Buffalo LinkStation

Recently I bought a network-attached hard drive to store my movies, music, and TV shows on and share throughout my home network. Normally, a simple shared folder on a low-energy computer would do, but I was curious to see how well a dedicated, non-computer solution would work. Ideally, the device should be available at a moment’s notice, be able to store large files, and provide fast and reliable transfers.

After looking at dozens of expensive solutions, I found an affordable home or office use networked hard drive made by Buffalo (makers of one of the only AirPort range-extension compatible WiFi base stations). I ordered the 250 GB version to try it out, although capacities of up to 400 GB are available. Much to my delight, the Buffalo LinkStation fit my needs well, offering Gigabit Ethernet, backup options, and (arguably most important) an affordable price tag.

Having created a shared folder for movies, music, TV, and general storage, I configured Xbox Media Center to default to my Movies share where XviD versions of all my DVDs are stored. I also added the TV and Music shares to XBMC’s configuration file so all my media is accessible in from one place.

iTunes can also play music off the LinkStation after being told to not copy files into its own folder. Mac OS X is smart enough to remember network shares even after they’re disconnected, so double-clicking a song in iTunes automatically connects to the share and plays just as you’d expect.

Storing all your important files in one place makes for a great media hub, but also allows for everything to disappear should the built-in hard drive fail. Luckily, Buffalo allows two forms of automatic backup. Two LinkStations can be mirrored across the network to provide redundancy, or a USB 2.0 port is also available for external hard drive backup.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with my purchase and would recommend it to anyone looking for fast, spacious, and always-available storage.

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Buffalo LinkStation

18 thoughts on “Buffalo LinkStation

  1. Very cool!

    2 questions…

    1. What is model number of their AirPort range-extension compatible WiFi base station

    2. Do they make a version of this that can do HDTV?

    -arkowi

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  2. The Buffalo WBR2-G54 router is compatible with AirPort’s WDS range extension, and a nice tutorial on setting it up can be found here.

    I don’t know if they make a model that will stream HDTV, but I have no problem streaming XviD encoded HDTV, although that’s a far cry from uncompressed HD video. The LinkStation does have Gigabit Ethernet, so with the right networking hardware, you can pull data even faster than I currently can.

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  3. Great ! But when you say :
    “iTunes can also play music off the LinkStation after being told to not copy files into its own folder”
    I don’t know this was possible. How do you do to get that available ? I mean, how can we configure iTunes not to copy songs before to play them ?

    Thx in advance and a big thanks for all your interesting stuff

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  4. In iTunes’ preferences > “Advanced” pane > “General” tab, uncheck “Copy files to iTunes Musicfolder when adding to library.” Doing so will save you a lot of time if you don’t want iTunes to help manage your files.

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  5. Very interesting indeed… I’ve been considering this.

    Colin – Go to advanced prefs in iTunes and you can change where you want to save music. You can then do the pull down and select consolidate from the advanced menu and iTunes will move (actually copy) all your music to the new drive.

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  6. Pascal says:

    Did you run into problems with the file systems? I thought that the Buffalo LinkStations don’t support the same filename conventions as MacOSX. I would imagine this could lead to many issues, particularily when MP3s use special characters in their filenames. Did you run into any issues there?

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  7. The LinkStation does have a few limitations, such as not liking folders with names ending in a dot, or MP3s with a question mark in the title. Thankfully, Media Rage helped clean the filenames of all my MP3s with the click of a button. Other than that, it’s been smooth sailing. For other important information, I made an encrypted sparse-image with Disk Utility, and it’s stored on the LinkStation and mounted over the network when needed.

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  8. I don’t know. I bought a LinkStation 160, and I’m not sure about it yet, though it has a lot of potential. For example, I am able to connect via a quite old AFP that only supports OS 9 filename conventions, or through SMB (dog slow) or I can take the plunge and build a new AFP server for it (it’s just a dedicated Linux box, after all), but that would hardly be a supported configuration.

    I am trying to use it as my mp3 server, but the reality is, that the file listings are so slow that iTunes often cannot find the tracks, and then I have to go through quite a bit of hassle pointing iTunes at the files on the LinkStation, even though that’s where the library says they are.

    So my experience has been somewhat mixed, so far, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Certainly not for anyone with decent performance or Mac support expectations.

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  9. StickyC says:

    Being a hacker-type, you might want to also look into the Kuro-Box. It’s basically a LinkStation without the drive, you can throw in whatever you want. There’s docs for installing your own distro (that also cover doing the same for the LinkStations). A juiced up one with a 266mhz ARM processor and 128mb of RAM runs $149.
    I’ve built a few of them myself and they rock – small enough that you can tuck ’em behind a DVD player in the media cabinet. Plus, you can add external USB storage.

    I’m not seeing any performance issues on a PC over SMB. My setup is an Inspiron Laptop (Pentium M/1.8ghz) with a 7200rpm internal drive accessing a 43000 song iTunes library that’s actually stored on a large external USB drive connected to the KuroBox. It does tend to lock up for 2-5 seconds when first mounting the library (like when plugging in an iPod, or starting to add tracks), but after that, it’s fine.

    I would think OS-X would have no trouble talking SMB at a decent speed, where’s the lag come from?

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  10. Wow, the KuroBox looks like a great choice! I’m amazed it’s offered by the Buffalo folks (see the footer of the linked page). I think I may have to get one and mess around with it. Thanks for the info!

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  11. Greg says:

    What model linkstation are you referring to? can they all be used for streaming media to XMBC or will I need the Home Server model? Thanks for the info.

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  12. nav says:

    The Linkstation is OK with PCs but don’t even think about using it to store MP3s of video with MACs. They are super slow. So slow that it takes about 30seconds to a minute to rename a song in iTunes. I contacted Buffalo and they tweaked some preferences that made things run a bit faster but the bottom line was, this is what the Linkstation is, a slow piece of junk.

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  13. Rene Oehlerking says:

    Here’s what I’d like to do. I have about 100GB of Music and Movies in iTunes. I have three Powerbooks at home (each of my kids have one). I want to setup a wireless network by getting a 500GB Lacie Ethernet Hard Drive and attaching it to my Airport Express. Then I’d like all three Powerbooks and my MacBook Pro to access the iTunes volume over the wireless network. I want the kids to be able to select movies to play in iTunes and have them play over the network. Can I do this? And How?

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  14. Brian says:

    If you have a network storage device like the Buffalo LinkStation and have a large collection of DVDs and TV shows in the XViD format, will they play on a XBOX 360? I heard that a XBOX 360 will play Windows Media Video but I haven’t read anywhere that it supports XViD or DiVX. Can anyone confirm this before I buy?

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  15. I use the 250 HGLAN Buffalo external hard drive and it’s ridiculously slow compared to all my other drives. Gigabit my a**. I’m running jumbo frames and still everything is super slow working off of that drive. I just use it as archival storage now for old photo shoots of mine.

    Does anyone know of any tweaks I can perform in the admin or in windows to solve this issue? I have an 8 port netgear GS108 gigabit switch at the core of my networked drives and towers.

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  16. very nice! isn’t it so convenient to disconnect that drive out onto the network? anyway, i think it is great to have a central repository that you can access quickly and efficiently. and great heads up on the redundancy note. most users tend to forget that until the drive goes south.

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