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Buffalo LinkStation Mini: Almost Perfect

The fast-increasing number of storage drives on my desk jump-started a quest for a networked storage device that could: replace three drives (in other words, have 1 terabyte of disk storage), be quiet, be fast for easy backups and recovery, act as a repository for my iTunes library and, of course, be setup easily. Oh, and it had to work out of the box with both Mac and Windows machines.

There are many drives that would fit the bill. Apple’s Time Capsule or Drobo, using the excellent Drobo Share attachment, seemed to be good candidates, but I ruled them out quickly: Drobo is excellent for backing up information, but its not as nimble when it comes to acting as a digital media server. Time Capsule is temperamental and a resource hog — sort of like an Alfa Romeo.

My pick is LinkStation Mini: it is fanless, quiet, tiny, and comes in two flavors: 500 GB and 1 Terabyte. It uses 2.5-inch hard drives, measures only 1.57 x 3.22 x 5.31 inches and weighs 1.1 pounds. It has two ports: an Ethernet port to connect to your network and a USB port to attach an additional drive (which I did, adding another G-Technology Mini drive.) It is relatively inexpensive: $500 a pop, give or take. The 500 GB version is less than half that price.

Setting it up was relatively easy: The accompanying CD has a software called NASnavigator that allows you to discover the drive and set it up. The setup on Mac proved to be much easier than for a PC. I have not used the software since the install: the drive automatically shows up in my Mac’s Finder and ThinkPad’s Network Drives. It also comes with Memeo software to backup your computers, but frankly it isn’t worth the trouble — it slowed down the computer drastically. I much prefer Apple’s Backup software.

The drive also allows you to access files remotely using a special web site, but I haven’t really bothered, because frankly all I wanted to do was backup my computer and playback music. I should try it out though. On Monday, the company will also announce that its LinkStation Mini’s Web Access is now available even using iPhone’s browser and allows you to remote access to any content stored on the drive. You can stream music and call up photos and files.

The drive has a built-in media server that allows you to stream any digital content — music, videos or photos — to any other DLNA player or a PC. It showed up on my iTunes as a “shared music” folder. On a ThinkPad X300 running Windows XP, the drive showed up automatically (thanks to the wonders of UPnP) and asked me if I wanted to stream music using Windows Media Player.

Bottom line: I’ve used it for nearly two weeks and not encountered any problems. I have to say, this just works. If you are in the market for a network drive, you might want to seriously consider this one.

Open question: Why network attached storage device do you like and why?

31 Responses to “Buffalo LinkStation Mini: Almost Perfect”

  1. I recommend QNAP NAS as well. The major applications I used on the NAS is to run the eMule and BitTorrent download on the NAS. The remote control utility is also useful, with Mac and Windows version that both my clients can connect to the NASes to manage the download tasks.
    For home, the 4-bay TS-409 Pro or the 2-bay TS-209 Pro II are definitely ideal choice, but small office the TS-509 Pro is the killer and the top performer…

  2. QNap makes some of the best NAS devices. I have a TS209, it pretty much does and runs everything: Slimserver, TwonkyMedia, Samba file sharing, web server, mysql server, bittorrent and emule downloader, you name it. I serve movies to my XBox 360 with it and music to my Squeezebox.

  3. My LinkStation Live is a little over a year old now and it’s been great since it also works as a print server. With an Ethernet connection to the router, it’s been reliable, even for two (sometimes three) wireless clients.

    Negatives: A bit noisy (locating it appropriately helps). At 250GB, it’s smallish but hey, it’s a year old. Buffalo says you can daisychain the things, so maybe someday I’ll expand (by then, I can connect my 250GB to, say, a 2TB unit).

  4. @Tom Sella – you dismiss Raid 1 too quickly. One feature it has is that a single drive probably has an easily readable copy of your data. A problem with the higher raid levels is that the data is scattered across several drives, meaning your raid adapter has to be working to get that data back.

    Sure, it hurts a little bit to “waste” one drive for every drive of storage, but large drives are so cheap now, why worry?

  5. The Linkstation seems nice in every aspect but one, that is its got a fixed capacity.

    I need 2+ Tb now, and I expect this to grow into the 10Tb range in the next 5 years. So investing in an expandable system makes sense.

    Drobo seems solid, but the proprietary technology of BeyondRaid scares me, I don’t want to be locked in. I also don’t want to invest extra for a Drobo share.

    I’m currently considering a Synology CS407e which seems to be a good hybrid model.

    Anyone have any experience with this one ?

  6. What are the advantages of a NAS like this over a USB 2.0 drive plugged into an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station?

    Also, I’d like to share my iTunes between two computer but have it serve as the primary library for my MacBook which I sync with my iPods and iPhone, is this possible with the Linkstation Mini?


  7. James Joaquin

    A great NAS device to consider is the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo. Quiet, low power, small metal case, two drive bay RAID, and built in server software for iTunes and Slimserver. 500GB for under $400. I’m running it and loving it.

  8. Good comments.. opened up some ideas. At the moment my backup is a Western Digital MyBook 500Gb.. it was only £60 on Amazon. Earlier, I started hearing some clicking noises from the drive and thought, “OH NO!!”

    I only ever use my laptop. My desktop is just a power draw that sounds like a rocket is about to take off. I am now going to have to go and get myself something small, fanless and uses less power. It needs to have 2 or 3 HDDs, with two of them just being back ups. If one drive fails.. so what.

    Thanks for all the ideas.

  9. I’ve been looking for something in the 4TB range to host iTunes on with my DVD collection ripped to it. My concerns are around redundancy and scaling.
    I’m beginning to think it would be better to build out a system and put Solaris and ZFS on it with a lot of TB drives.

    Right now I have a Guardian Maxiums with raid 1 750GB drives on it for ripping my content onto and then copying them into iTunes. This means I’m maintaining two copies of my content in case the internal disk on my MacPro dies and takes iTunes with it.

    Somehow it just feels like Drobo is not giving a good value for the money compared with setting up a tower that I can build out and use ZFS on.

  10. @Om btw, re drobo being “not so nimble” in post, afaik the drobo guys resolved throughput issues with v2. i think it will cover both ease of access and quick access plus adding reliability, which imo is just as (if not more) important.

    @Scott that’s pretty much what is – a computer + storage. suggest you take a look.

    @RBK the post was partly technical, and deserved a technical pov imo. additionally, i think consumers should be (or become) smarter. if you buy a das or small nas preformatted to use raid 0, as most of them are (just because of this “i don’t want to know” attitude and the vendor not wanting to explain why it has 2 drives, but you only get half the storage), and you end up losing all your data, i’m sure you’ll be a tad more interested in what you buy next time.

  11. @Chris,

    No such issue with Linkstation Mini. I am not sure how it changes going forward, but for now it is all good.

    @David, I would urge you to take a look at Buffalo’s offerings. My experience with them has been better than most.

  12. I went with a Dlink DNS-323( a few months ago.
    Much like the Drobo you place whatever size drives(2 of em) you want in it and it lets you set up a simple mirrored array of drives so you have fault tolerance with in the device itself. There is a built in gig-ethernet port, which the Drobo doesn’t do without the added network device.
    It also has a USB port for putting a printer on your network, comes with that Memeo software, and does UPnP for media sharing. Has one small fan it, that I can hardly notice. Some people have replaced the firmware on it with an open source one and put some other apps and utilities on there, but out of the box it is pretty good.

    Way cheaper than Drobo, but still with a lot of flexibility and the goodness of mirrored data.

    [email protected]

  13. @Tom Sella and some others- Om makes a valid point.

    What is RAID? What is Mount? What is CIFS? who cares about JBOD? all tech terminologies that mean nothing to end user in consumer/SMB market.

    Just gimme an easy to use and reliable network storage that can make it easy for me to store/retreive and manage data of all kinds using a simple Wizard.

  14. I use an old little server with SW raid. So even if the hole machine gives up, power, motherboard, one drive, I just pop the remaining drives into another machine and recover. And for really bad luck I backup really important stuff to another machine and DVDs at night.
    The machine also runs an adoptable firewall, maintains firewall via RDBMS automatically.
    RDBMS also provides CALDAV.
    LDAP, SIMAP, DNS in house and cache, drives for the few MS machines we got, Phone access.
    Web server, WebDav.
    Backup for kid TiVo shows.
    Thinking about it I just add stuff without really worrying about it. Other then updating DNS SW lately.
    But I have to admit it’s noisy, want it in a room isolated from the rest of the house.

  15. @Eideard

    I don’t think it is the noise issue. It is more of a performance issue and it bogs down everything from the computer to the network. at this point, it is not something I use actively.

  16. inthewoods

    I’ve been looking for a NAS for a while – I want one that can run Slimserver easily and is on the cheap side (<$500) – but I have yet to find anything that matches my specifications.

  17. Kieffer

    I bought a ReadyNAS NV+ a couple years ago, and I couldn’t be happier. 2.1TB network attached RAID array. Gigabit Ethernet, streaming media, user shares for the family, accessible from anywhere. It was expensive, and the fan can be a little noisy, but other than that, it’s a great product.

  18. I’ve been looking at home NASes for a while. i bought a WD and returned it when I realized how bad the remote access software was. I’m increasingly convinced that NAS doesn’t make sense for the home as it is always just one feature shy of perfect.

    I’m going back to a very small server (think Mac Mini but Linux based) and as many external drives as needed over time. That allows SMB, WebDAV, HTTP and even FTP access with no 3rd party web sites needed. Plenty of streaming media options though I think I’d still just use it for iTunes storage.

  19. Om, you may not have checked out the Time Capsule since 1.0. My 1TB critter purrs like an Egyptian cat. Has zero hiccups and backs up 3 computers.

    Oh, it only gets as loud as a kitten during the backup + I run the 80211.n at 5.0ghz and folk in our guesthouse get the strongest signal ever.

  20. I have a “Fujitsu Storagebird LAN 2” with 500 GB and it sucks balls. Really. The software is so buggy that the drive has to be reinstalled every 15 minutes, and this is not an exaggeration. While it only cost me 120 Euros, I still should have gone for something else. Damnit.

  21. huge dilemma. i’ve narrowed my choice to the higher end 3+ drive bays at raid 5/6 nases:

    raid 0/jbod: scares me silly. we’re talking terabytes here. imagine losing terabytes of information. your pictures, your video, your music.
    raid 1: 2 drives, half the space? nope.
    raid 5: n-1 space where n > 2. can lose up to 1 drive and the array lives.
    raid 6: n-2 space where n > 3. can lose up to 2 drives and the array lives.

    i further narrowed my choices to the thecus ( 5200 series and drobo v2+droboshare (

    thecus: 5 bays, linux os w/great connectivity, and ability to run, well, anything really. its just a computer+storage (creating a web app for the content should be easy as cake). all raid options. value for money better than drobo.

    drobo: 4 bays, ok connectivity, some ability to run drobo apps. beyondraid(tm).. basically, you’re getting raid5 capabilities. v2 only, srsly.

    ended up choosing drobo. while thecus is more like what i would usually go for, i’ve had my share of raid rebuilds experience. i don’t want to spend days offline because of a rebuild. i want my storage to keep on running, and i want it expandable (again, without downtime).

    got it with 4x500gb drives as 500gb are best price/performance, and once terabyte drives prices fall further, i’ll just replace them, 2 at a time.

    another point worth mentioning – people might ask why spend the extra bucks on nas vs das. i’m using laptops pretty exclusively now, and been keeping 3 desktops online just for their storage. no more. i’ll probably make up for the price difference in a few months worth electricity bills.