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).
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.