Apple AirPort Extreme to include shared drive support

Apple has quietly added support for sharing USB hard drives across wireless networks to its redesigned AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi router introduced earlier this week.

The AirPort Disk feature turns an external USB hard drive into a shared drive just as soon as it is connected to the base station's USB port. All the files on the drive can instantly become available to all Mac and PC users on the network.

The facility includes options to set the disk to become available whenever you connect to the network and to set up password-protected accounts and restrict access to specified files and folders.

As with previous AirPort hardware - including the still-available AirPort Express - the USB port can also be used to connect and wirelessly share a printer.

Apple has also posted information about AirPort Extreme's support for the 802.11n draft wireless specification. As a result of the technology's multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) signal processing and smart antenna technique for transmitting multiple data streams through multiple antennae, the new base station offers up to 2.5 times the performance and twice the range of wireless hardware, such as AirPort Express, based on the 802.11g standard.

Those figures differ from 802.11n's purported capabilities: namely a theoretical top speed of 540Mbps that is ten times the maximum for 802.11g and a range of approximately 50m, compared to 30m for the 'g' standard.