This tutorial will guide you through the (very simple, actually) process of attaching an external USB hard drive to your Airport Extreme. It will also show you how to determine who has access to the hard drive and review the security options.

  1. As usual, Apple has made the process quite simple. Just plug your external USB hard drive into the USB slot on your AirPort Extreme station (and make sure the drive itself is powered on). Now head to your Mac. Open up a Finder window, and listed under the SHARED column, you’ll see the name of your AirPort Extreme station. Select it and you’ll be able to view your external hard drive (in the screenshot below, my drive is named Airport).
  2. The default setting for USB drives plugged into an AirPort Extreme is to allow anyone who is connected to your AirPort Extreme network to be able to access (read, write and deleted) all the files on that drive. Unless you’ve set up a Guest Network network, and are connected to it. To adjust any of the drive settings – eg. who can access it and who can’t – open the AirPort Utility app from your Applications -> Utilities folder. Once it has loaded, select your AirPort Extreme station from the list in the left column, then click the Manual Setup button.
  3. Select the Disks button from the top bar.
  4. Select the File Sharing tab.
  5. From here you adjust who has access to the USB drive connected to your Airport Extreme station. As previously mentioned – the default is to allow anyone connected to your AirPort Extreme network (though not guests) to access the drive. If you’d like to change this, make sure File Sharing is selected, and click the Secure Shared Disks:

  6. Your options are: With AirPort Extreme password (the default), With a disk password and With accounts. With a disk password means that you can set a password for that hard drive, and anyone you tell the password to will be able to access it. With accounts means that you have to set up an account for each person you want to allow to access the disk. If you want to change your settings to With accounts, select it and carry on with the next step. If you want to use With a disk password jump down to step #13.
  7. Once you’ve select With accounts, click the Configure Accounts… button.
  8. Click the + (plug sign) button.
  9. Enter the user name and password for the person you want to be able to access the USB hard drive attached to your AirPort Extreme station. Then select the permissions you wish them to have – your options are Not allowed, Read only or Read and Write. Click the Done button. Repeat this step until you’ve set up accounts for everyone on your network that you wish to allow access to your drive.
  10. Click the Update button to make these changes go into effect. Your AirPort Extreme station will reset (and you’ll go offline momentarily if you’re currently connected to that network).
  11. Once the AirPort Extreme station has started again, select your remove hard drive from a Finder window. Click the Connect As button.
  12. Enter the user name and password that you created in step #9 and click the Connect button. You’ll now be able to access the files on the drive attached to your AirPort Extreme station. You’re done!
  13. If you want to secure your drive by using a disk password, select With a disk password from the Secure Shared Disks: drop-down menu. Enter the password in both spots and then click the Update button. Your AirPort Extreme station will probably restart at this point. Wait until everything is back online, and then select your drive from the left column of a Finder window.
  14. You’ll be prompted to enter the disk password – as will everyone else who attempts to access this drive from your network.