Review: Create a local file server with Kanex's meDrive
Kanex's meDrive is supposed to make it easy to set up a file server on your home network. It’s a small device that you plug into your network router after you’ve attached your own USB storage device. But a few little quirks made using meDrive more trouble than it should’ve been.
Before you set up meDrive, you have to provide your own USB storage device. You can use something as small as a USB thumb drive, but you’ll probably want to use a more substantial device, like a hard drive. I used a portable hard drive for most of this review, though I did successfully use a 1GB thumb drive.
Kanex says that meDrive supports “all the popular formats such as FAT32, MSDOS& [sic] NTFS” and when I used FAT32- and NTFS-formatted drives, I had no problem accessing the connected drive. When I used an ExFat or Mac formatted drive, however, I always got a login failure after entering my user name and password.
You might have to provide a power adapter for meDrive, which requires 300 milliamps of power. If your router has a USB port, Kanex says you can use it to power meDrive using the included mini USB cable. But if your router doesn’t have a USB port (like mine), or you want to connect meDrive to an Airport Express (which doesn’t provide enough power), then you’ll have to dish out some extra cash and get a power adapter. You can use an iPad or iPhone power adapter, or any power plug that lets you connect a USB cable. You also might have to buy a USB extension cable if the bundled USB cable isn’t long enough.
Once everything is plugged in to its proper ports, meDrive makes your storage device immediately available on a local area network. After you acknowledge that the drive is available, you should probably go to meDrive’s Web configuration page (http://medrive.local:8080) and make some tweaks. You should change the default user name and password to something more secure. You can also update the firmware; the instructions are available on Kanex’s forum.
You can change the name of the device on the Web configuration page, which was a critical task for me to perform for this review. Due to a trademark issue, Kanex had to change the product’s name from myDrive to meDrive. In my review unit, the name wasn’t changed in the product’s firmware, and I couldn’t connect to the device because I kept entering the wrong server name. (Kanex informed me of the name change, but it slipped my mind.) Chances are, however, Kanex fixed this issue with lots made later in the production cycle.
To access the meDrive from a Mac, you connect to it as you would a server. While in the Finder, you can press Command-K or select Go -> Connect to Server, and then enter
smb://meDrive.local. meDrive then appears on the desktop like any other file server, and you can drag files to and from the meDrive.
iOS devices can access meDrive through the free meDrive app. The app is straightforward and easy to use for transferring file back and forth between your iOS device and meDrive. My quibble with the app is a minor one: When you transfer a video or photo from your iOS device to meDrive, you tap either the Import Photos or Import Videos buttons, and those labels seem incorrect to me. I’m transferring, or exporting from an iOS device to meDrive, so when I saw the Import buttons, I thought they were to transfer files from meDrive to the iOS device, but you’re actually importing to meDrive.
meDrive is a way to put an unused USB hard drive to good use, but if you need to buy a power adapter and a USB extension cable, that adds about $25 to the $99 you have to spend. Hopefully, Kanex fixed the problem with the device name; it’s an issue that was probably isolated to early lots of meDrive. If you don’t have a storage device sitting around but you want a way to quickly have accessible network storage by your Mac or iOS device, consider a drive with built-in Wi-Fi, such as Seagate’s $200 1TB Wireless Plus.