What You Need
1. Setup your home network using your wireless router. You can enhance the range of your network by using wireless extenders. Most wireless routers support a range of 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors. If you're getting a weak signal in parts of your home, we suggest using a wireless extender (buy the same brand as your wireless router to ensure compatibility) to increase that range.
3. While any external hard drive with an WiFi adapter is an easy way to create a wireless media hub we recommend setting up something a bit more secure, like the Drobo. We like the Drobo because it's basically a RAID enclosure that accepts hard drives of different sizes. What does this mean? For example, you can patch in a bunch of different hard drives, of different storage capacities, and Drobo will consider them as one big hard drive. It also uses the RAID 1 setting to ensure that your data is safe even if one of the hard drives fails. The base Drobo model costs $340, plus you'll need the $180 DroboShare to plug the Drobo into your wireless network. The good thing about Drobo is that you can pack it up with older hard drives and it will work. Most RAID enclosures only accept hard drives of the same size.
4.The cheapest wireless media hub alternative is to purchase something like the Iomega 1TB Screenplay hard drive ($250), which only has one hard drive and doesn't have any protection if it fails. Which you choose depends on how much data you plan on storing on this data hub. If there won't be much, then you don't need the Drobo. However, if you have gigs of media files, then the Drobo is the way to go.
Additional Notes: Networks can be very complicated or very easy. For most people, we recommend to keep things simple unless you've got someone in IT in your family that's willing to help. This setup will allow everyone in your home to have a central hub for all of their larger files. If any of the computer's hard drives fail, you'll have a backup.
Click to see all of this month's Home Hacks tutorials.