8 Productive Uses of Your External Hard Drive or NAS (Other Than File Storage)


External hard drives and NAS drives are useful devices for storing your files. In fact, they’re so useful that it’s not uncommon for people to buy more than they actually need. This leads to a situation where everything you own is stored, and there is still plenty of space left.

If you’re wondering what else you can do with an external hard drive or NAS, the answer is plenty. Your options increase dramatically if you have a NAS, but even an external hard drive is capable of more than just storing files.

Do you have an external hard drive or NAS?

hard drive platters and head close-up

If you have an external hard drive, the first thing you should try is to convert it to NAS. NAS (Network Attached Storage) is simply a storage device attached to a network. This means that while you can purchase these devices independently, some routers allow you to create your own by connecting a standard external hard drive.

To convert an external hard drive to NAS, you need a router with both USB port and file server functionality. The presence of a USB port will be obvious, but you may need to check your router’s instructions to determine if it can act as a file server.

If both of these features are present, simply connect the USB cable, navigate to your router’s file server settings as instructed, and everything on your external hard drive is now accessible from your network.

8 Alternative Uses for External Hard Drives and NAS Drives

standing hard drive

Here are eight ways to make the most of your excess storage.

1. Automatic Backups

Computers aren’t always reliable, so it’s important to back up your files regularly. Most people make occasional backups, but many people don’t care about automatic backups. This is a mistake because if your computer crashes at the wrong time, anything backed up after the most recent backup is lost. If you have extra storage space, there’s no excuse for that. Whether you have an external hard drive or a NAS, setting up automatic backups isn’t difficult.



If you are serious about backing up your important files, you should also consider implementing RAID. RAID stands for Random Array of Inexpensive Disks. It has the potential to deliver faster read speeds. But its main benefit for most people is that it lets you keep your files in case the hard drive crashes. It achieves this by storing your data across multiple disks. This way, in the event of a crash, your data is still available. The only downside to RAID is that it requires at least two disks.

3. Scratch disk

A scratch disk is a drive that serves as data storage for programs. When you open a program, temporary files are often created. A scratch disk stores these files so they don’t fill up your computer’s hard drive and slow it down. A scratch disk is useful for any computer, but it’s primarily used by people who edit video or use other data-intensive applications. With a scratch disk installed, you can run any program and your computer’s hard drive will not be affected.

4. Host your own cloud storage

A NAS can be used to create your own personal cloud storage. If you already have a cloud storage account, there are always benefits to creating your own. Personal cloud storage is free and you are only limited by the size of your NAS. It can also provide identical functionality to paid cloud storage, allowing you to sync your devices and automatically access your files anywhere.

5. Configure a security system

Home security systems are growing in popularity thanks to products like Ring. If you own a NAS, you can also set up your own security system using nothing more than a webcam. You can also do this with cloud storage, but NAS is arguably more suitable. As well as providing large amounts of storage space with no monthly fees, it allows you to save your images offline, avoiding potential privacy issues.

6. Stream Media

Standard hard drives are useful for storing media, but a NAS can also be used to stream media and make it accessible from any device. You can store movies or music and then access them on a TV or speaker system. Applications such as Plex can also be installed on a NAS. This provides an interface similar to Netflix and makes it easier to access your files. The NAS is primarily used to stream media around a home, but it can also be used to stream those files to the web.

7. Host a virtual machine

If your NAS has enough RAM, you can use it to host a virtual machine. Virtual machines can be used for many purposes, including running dangerous applications in an isolated environment and trying out new operating systems. By hosting a virtual machine on a NAS, you can also set up a desktop accessible from any device both in your home and on the Internet.

8. Manage torrents

A NAS can be used to torrent files without using your computer. By downloading torrents directly to your NAS, you not only save space on your computer, but also allow you to torrent files when your computer is off. This lets you download torrent files around the clock. It also lets you configure your torrents to only download when you don’t need the bandwidth for other purposes.

Storage Devices Have Many Uses

A hard disc

External hard drives and NAS drives are mainly used for storage. They are ideal if your computer has limited space and as a backup in case your computer’s hard drive crashes. This, however, is just one of their many uses.

If you want to get the most out of these devices, it is worth using them for additional purposes. External hard drives are ideal for RAID and scratch drives. Whereas a NAS drive can change the way you stream media and provide access to your files from anywhere.

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