Horror to put on a Mac forum, but perhaps there is a non-apple solution that's compatible with all the computers on my network! :p

    Thanks for your help!
     
  6. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #6
    Seems you have a rather mixed bag of items to hang on your network.

    NAS should be wired to a router, external drives might be shared from your MAC or attached USB to a router, printers are notorious for falling off wifi and if you have a printer with a scanner, they often don't support the scanning function properly via wifi.

    I have tried multiple types of set ups for my friends (and myself) and found that often the very best compromise was a 2 router set up that was wirelessly bridged where one is the master and the other acts more as an extension of the first router's set up. The 2nd router would be connected via cable to the devices and that 2nd router would do the heavy lifting of wifi.
    The key to making it all work well was of course to have a good signal between the two routers, assign* either static IPs for the devices or use dhcp reservations. As an example your MAC may go wifi to the routers but your NAS, printer and an external hard drive would connect to the second router (the drive via USB).

    An alternative would be to play with powerline connections. These are units that use your wall electrical lines to act as communication between the devices. The catch of course is that not all homes are suited for powerlines and the best bet is to buy locally and test and return if its not a fit.

    My last place of living was a 2 story dwelling and I used two routers as mentioned above after trying various wifi options. Letting the routers talk to each other worked better often than just wifi from device to router. All items were cable connected to the routers.

    Of late, I have retired my Airpot Extreme(s) in favour of single router that has both cable connected and wifi turned on. The router I have doesn't rate at the top but it has 7 ethernet ports and the wifi does its job quite well. (Western Digital N900).

    I have multiple multi-media devices connected directly, a printer and NAS. My computer is wifi along with iPad and iPhone. All is working very well together. The powerline is not a good fit in my flat due to the wiring and fuses used in the building.
     
  7. jonwatson87 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2013
    #7
    After more research, and some conflicting reviews, I've checked out the apple website for more details on the Airport Extreme. Apparently it WILL support multiple USB devices via a hub! There's even a little graphic that says it will connect to a hard drive and a printer simultaneously!

    SOLD!

    Sorry for dismissing the idea earlier, but I'd read somewhere that the Airport express did not support external hard drives and made an assumption.

    I was tempted by a TimeCapsule, after reading that it was basically an Airport Extreme with an internal hard drive, but decided to save myself some money and use externals I've got here for the minute. That way I can plug and play as I replace my drives.

    The AirPort utility is obviously setup for Mac but is also available on Windows in exactly the same format. Hopefully I should be able to run it on both and finally have a centralised solution.
     
  8. dangerfish macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    #8
    Correct, Express does not support and external HD but Extreme does support both.
     

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