Is the NSLU2 the best Network Attached Storage solution?

Discussion in 'Cisco/Linksys Network Storage Devices' started by stanward, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member


    Coming from a home networking point of view, is the NSLU2 the best NAS solution?

    I currently have a ConnectStor I which is a total piece of crap. I see how the NSLU2 can take any USB Hard Drive and turn it into an NAS.

    Is this difficult to set up like the WRE54G Wireless Range Expander? Or is it a lot easier to set up?

  2. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    If you have a few pcs, yes. Just read the disclaimers and warnings throughout this forum...

    It's not difficult to setup. If you need any help beyond the manual, let me know.

    I used this setup...

    1) Make sure your External HD is unpartitioned. (Brand new?)
    2) Plugin the NSLU2 to your router.
    3) Plugin the External HD to your NSLU2.
    4) Plugin in power cords, HD first.
    5) Press the power button on the NSLU2
    6) The NSLU2 defaults to the following IP address:
    7) The default admin password is admin...
    8) Type in the address of the NSLU2 (given above) in your web-browser address bar.
    9) Click the administration tab.
    10) Type in the user: admin, pass: admin.
    11) Have fun! Use the Linksys manual to guide you through the configuration pages...
    12) I would start with the "disk" tab, because it contains the ability to format the external HD you plugged in. (This is a necessary step in the operation of the NSLU2)
  3. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    Why do Linksys pick these weird numbers for default IP addresses? My WRE54G Expander has a default IP of .240 and now this NSLU2 has an IP of .77?

  4. d__l

    d__l Network Guru Member

    They pick weird IP addesses so there is less of a chance of conflict when the devices first boot up with the out-of-the-box settings.

    The NSLU2 can probably take most USB Hard Drives and turn them into a NAS. There may be some chipsets in some drive cases that the NSLU2 has problems with. It is these that may cause the problem complaints that you read about for the NSLU2. Linksys has addressed these compatibility problems in an earlier firmware revision, but I doubt that that they have solved all the compatibility problems.
  5. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    Is there a list of approved USB drives that are compatible with the NSLU2?

  6. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    I would get into a live chat online with Linksys and ask them. They should have a list of HD enclosure chipsets they tested on. They may not though. Trial and error. I bought my NSLU2 and my external drive on the same day. Interestingly, after popping the case on my Western Digital Enclosure, I found that the USB controller is the same as the one inside the NSLU2. Yes, I find it quite interesting to be using the same controller on either end of the USB cord.

    I think the compatibility issues lie in what chip the external hd uses for a USB controller. Of course I paid a premium for a WD HD Enclosure.
  7. d__l

    d__l Network Guru Member

    There is a list of tested drive enclosures and drive combinations on the Yahoo group for the NSLU2, but you must join the Yahoo group:

    As a rule of thumb, you can probably guess that cheaper, off brand enclosures are less likely to have compatable USB chipsets. When I bought my NSLU2, I also bought a drive enclosure, the Kingwin ES-2000 Shuttle that someone else reported worked fine with their unit. That enclosure isn't cheap and isn't readily available anymore because it seems to have been discontinued.
  8. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    To answer your question, and for the small lan use you intend it for... YES.
  9. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    Wow! I never thought there would be so much fuss with USB compatibility. I guess I have to look into a Western Digital Enclosure. I believe Costco or Sam's Club carries that brand, and they have a very easy return policy.

    Thank you for the insight,

  10. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    Trust me, I wish there wasn't so much fuss about usb enclosured but there's so much crap on the market its hard to distinguish for the consumer... It also make customer support very hard on the side of Linksys.
  11. fredbotton

    fredbotton Guest

    Actually, that hardware has got much more interesting, as least for me, since early july: it now supports NTFS, rather than those damn ext3 drives. This means there's no need to format if you're a WinXP user, just configure the IP settings, and bob's your uncle! :)
    There one thing to know about the latest firmware: it says NTFS goes on port 2. That's actually on port 1 :cool:)
  12. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    Port 1 and Port 2 being swapped in their instructions?

    I bought a USB enclosure off of ebay, chances are it won't work with the NSLU2.

  13. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    Fredbottom, you said the hardware has got much more interesting, and you say that it supports NTFS and not the ext3 drives, and that there's no need to format.

    Are you able to use the scandisk feature on that NTFS drive?
    How about create users and groups and assign access rights w/ specific shares? Logging?

    I am aware that the NTFS format allows you to swap between the NSLU2 and a Windows 2000/XP machine... I mean, that's what I was rooting for when I installed the latest firmware.

    Known experience with the current firmware:
    Formatting a drive with NTFS and plugging it into your drive will remove all logging/scandisk/backup functionality for that drive. Furthermore, it will also disable the user/group/share managements features. (which is the only in-network security you get)

    With my own experience:
    Throughput between a Windows XP machine and the NSLU2 drops to HALF of what you would get on the Linksys formatted ext3 drive.

    Added note:
    It has been reported that the ext3 format Linksys is using happens to be inaccessable to some Linux users... < People that use those damn ext3 drives all the time.

    stanward, read the sticky post on this forum...
  14. d__l

    d__l Network Guru Member

    If you have an ext3 AND an NTFS drive hooked to the NSLU2, the user/group/share management and the logging/backup functionality should be accessible (it does on mine with ext3 and FAT32 hooked up, I don't have an NFTS drive to test with), so I presume those functions would work for both drives. Obviously the scandisk won't work on the NTFS drive.

    Of course this seems cumbersome to implement with two HDs, but if a flash drive could be formatted as an ext3 drive, then that might serve as a "key" to unlock the added functionality for the NTFS HD. Well anyway, this is an idea that I've had.
  15. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    What the heck is "ext3?"

    I don't know what that is.

    I read the sticky, nothing related to el cheapo USB drives.

  16. BiffoTheBear

    BiffoTheBear Network Guru Member

    Oh dear, I wish that I had joined this forum before I bought the NSLU, d'oh newbie.

    I had two WD USB 2.0 250gb drives which I formatted to NTFS with the intention of using one solely as a backup for the other. Then I stumbled across the NSLU and thought that this would be even more useful as I could make the backup automatic and have the 250gb available to other PCs on the network.

    After plugging in the two drives the second port shows as not formatted, so it appears that NTFS is not supported on port 2.

    I want a solution that allows me to get at my data in the event of one of the disks or the NSLU failing.

    Should I:

    a) Format both drives to Ext3 and find an Ext3 driver for XP?

    b) Leave both drives as NTFS, one plugged in to port 1 on the NSLU and plug the second drive in to a PC and backup to that?

    c) Ditch the NSLU?

    or is there a better solution?
  17. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    Biffo, I'd look at D__L's thoughts above... He has a good idea. I haven't tried the combination of an EXT3 formatted disk and a fat32/ntfs.

    It sounds possible, if only I had a flash drive laying around.

    When I made the comment about the sticky, I was referring to the new firmware function... NTFS/FAT32/EXT3 is supported on USB 1, but no NTFS on USB 2. (which, doesn't make much sense.... Perhaps they could only code the firmware to use NTFS on one device...)
  18. d__l

    d__l Network Guru Member

    Biffo, the most reliable, dependable solution using the two drives, one to back up the other with the NSLU2 would be (a) to format both to ext3, use the built in drive back up to USB Port 2 (I mean that has been part of the NSLU2 firmware since it was first introduced), and use an ext3 driver for XP in case of a major emergency.

    Using the formats other than ext3 on the NSLU2 HDs is new with R63 and unproven. Plus you lose most of the other functionality. Mixing file formats is something I wouldn't do if I had critical data to preserve.

    Before you depend on the NSLU2, you might test its back up and restore functionality with large test files. See if it handles them properly. Stress test it some.

    Johnny, the ext3 flash drive idea has a big IF. It might work IF the flash drive can be formated to ext3. The NSLU2 with factory firmware treats any drive smaller than 10 GB as a flash drive and won't format it. Some of the open firmwares offer ways to format flash drives, but I'm not interested in fooling with them. I've wondered if it might be possible to do a byte by byte transfer/copy along with a partition shrink of a new ext3 formatted HD to a flash drive with a partitioning software such as Partition Manager?
  19. BiffoTheBear

    BiffoTheBear Network Guru Member

    Very clear response dl, thanks.

    Is it reasonable to expect that the NSLU2 will ever provide reliable support for NTFS and on both ports I wonder?

    Until then, plan a) it is, any recommendations for ext3 driver for XP?
  20. amitroy5

    amitroy5 Network Guru Member

    I'm not sure if this is a good product because you have to use a special format. Also, only one of the ports you can put as much space as you want. For the other one, it can only be a USB stick. Because this device uses a unique format, it is not a good idea for this storage to be temporary, but permanent.
  21. d__l

    d__l Network Guru Member

    There is this driver:

    Who knows about the NTFS support? Linksys has added and then removed Media functions in successive firmware versions. If there are problems with NTFS, Linksys could well yank support for that format too. Let's hope not.

    With R63, Linksys has tried some interesting things such as the undocumented ability to use multiple drives through a hub on port 1. Hopefully, Linksys will work on these features.
  22. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    What is EXT3?

    What is "ext3?"

  23. frusti

    frusti Network Guru Member

    The NSLU2 is a little Linux Box and ext3 is one of the standard file formats for linux. I tested all the combinations of file formats and partitions and I had 3 disks with each 3 partitions (FAT32 and NTFS) on an usb hub on port one. It worked well. If you want to use all of the features of the NSLU2 like Users, Shares and so on you have to use the standard file format ext3.

    It is not possible to mix ext3 and fat32/ntfs on one port and it is not possible to use ext3 with an usb hub.

    I use my NSLU2 with one hard disk formatted by the NSLU2 with ext3 on port 2 and an usb hub on port one to attach all my other portable hard disks formatted with fat32 or ntfs.

    I looked around a lot in the last week to find a better solution than the NSLU2. The only aspect I do not like is the performance writing files to the NSLU2.

    I could not find any solution, especially for the price of the NSLU2, which is better. There is only one interesting solution from netgear, the SC101 a little box into which you can put 2 ide hard disks and attach to your network. But as I found out reading the netgear forum this box has also performance and a lot of other problems and there is one big problem for me – you need a special software for the clients to use the SC101 and only windows xp and 2000 are supported.

    So for me the NSLU2 is until now the best and cheapest solution for network attached storage.
  24. stanward

    stanward Network Guru Member

    I have my USB Drive plugged into my laptop and formatting it with NTFS. I don't have the NSLU2 yet, but hope I can just plug in this USB drive into the NSLU2 and not have any problems.

    I plan on leaving the USB drive plugged into my NSLU2, do you recommend me to format it with ext3 or leave it NTFS or format it FAT32?

    I don't have a lot of files, so 80GB to me is HUGE.

  25. frusti

    frusti Network Guru Member

    If you do not have any data on it I would format it with ext3. There is a driver - as posted by d__l above - to read this file system under windows if there is any problem with the NSLU2. You do have much more possibilities with your NSLU2 if you use ext3.
  26. JohnnyJigglez

    JohnnyJigglez Network Guru Member

    D__l, does the driver above allow you to take the ext3 drives formatted by the NSLU2 and plug them into your pc (via usb)? Or do you have to plug them in via internal cables? Because I haven't been able to get the ext3 formatted drives to be recognized on the pc when connected via usb... Sadly.

    Fristi and I see eye to eye on this product. There are a lot of if's and there are many consumers who will read this stuff about flakey NTFS/FAT32 support and turn to another NAS solution. On the other hand, there are many of us that desire a cheap, expandable, and more permanent storage solution... With server-like qualities. This is where the NSLU2 really shines.

    BTW how is your bandwidth performance using the setup you have?

    Like I said, based on your preferences, you can either give the NSLU2 the thumbs up or the thumbs down... It's really about what you are looking for in a NAS solution.
    Many people I know are now taking their old (sub 1 Ghz) pcs and turning them into servers. Old Compaqs, HPs, or just about any major OEM pcs are great for this. Unforunately, I have nothing of that era that would do... So I got the NSLU2 and I've been pretty satisfied (not JUMPING FOR JOY here, just satisfied. The price is good for my value.)
  27. BiffoTheBear

    BiffoTheBear Network Guru Member

    Installed the ext3 driver on XP.
    Formatted both drives using the NSLU2.
    Copied about 4gb of media files to port 1, about 4mb/sec.
    Initiated the NSLU2 drive backup which took about 20 minutes.
    Shut down NSLU2.
    Plugged the drives in to USB 2 ports on the XP PC.
    Used control panel IFS utility to map the drives.
    The drive from port 1 has two directories 'lost+found' and 'public', 'public' contains the media files that I copied from the C drive.
    When I try to access the drive from port 2, Windows reports that the drive is not formatted.
    This is not looking very promising.
  28. BiffoTheBear

    BiffoTheBear Network Guru Member

    I thought that I would put the drives back on the NSLU2.
    Selected safely remove hardware and stopped the first drive OK.
    When I did the same for the second drive XP crashed, so it looks like the ext3 driver is a bit wobbly too.
  29. BiffoTheBear

    BiffoTheBear Network Guru Member

    With both drives back on the NSLU2 and drive backup option now unchecked I can see in Windows that the data from the drive on port 1 was copied to the drive on port 2.

    So I suppose I have what I set out to achieve.

    If the NSLU2 fails I can plug the drive from port 1 into a PC USB 2 port and access my data.

    If the drive on port 1 fails I can uncheck the drive backup option and access the data from the most recent backup through the NSLU2.

    If the drive on port 2 fails I can continue to access data on port 1 through the NSLU2.

    If I can be bothered I will try to find out why the 'backup' drive was not accessible using XP and the ext2 driver.
  30. BiffoTheBear

    BiffoTheBear Network Guru Member

    I submitted a copy of my original post to Linksys support and have now received back a response from Julius stating that NSLU2 firmware 2.3r63 supports NTFS on port 2. In my opinion, this is simply not true so that is what I have responded to them. I wonder what they will say next.
  31. ajnodine

    ajnodine Network Guru Member

    it's the best for my setup!!
    2 to 5 pc's wanting computer running in a closet or mine on all the time

    I found that the more you f_ck with it the more problems I read people have!! If your looking to have a file server on all the time it's the easier way to go.

    Firmware used>>>r.63

    my external box>>>>>COOLMAX

    My Hard drives>>>>> 1 hitachi 200 gig and 1 western 200gig>>16% free

    set to backup 1 time a week>>>> it takes a few hours overnite

    web access>>>>>>>sylvia
  32. d__l

    d__l Network Guru Member

    Johnny, I've not tested that driver. I only passed the info along. It looks as through Biffo is the expert now on testing with that driver and failure/recovery permutations on the NSLU2. :^)

    Biffo, most of the Linksys support simply reads what is in their knowledgebase. Their knowledgebase says that NTFS is supported on port 2: so they say it is. Better tech support is to be found here and at

    The reason I like the NSLU2 is that it has low power requirements if you can live with its server speeds. Leaving an old computer on 24/7 as a file server would use 60-100 watts. At the current (and ever increasing) price of electricity here, that would cost about $0.15-0.30 per day. Maybe not a lot of cost, but in one year's time my NSLU2 has paid for itself in electricity saved.
  33. Qooop

    Qooop Network Guru Member

    The NSLU2 appears to be the best option for people who already have several hard drives connected USB to their computers. I have bought 5 NSLU2s so I could off load the 9 external drives from my PC. If I hadn't had the drives with the enclosures already it would have made more sense to go with one of the ReadyNAS or other systems, probably.

    Also, the NSLU2 has a lower start up cost than the more expensive solutions. It does get expensive to expand.
  34. PedrosPad

    PedrosPad Network Guru Member

    Depends on your access requirements of course (speed wise), but reading closely above, it appears you could use just one or two NSLU2 units, and a USB hub off port 1 to connect all those external drives. And I bet you've already got a USB hub to hand from when they were attached to your PC. :)

    That helps with those expansion costs eh? :thumb:
  35. t4thfavor

    t4thfavor Network Guru Member

    sounds like a pain in the a** i would run a dedicated backup server for anything like that it would probably be cheaper and easier also.

    you can get a 40 dollar pc that can handle those tasks at your friendly neighborhood garage sale. it shouldnt be that complicated and probably isn't everyone here sounds like they have enough brain cells to set up something that can collect dust in the corner without even connecting a mouse keyboard or monitor.

    even with linux it would work and you wouldnt even have to spring for the os.

    and you could get full GUI interface with xwindows
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