WD NetCenter Network Drive: Low price but low performance

Jim Buzbee found Western Digital's NetCenter NAS to be a good value if you don't mind slow performance and a limited feature set.
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  1. I'm posting this important information submitted by a reader:
    I discovered something very important which may affect people's purchasing decision on this unit! In the article, I was very interested in the aspect of the NetCenter's ability to expand it's storage through the use of add-on USB hard drives. I thought, "this would be a great NAS solution for immediate storage, then add-on more storage through the USB ports! I could add cheap USB hubs, and drives as needed, as far as USB can expand (127 devices)."

    I did a quick search on WD's support site to learn more about the NetCenter's limits and got a surprise in one of their FAQs. This is an exerpt from their webpage:

    "...IMPORTANT: The Western Digital NetCenter device has a set maximum capacity limitation of 500 GB. The total capacity of the NetCenter (built in) hard drive and any externally connected USB hard drives cannot exceed 500 GB. If the total capacity of the NetCenter (built in) hard drive and any externally connected USB hard drive surpass 500 GB, the NetCenter will not work correctly and may hang or crash. ..."

    So if someone buys the 500GB model in the review, they've hit the device's limit. Don't know if it's worthy to add into the article now... but since it's mentioned that you can add additional storage via USB and the drive reviewed is the 500GB, people might be mislead to think they can add on to the 500GB storage.
  2. This information about the WD NetCenter disk size limit of 500Gb was very valuable.

    It is absolutely disgusting that such a limit exists and you correctly point out that WD's advertising blurbs are misleading. Does anyone know why this limit is there? Is it a firmware issue?

    I rashly went out and bought the NetCenter 500Gb and an extra 500Gb Western Digital External HD to expand its capacity to 1Tb. After a day of fooling around trying to claim the external disk and create a volume, I found this post. The WD NetCenter DEFINITELY does hang when you try to create a volume when the total size of existing volumes is 500Gb. You have to pull the plug to restart it and make sure the external USB drive is unplugged when you reboot the NetCenter, or it just hangs again.

    HOWEVER, there is a work-around: Format the external USB drives as FAT32 (I am a linux user so this is real easy with fdisk and mkdosfs). Then plug the drive into the NetCenter. DO NOT try to claim the drive or make a new volume with it. The drive will automatically appear as a shared folder (in fairness to WD, this is written in the manual). Unfortunately, the shared folder is named FAT and you can't change it as far as I can tell. When you plug in a second USB drive, it's shared folder is FAT2. If the second USB drive is partitioned into two parts (as my seagate 320Gb drive is), the shared folders will come up as FAT2 and FAT3. This naming is AWFUL! It means I need to keep an ordered list of partitions.

    An advantage of using FAT32 format as described above, is that you can unplug the drive and plug it straight into your PC (or someone elses) if you want. I believe this is not possible if the drive is claimed by the NetCenter.

    I will say that the NetCenter is behaving quite well, despite this external USB problem. I can use it fine with Mac OS X, linux and windows and I now have 1.3Tb of external space I can access.

    One more tip for those on a network that uses a proxy server for www: switch your browser to 'direct connection to the internet' before you try to connect to the NetCenter. Probably obvious to everyone else, but stumped me for an hour.
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