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I have a basic 1Tb external drive plugged into the back of my 2012 MacMini. It works but is ugly.

I've been considering for a while getting either a NAS, or just plugging a USB drive into the back of my main router as a network disk - for central store of photos and digital media (music, video) across our household.

Could I just use that solution to replace the external disk on my Mac and use a network drive on the NAS as a remote volume, without impacting my user experience? I connect my Mac to the outer by ethernet (Powerline/Homeplug 200Mbps) so I wouldn't need to rely on wireless but even so - is this going to be too slow?

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It all depends on a couple of things, not the least of which what, exactly, you define as "too slow." And that is going to be answerable only by trying it out. One of the other things it depends on is how fast your network is.

Modern networking is at the gigabit level, but it is still common to see routers and switches, especially those provided by your ISP to be 100mb (or 1/10th the speed of gigabit). Needless to say I would recommend you have gigabit networking. And if you are relying on your ISP-provided router for your network, perhaps you will need an inexpensive gigabit switch to connect all your computers with one port left over to then plug into your ISP-provided router.

Another consideration is what, exactly, you keep on the external drive. If it is your user profile I would say no. If it is your documents folder, probably.

Again it depends on your personal usage patterns and how much data you are pushing across the wire and how fast you need it to be.

I have a NAS. I use it for backup (Time Machine & Dropbox) and as a centralized location for music, TV & movies (Plex) but don't use it as a location for keeping files I am currently working on (Dropbox is there just as another backup location). But people work with documents (Word, Excel, etc.) across a GB network all the time, so it is completely doable.

But it depends heavily on your use case. So find a place with a liberal return policy (Costco?) and give it a try.

  • I mean we've had network drives in business since the days of 10 base T but the files were smaller then :) Luckily I have a decent router with Gbit ethernet... I might need to upgrade my powerline to the same but this is probably due anyway. – Mr. Boy Feb 27 '18 at 10:34

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