Beginner’s Guide: Setup Home Network File Server with HFS

February 16, 2008 – 5:12 pm

Windows computer users can share files among them with the “Sharing” function but I bet some people may find that the process is not easy enough for end users. To make file sharing easier for friends and families to download / upload files and folders among them, thus I wrote this post – a beginner’s guide on how to setup your own home network file server with a freeware called HFS (HTTP File Server).

setup-your-computer-as-file-server

 

What is a file server?

According to Wikipedia a file server is: a computer attached to a network that has the primary purpose of providing a location for the shared storage of information (such as documents, sound files, photographs, movies, images, databases, et cetera) that can be accessed by the workstations that are attached to the network.

Based on the definition above, a file server is basically a computer that is used to store and share digital information that can be accessed by other computers that are connected to the network. For your home network, any computer can be a file server if you want it to be. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s either your computer or your mom’s, as long as it fulfills the criteria above, you can call it a file server.

 

Advantages of a file server

  • A file server can act as a backup storage for your important documents and files. If your computer crashed, you can recover lost files from the file server easily.
  • It also acts as a central location to share files between multiple computers. This way everybody knows where to find and store a shared file.

 

Why choose HFS as a file server application

  • Simple file sharing – It use the HTTP protocol so you can use your browser to access all shared files.
  • Runs right out of the box – even grandma can setup a HFS file server.
  • Accessible by computers from all over the Internet with proper setup.
  • File download and upload support.
  • Bandwidth control to optimize network bandwidth usage.
  • Easy mode for newbies, expert mode for techies.
  • Best part of all – HFS is free and open source.
  • Besides me, other people love HFS too.

 

Steps to Setup Home Network File Server with HFS

Once you have completed the steps below, your computer will act as a file server inside your home and will be available to serve file download / upload requests by other connected PCs on the same local area network. This means that you will be available to easily share files and folders with other computers in the network using a web browser.

A. Setup HFS Server

1- Create a folder named “hfs” on any disk drive, for example C:\hfs

2- Download HFS file server executable, hfs.exe to C:\hfs

start-hfs-home-network-file-server

3- Double click hfs.exe to execute the program. By default, the file server does not run automatically. Click on the “Server is currently OFF” button to start HFS. Based on your local area network configuration, HFS will try to grab your computer IP address and make it as the file server IP address. In the example below, my computer cum file server IP address is 192.168.1.3, but yours may vary.

activate-hfs-server-by-pressing-f4

hfs-server-started-on-local-network

4- Open up your favorite web browser and type in the IP you discover above (e.g. 192.168.1.3 for mine) inside the Address bar. Press the Enter key. If you got a similar response shown in the image below, you are all set. Congratulations, you have successfully run a file server! From the HFS file server console, you can see on the top right pane that a computer with an IP of 192.168.1.3 had successfully accessed the server – that’s you!

check-out-server-status-with-internet-browser

 

B. Share a Public Folder / File

A public folder contains folders or files that are downloadable by all users without any restrictions. HFS does not share any public folders by default.

5- To share a folder, drag and drop a folder to HFS top left pane. I am sharing my “music” folder for everybody in the house. Choose to create a “Real folder” when you are prompted to choose a folder type.

drag-and-drop-files-folders-to-share

6- Repeat step 4 once again from your computer. You should see the “music” public folder. Just click on a particular file to download it. This is called a “localhost” access because you are accessing the server from the server itself (your computer) – useful for checking if your file server is working correctly.

access-folder-again-from-network

7- (optional) To show off your accomplishments; try to download a shared file from your mom’s / dad’s personal computer. Access your file server (your computer) using the same IP above, from other computers inside your house.

 

C. Share a Private Folder

Sometimes you don’t want everybody to gain access to a particular shared folder. A private folder can only be accessed with the right username and password combo. Useful to keep the kids away from downloading R rated video files.

8- Drag and drop a folder to HFS top left pane. For example, I am going to restrict access to my “IMAGE” folder as shown below.

9- Right click on the “IMAGE” folder and select the “Set user, pass…” option. Enter a username and password that will be used to restrict access to this folder later. Once you are done, a lock icon will appear next to the folder icon, visually marking it as a private folder.

create-a-password-protect-folder-for-family-access

create-a-password-protect-folder-for-family-access-2

password-protected-folder-screenshot

10- Repeat step 4 once again. Try to access the “IMAGE” folder. A pop-up asking for a username and password combo should appear if you have correctly setup a private folder previously. Do share the username and password with the person that you want to have access to this folder later.

password-needed-when-trying-to-access-private-folders

 

D- Create an Upload Folder

An upload folder is a folder that allows users to upload their files to the file server for safekeeping / online backup. A shared public / private folder can function as an upload folder at the same time with minimal configuration.

11- In this example, I’ve created a folder named “upload here” folder. Next, drag and drop the folder to HFS’s top left pane as usual. Another way to share a folder is to right click on the folder and select “Add to HFS“.

12- Right click on the “upload here” folder. Select “Upload -> Upload for Accounts -> Anyone“. This way, each computer in your house can upload files to the home network file server. If you choose to restrict file upload to a particular username, select “New account” instead of “Anyone“.

set-upload-folder-for-anyone

13- Repeat step 4. Access your “upload here” folder by clicking on its icon. To upload a file, click the “Upload” link on top right of your browser screen. Try to upload a few file if you wish.

upload-files-with-hfs

 

E- Save your Server Configuration!

This is the most important step of all. The next time you turn off HFS file server and start it up again, all shared folder will remain intact if you save your previous configuration.

save-hfs-configuration

14- To save you configuration, click on “Menu” and select “Save file system“. Give it a name like “myfileserver“. Again, I choose to save my configuration inside C:\hfs.

 

So there you have it, your own home, network file server that is accessible from any PC in the network. If you have an old PC and a hard disk drive with ample spaces, why waste it? Run HFS inside it and you will have a dedicated machine for your entire file download / upload needs.

I am planning for a second part of this guide so stay tuned. Next time, I will show you on how to make HFS file server accessible from any Internet connected PCs out there, which is a very cool thing to do.

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  1. 24 Responses to “Beginner’s Guide: Setup Home Network File Server with HFS”

  2. Great post man. We will wait for the part2 because accessing all the files from the Internet is the most useful bit about this program.

    By Jawwad on Feb 16, 2008

  3. Wow, nice too see this tool again…
    I’m graduating in networking and i used to study many distributed files system tools for my essay…

    HFS is nice cause its simple to setup and sue, and very stable…

    i had so problems with my modem nat when trying to use it outside my network, but i’m sure its related to my outdated modem ;)

    By Jonathan on Feb 17, 2008

  4. @Jonathan: Yeah, simplicity is one of HFS strongest points.

    By Syahid A. on Feb 17, 2008

  5. Where is your next post located on replacing the public ip address with a domain name?

    Thanks!

    By Adam on Mar 25, 2008

  6. @Adam: I haven’t got the time to write that. Come again next time!

    By Syahid A. on Mar 25, 2008

  7. i want to test this soft.
    have a nice day to all
    Best Regards,
    Tom

    By tom on Apr 4, 2008

  8. It Looks Great

    By Jun on Apr 19, 2008

  9. thanks for u info.tq very much

    By sarah on May 12, 2008

  10. Like all other efforts (Including Network Magic) that I have made to be able to simply access files from one computer to another in my home, I have failed. I cannot access my router now either, so I will keep emailing the things I need back and forth or use a flash drive until someone makes this an easy process. You say this is easy, but read your forums, doesn’t look easy. I was able to access my files from the same computer I am on, I guess that’s something. ;-)

    By Tim Turner on Feb 5, 2009

  11. @Tim: Hi Tim, if you want super easy file access, try DropBox!

    By Syahid A. on Feb 5, 2009

  12. I tried this software but I got an error. The error said, “It is not a valid window application”. Do anyone have recomendations. My system is windows xp/sp3.

    //s//

    By John on Apr 23, 2009

  13. Running HFS on my Home Web Server but cant seem to get download speed more than 16kb per sec. so when others download from site its real slow, any idea’s?

    By Jesse on Jan 11, 2010

  14. hi man.. i cannot open hfs from my pc.. i think my server admin has do something to prevent it..how do i to overcome this?..

    By ben on Jan 28, 2010

  15. Thanks to this blog.You really remind me to have a back up files on my important file here. I will try to check this HFS.

    By foreclosure attorneys on Feb 16, 2011

  16. You really remind me to have a back up files on my important file here.

    By betsy21 on May 10, 2011

  17. It’s really important to backup important files. In my case, I created a partition in my harddisk to backup my important files. My computer recently got infected with a trojan virus. Since I have a partition, I simply reformatted my computer without harming my files saved in my partition. I just don’t know what to do if the harddisk itself fails. So it’s also important to backup files in a separate computer as mentioned in this post. :)

    By Sandra on May 27, 2011

  18. This blog is among the many technologically-related ones I have encountered. The post can be very helpful for beginners of the home network file server setup. Indeed, there are plenty of programs available online that can be installed in a few minutes. It is good that instructions such as these are also available.

    By nathan anderson on May 31, 2011

  19. Using it to transfer files to my blackberry over WiFi because I lost my USB-Cable, works great :)

    By Rico on Jun 16, 2011

  20. We have three computers at home and sharing files from across different locations is definitely a lot of work. I have tried several applications to work this out but I always encounter errors. I will give HFS a try. Looks like it worked for other people. Great post! And quite detailed I must say. Thanks!

    By Joshua P. on Oct 8, 2011

  21. Is it possible to use HFS to create home network by just connecting to the wireless router (TL WDR4300) without connecting to the internet modem?

    By Jo on Nov 12, 2012

  22. no problem. you can create a home, LAN enabled HFS server.

    By syahid_a on Nov 21, 2012

  23. can I use something other than port 80?

    Ken

    By Ken on Jul 17, 2013

  24. yes.

    By syahid_a on Jul 21, 2013

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