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VINE VOICEon 8 September 2008
Well I bought one of these after reading the reviews. Have used Belkin before and I have previously been very happy with them.

This time things are different though.

I have installed the device exactly as directed and connected a HP multi function printer along with an external hard disk. I have one computer directly connected to the router, and a second laptop which connects wirelessly.

The printer seems to work fine, and the hard disk works fine on the computer directly connected to the router. But whenever I try to use the laptop it just freezes half way through any disk operations and causes windows explorer to stop responding. the only way to recover is to turn the disk off whereupon I get a warning that I didn't shut it down properly! I have tried and tried but it is refusing to work.

Things got even more frustrating when I tried to contact Belkin customer support web-chat. It took me over half an hour to get the message across to the representative what exactly the problem was, whereupon he copied and pasted the FAQ from the support site (which I had already read) and said that the device did not support all USB devices because of the difference in speed between USB and the network connection. (Surely the fact that it works fine on the wired connection shows that this is not correct?)

I have now officially given up and will be returning the device tomorrow. It promised so much and failed to deliver. And the customer support has also failed to deliver!

Anyone know where I could get one that actually works?
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VINE VOICEon 20 October 2007
When I first read about this device I thought what a great idea and bought one as soon as it was available and while still being pleased that that I did, it wasn't all plain sailing...

If you want a clever print server with the ability to share 'slow' USB devices over a small network, then it's right on the money. However, if you're after something to share 'fast' devices then you'll either be out of luck or you'll find your devices slowed to about a tenth of their speed. To be fair, Belkin do state in their adverts that "Data-transfer rates do not support some high-speed/high-bandwidth USB devices such as HD-streaming webcams or other video-transfer applications", but then they also go on to say that the device has 5 x USB 2.0 hubs and to talk about using external hard disks with it. Technically they are correct, you can plug in USB 2.0 devices such as external hard drives but don't expect USB 2.0 performance via this hub.

On the plus side, the hub is very small and neat measuring about 6½ inches square by about ½ an inch tall and has a tiny green power LED on the front. If you have a Belkin N1 router or their Mac mini hub then they'll stack nicely on top. Setting up the software is relatively easy, although when I ran the setup routine I was not offered any way to change the IP address of the device so if you don't have DHCP on your network things will be a lot more tricky. (You can change the device from a dynamic to a static IP address via it's browser interface - if you can find the password)! That aside, once I had the software installed on both an XP and a Vista PC, I set about connecting my Canon ip4000 printer. For the Vista machine that had previously had the printer physically installed on a USB port there was nothing else to do, the printer connected straight away via the hub and I was able to use it. Installing the printer on the XP machine was slightly more tricky as the Canon printer driver installer could not autodetect the printer even though I'd disconnected it from the Vista machine so that it was 'free' to be used. There's an easy workaround which is to just manually choose any other port for the driver install routine, then go to the printer properties and change the port to the USB one listed. Subsequently sharing the printer between the two PCs was a doddle and all the advanced features of the printer (duplex, CD printing, etc.) worked flawlessly with the Canon software. Plugging in and sharing a 2Gb Buffalo USB stick was just as easy and the software lets you easily switch between which PC is using any given device. Basically the device is 'tied' to one machine and another user has to 'request' it, whereupon a message pops up on the PC that's already using it asking if it's ok to switch the connection. So you don't get multiple concurrent connections to your shared devices but it's still perfectly workable for a small home network or perhaps even an office of half a dozen or so people.

The first minus point is performance. Yes Belkin state this device supports USB 2.0 but that's more a statement of compatibility rather than an indication of performance. I used a freeware utility (HD Tune) to measure performance and found that my 2Gb Buffalo 'Firestick' managed an average transfer rate of about 24MB/sec when connected directly to the PC. However, when connected via the Belkin Network USB Hub that rate dropped to around 2.8MB/sec. It was the same story with a Freecom 500Gb external USB drive that could manage 30MB/sec on a direct connection but only 2.9MB/sec connected via the hub. Certainly the wired 10/100 ethernet connection between the PC, the router and the hub wasn't the bottleneck so it had to be down to the Belkin hub itself, either their drivers or just an issue with the firmware/hardware. Sure Belkin do say you might have issues with things like HD streaming webcams and video transfer applications, but that's putting it mildly - don't be surprised if all you get is 10% of the throughput you'd normally expect on mass storage devices.

The second issue was with my Freecom DVB-T Freeview USB stick - it just flatly refused to work when connected via the Belkin Hub. In this case I suspect it's not the speed of the device rather it's the amount of power it has to draw from a USB socket. The USB standard indicates that a port can provide up to 500mA and the Freecom DVB-T needs all of that to get going. Plugging it directly into the PC it worked fine, but via the Belkin hub it wasn't even recognised. This really highlights the fact that you need to check carefully if the device you're planning to use via the hub will actually work, in which case an understanding supplier who'll take the hub back if your devices don't work, is a bonus. For me I'm happy to just not share my Freeview device. There was a similar problem with a bus-powered Wester Digital 120Gb USB hard drive that I use for backing up my laptop, but to be fair to Belkin, when I plugged that in to the hub a warning popped up stating that it was drawing too much power and I should unplug it. I duly unplugged it but was then dogged by repeated messages stating "USB Over Current Warning. A USB device is currently drawing too much power. Please remove it from the Network USB Hub". At that point there was NOTHING plugged in to the hub but still it kept complaining! Powering the hub off then back on again finally cleared the message.

Another irritation is that devices default to having to be 'safely' removed when connected to the hub. That means that when my printer goes into power-saving mode after 30 minutes, a message pops up saying "Canon ip4000 printer was not safely removed". Likewise if you just remove a USB memory stick you'll get a similar warning. It would be nice if you could configure a 'quick removal' policy in the Belkin software itself, but there isn't that option, and even if you find your hub-connected USB device in the Windows Device Manager and configure it for 'quick removal', the Belkin software will ignore the Windows setting and will still warn you that the device wasn't safely removed... grrr!

One final thing and that is that Belkin do say that this device won't work through a VPN, but in the case of the AT&T VPN client, it won't even work alongside it. So any thoughts of using my work laptop with the Belkin hub were soon dismissed. I assumed that so long as the VPN wasn't running on the laptop, everything should work fine but this wasn't the case. Not only did the Belkin software not see my shared USB devices while the VPN connection was disabled, if I had my VPN connection running and then loaded the Belkin Control Centre software (just to see what happened), the VPN connection would crash! Uninstalling the Belkin Control Centre software from the laptop got things back to normal but it's a pain that I can't access hub connected devices like my printer from the laptop.

To sum up my experiences with it, the devices that did work were my Canon ip4000 printer, a Canon Powershot S50 camera and my ageing Orange SPV C500 smartphone. My Buffalo 2Gb and 4Gb USB sticks plus my (AC powered) Freecom 500Gb external drive also worked ok although at greatly reduced performance. On the other hand, my Freecom DVB-T USB stick and WD 120Gb drive (both USB powered devices) just wouldn't work.

If Belkin sort out the performance issues and work on the bugs in the software then they'll have a winner, but for now I'd be cautious. If you're prepared to work at it with the software, don't mind the sluggish performance and are confident your USB devices will work then go for it, otherwise wait and see. Perhaps users will start compiling a central list of what devices do and don't work... any volunteers? =;o)
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on 2 September 2009
Having seen this and read about its capabilities, I thought it would be an excellent "cure" for the USB unplug/replug marathon that awaits me every time I take or return my laptop to its desktop role. Keep all USB devices plugged in and connect to them over the network anywhere in the house? Never unplug or replug USB again? Print and scan and use hard drives and finger print readers anywhere? What a cool idea! I couldn't wait to get one.

And it even seemed to work! And then its limitations started to dawn, and the lovely plans I had for it collapsed.

Unfortunately the Belkin Network USB Hub does seem to suffer from a few fatal glitches which have made many of its most promising uses impossible and relegated it into the strictly "printer only" role, rather a waste for a piece of equipment so otherwise sophisticated, which is a terrible shame.

On the hardware side, it does seem to be rather prone to overcurrent; while a real USB port should pump out at least 500 mA (and sometimes up to 1 A), the Belkin hub apparently does much less, which pretty much rules out many USB-powered drives or scanners unless you invest in an additional self-powered hub. Overcurrent doesn't damage the box, but it does disable it (another glitch: the box isn't re-enabled when the offending item is unplugged, and will keep telling you to remove the offending but now-absent device over and over until you reboot it). My scanner and external DVD writer immediately disabled the box when plugged in, as did a 2.5" hard drive.

It also actively switches on and powers up any USB device plugged into it, regardless if you are connected to it from any computer: great if you want to charge a mobile phone that usually requires expensive in-house software just to charge (the Belkin will do it out of the box), but not so great in other ways. Drives will keep spinning, displays will be kept lit, and generally your hardware will not only be aged a lot faster but will be a lot more power-sucking too.

On the software side, the control software and driver is decent and stable, but again glitched in subtle but fatal ways. When your computer sleeps or hibernates, the control app will automatically and safely disconnect anything from USB as if you unplugged it physically before it does so; however, it will fail to reconnect it automatically when you wake up. You have to manually rescan. If your device is a keyboard or mouse you will use to do that, you're pretty screwed. Belkin have not fixed this despite me reporting it at least a year ago, and probably never will. The control software is good, but isn't run as a service, which means that it's not available in the login screen, or until the control app is run from Startup (in Windows). Out go fingerprint readers for login. If you lose your wireless or LAN connection, you'll also be disconnected (obviously): not the box's fault, but potentially fatal to data to any disk you're (slowly) writing to. These flaws alone rule out its use for most USB devices.

Then there is speed. Forget a mouse: the latency is just too great, even on gigabit. Keyboard is ok, unless the computer gets busy. Hard drive attached will max out at 3 MB/s in ideal conditions, and they are accessable to only one user, so just get a NAS box and forget trying to do it this way unless you really have to. Bigger hard drives will take up to several minutes to appear in Windows once plugged in (possibly due to the way Windows handles inserted drives not working so well over a network). A loss of connection (common on wireless) will possibly result in pretty nasty data corruption. Just get a NAS if you want to share a drive, and forget this method.

So it begs the question, what can you actually plug into it? Well, there's good news at least (if you ignore the power issue). Everything that will work with a normal hub will work with the network hub, and that's 99% of USB devices - I've only ever encountered one that doesn't, and it doesn't work with hubs either. It'll be just like you plugged it straight into your computer's USB, albeit slower. IF you can get around the power issue.

Where the Belkin Network USB Hub shines is printer sharing. Unlike many printer hubs on the market, the Belkin will share *any* kind of printer that is available, regardless of specialist in-house drivers that don't like SMB, and will properly handle multifunction. The software is flexible enough to connect when any computer on your network wants to print, and disconnect when it's finished, which means you can share any bog-standard printer between computers with little or no hassle (you can't do this for anything else, however!). If you want to share a DVD-burner among a lot of computers, or a scanner, it will also do the trick (providing they are self-powered or on a self-powered hub, and the user is conscientious enough to disconnect when finished).

So as I said, flawed, good my fussy Epson printers and for charging my Motorola phone during the night, but not much else. A firmware upgrade and a little tweaking of the software might have gone a long way to addressing some problems, but Belkin never bothered. A wasted opportunity from Belkin, and so I can't really recommend this box.
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on 1 August 2009
One would imagine that a USB hub would-not/could-not discriminate, except this one does! Does not support iPhone. Belkin hub thinks iPhone is a scanner, and, iTunes (which is required to sync the phone) does not see the iPhone. On searching the internet for advice, I see others share my experience, so it is not just me.
Connection software seems very delicate. Disconnect and reconnect a device and it will probably hang.

Shame, the apparent design intention of the device is fabulous, the implementation is extremely poor!
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on 24 July 2009
I connected a portable hard drive and a colour printer to this hub, and initially things worked OK, although quite slow. A week later, just couldn't get my wireless laptop connected to this hub. Rang up Belkin technical services who managed to get things working after nearly 1.5 hours on the phone. The next day the same problem returned. I've just given up on this device now, and am looking for something a lot more reliabe. This device is truly a pile of rubbish!
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on 2 May 2009
This is a great item, but I suspect that many other may make the same error that I did. THIS DEVICE IS NOT WIRELESS ITSELF. It must be connected to your router physically using an ethernet cable. I jumped the gun and though that I could place the USB device in my bedroom whilst the wireless router was in the lounge... sooo wrong.
Apart from that, it works great and I have my printer shared accross the net without having to switch on the main computer. Also my external hard drive is connected and shared, but beware transfer speeds.
It was my mistake that I didnt read the specs properly, but I think others will make the same mistake. As long as you are happy to have this USB hub connected by an ethernet cable then it is fine.
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on 29 October 2009
Is not compatible with OS X 10.6 - Snow Leopard. No 10.6 OS X drivers on Belkin's site.
The console could see the network hub. The Options link when clicked did nothing.
Had no problem with Windows XP Home SP3
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on 1 January 2009
I bought this gizmo to allow us to use the wireless laptop to print to our bog standard inkjet printer from anywhere in the house, without wires (magic!) This it has done faultlessly for many months and I am sure it will continue to do so.
It also allows other usb 2.0 devices to be shared and used wirelessly e.g. scanner, external hard drive etc. It is connected to our router using one of the ethernet ports, so is also shared across the wired network (as well as wireless).

Pros are
1. Quite cheap for a device of this type.
2. Has lots of USB ports and can even be connected to a USB hub.
3. Software is easy to set up and use. It took literally 5 minutes to set up from opening the box and connecting the leads.
4. Device is quiet unobtrusive, it just sits under the desk and gets on with it.
5. As many PC's as you want can use the devices connected to the hub.

Cons are
1. Not fast enought to stream video from external hard drive.
2. Each laptop and PC you wish to use it with has to have the software installed.
3. There is a pop up window which flags up on PC connected to a device when another PC wishes to use the same device. This pop up window is easy to miss, so you have to ask the other person to let you use the device, which sort of defeats the object. You can set the software to allow auto disconnection of devices however (not sure how this works with hard drives though), this works well in practice with the printer.

The cons are not serious as long as you only need to share slow devices i.e not video streaming etc.

The product does exactly what we wanted it to do and performs faultlessly. It is a great product it has made using the laptop so much easier.
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on 6 February 2011
This was great at first but the software was never updated and my unit randomly crashed a lot, which is a shame... It was also very slow to work even over a gigabit ethernet connection, making some devices completely unusable.
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on 17 November 2009
Having tried and failed with various print servers for my HP All In One printer to run and be shared on my home network due to non-compatibility, I accidently stumbled across this product. I was rather annoyed by this time as my printer is a fairly recent purchase & not one of those ancient antiques so couldn't understand why manufacturers such as netgear can't seem to sort their act out.

Anyway this little belkin usb hub is a beauty and connects easily via ethernet to my wireless router so without much a do... what I think of it? Well - Very easy to setup & to use. The hub even sends messages to one of my other computers to ask for permission to shared resources i.e the printer, the network hard drive etc, and offer further usb slots so that other things such as memory sticks can be shared on the network.

Definitely recommend this and well worth every penny & more - not often a product exceeds my expectations but this certainy does and it looks good too.
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