How to use networked disk drives (alone or other PCs) as if they were real computer disks
In a corporate network, it is easy to find shared storage units among all the computers, which act as “warehouses” for all the files to be shared among the colleagues in the office.
These network drives are connected to the nearest router or switch, so they are always available. Increasingly, network or NAS disks are then added to home modems, which can be viewed by connected computers just like network drives and serve as warehouses for larger files, to be shared between PCs without the need to move them with a USB Pendrive.
In this guide, we will show you then all the steps to be carried out to be able to add network drives in Windows, both in business and in the home environment.
The steps described are fine for any version of Windows, although for the guide we will focus on the latest version of the Microsoft operating system (ie Windows 10).
READ ALSO -> How to create a home network with Windows (folders, printers, files, etc.)
Types of units connected to the network
Before adding a network drive to our computer, we need to understand what we can connect to the modem or router so that it is visible on the network. If our modem has USB ports, we can take advantage of the functionality of sharing external hard drives, very useful to use as a network drive.
In this way, the hard disk will be available to all devices connected to the modem/router, both in Wi-Fi and via LAN cable.
We can deepen the discussion by reading the following guide -> Connect a disk to the router to share files over the network.
In another scenario, we can instead share a folder or the entire disk of a PC on the network, so that the other connected devices can access these resources using the LAN network.
We talked about it in-depth in our guide -> How to share files and folders on a computer network on a Windows PC.
In large LAN networks, we can find a device dedicated to storing all the data to be shared: the NAS.
With the NAS we will have a mini-computer specialized in the management of two or more disks on the network, with which we will be able to organize the protocols to be used for access and also the network restrictions (so as to separate access to some folders of the NAS only to authorized users).
If we are interested in the NAS topic, we invite you to read our dedicated guide -> Buy a network NAS Storage: what is the use and how much does it cost.
READ ALSO: Cloud Drive as network drives in Windows (Onedrive, Google and others)
How to add network drives: first procedure
To add a network drive in Windows without knowing the IP address of the resource, simply open it File Explorer from the Start menu or the specific icon in the address bar, click This PC, click upon the Computer and finally click on the item Connect network drive.
A new window will open, in which we will have to choose a letter to assign to the network unit and insert the path of the resource; since we do not know its path, we click on the button Browse, we wait a few seconds and click on the network resource as soon as it is visible.
After selecting the resource, we click OK and choose whether or not to activate the options at the bottom, ie Reconnect at access (to remember the settings of the network unit) e Connect with different credentials (if the password to access the resource is different from the system password present in Windows). Once ready, click on Finish at the bottom of the window to make the changes take effect.
The network unit, completely similar to a hard disk, will be visible inside the section This PC and shared resources will be accessible based on our login credentials.
If during the addition of the network resource it was not visible with the key Browse, it is possible that this resource is shared on the network with an old sharing protocol (CIFS / SMB 1.0), basic not compatible with Windows 10. To add compatibility with old network resources, click on the Start menu at the bottom left, look for the word “functionality” and click on the icon Enable or disable Windows features.
Scroll through the list in the new window until you find the entries SMB 1.0 / CIFS File Sharing Support is SMB Direct, so we put the checkmark to activate both.
We click OK and then restart the computer for the changes to take effect.
At the next startup, the network resources will be accessible, so you can easily add them to the computer drives as shown earlier.
How to add network drives: second procedure
If we recovered the IP address of the network resource (maybe after checking inside the router configuration panel), we can add the network resource more quickly, without using the integrated search system (which may not even work).
Let’s get back in File Explorer from the Start menu, click This PC, then on the item Computer above and finally on the voice Connect network drive.
We choose a letter for the unit and, in the field Folder, we insert the IP address of the network resource we want to add, preceded by the characters ”
If the IP address is correct, the resource will be added automatically as soon as we click on the button end.
If instead, the IP address is incorrect, perhaps you can only access a specific folder of the resource: in this case, we recommend using the last procedure described below to access it correctly.
Add a network path
If we only have access to a network resource folder or the resource is available via the Internet, we can use another type of connection to add it to our system.
Let’s get back into the section This PC, inside File Explorer, right-click on an empty part of the window (in the area where the hard disks are present), then select the item Add network path.
In the window that opens, click twice on Come on, then insert the path of the shared folder on the network, in the form shown below.
“\ 192.168.1.5 shared_folder”
If the path is correct, we will only have to click Come on come on end to add the network resource to our computer.
If we have difficulty adding the exact path to the folder, we can always use the key Browse to show the network resources accessible from the computer.
READ ALSO -> Create a computer LAN network at home or in the office