How to Fix: TP-Link Storage Sharing Not Working

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Sam J. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have an older TPLink TL-WDR3500 router and I would like to attach a USB or external hard drive to it using the 'Storage Sharing' option so that I can share files through my network. This would be ideal for me so I can share my Roboform passwords across devices. The issue is that the Storage Sharing option will only work if I enable CIFS 1.0 protocol in Windows because that is what the router uses to make the attached storage appear as a network drive letter in File Explorer. It is my understanding that CIFS 1.0 has a massive security issue that could allow ransomware to spread to my machine if I enable it. I researched this issue and it appears CIFS 1.0 is disabled by default in Windows 10 and therefore the TPLink Storage Sharing option doesn't work. Can you help? "

My response:

I asked Sam if he would like me to connect to his system using my remote desktop support service in order to have a closer look, and he agreed.

Below I will discuss my findings.

Use FTP instead of CIFS for NAS, then Map the FTP as a Network Drive

Beginning March 2017, Microsoft released a 'critical' security bulletin outlining that CIFS 1.0 protocol contains major security flaws. CIFS 1.0 is typically used to access file shares over a network and is commonly used in older NAS (network attached storage) devices, including many TPLink (and other) routers that have a USB port to allow for network attached storage.

As Sam has already mentioned, the "Storage Sharing" option uses CIFS 1.0 and since it was disabled on his machine, the Storage Sharing won't work. Since CIFS 1.0 is a massive security issue, I highly recommend anyone reading this PLEASE DO NOT ENABLE CIFS 1.0 to "fix" the issue.

Instead, keep on reading.

After investigating the issue more, I noted that Sam's router also allows for FTP (file transfer protocol) access the USB attached storage. That said, Windows does not allow you to map an FTP location as a network drive so that installed programs can access the drive letter over the network.

After more research, I came across a wonderful (and free) third-party utility called 'ftp use' that allows you to map a drive letter to FTP. The drive letter is then accessible via the command line or in Windows Explorer, which would then allow programs to read and write to the USB network attached storage.

'FTP Use': Limitations and Caveats

There are three downsides to using FTP Use in this manner, however.

One is that you will need to re-map the FTP network drive every time you restart Windows or change disks attached to the router, though either can be achieved with a batch script.

Secondly, FTP Use does not seem to recognize the proper available remaining space on the drive. I tried with FAT32 file system on a 32GB memory stick and a 2TB external hard drive (also FAT32); both devices reported 2 TB of 4 TB were available space (which is wrong). Another issue is that "low disk space warning" messages kept appearing from the Windows 10 Action Center due to the incorrectly reported available space remaining, though the low disk space warnings can be disabled using the registry.

Thirdly, FTP is not a secure protocol because username and password are sent using plain text to connect to the FTP server. While this is a massive security issue if you were to allow access to the FTP via the Internet (which can be done!), it should not pose a huge security issue providing you use it for your own private network.

How to Fix: TP Link Storage Sharing Not Working

To get the TPLink router to work with the USB attached storage (which circumvents the CIFS 1.0 vulnerability), do the following:

  1. Log into the TP Link router administration page. Under the "USB Settings", disable (stop) the Storage Sharing, Print Server, and Media Server.
     
  2. Click "USB Settings -> FTP Server" and ensure the FTP service is enabled. Attach your USB drive (thumb drive, external drive) to the router, then click "Add New Folder to Share" button.
     
  3. The "Add or Modify Share Folder" page will appear. Enter in the name for the new network share, then click "Share entire partition" (or whichever you want to share), then click "Save".
     
  4. Go to "USB Settings -> User Accounts" and enter in a user name and password with "Read and Write" access, and "FTP Access" set to "Yes", then "Save".
     
  5. Download "FTPUse" and install it to your machine. Next, open an administrative command prompt and change directory (CD) to the location of where FTPUse is installed. Following that, enter in the below syntax to map your FTP to a network drive.

    Example:

    C:
    cd \program files (x86)\ftpuse
    FTPUSE T: 192.168.2.6/folder2/ adminPassword /USER:admin
    echo this is a dummy line

    The above will change directory (CD) to where "ftp use" is installed, then map drive T to 192.168.2.6/folder2 with user "admin" and "adminPassword" as the password.

There are a few things to note:

  • Drive T will now be accessible via File Explorer in Windows 10. You should now be able to use drive T: with any program to store data centrally across the network - meaning any PC attached to the network can access the same files. This is the same idea behind what a NAS provides (though much less robust).
     
  • Since the TPLink router only costs around $29 (or so), this is effectively the cheapest NAS you can ever buy and use as central storage, plus the Ftp Use program effectively fixes a major security flaw.
     
  • It is also worth noting this fix will also work for any older NAS devices that can't be updated to fix the vulnerability in CIFS 1.0, providing the NAS supports FTP!

I hope that helps.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head, or if you need additional help troubleshooting your network attached storage (NAS) / router with USB network attached storage, I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Comments

kitekrazy's picture

I get this depends on how many machines one has. I have the Pro version and all on had to do is share the folder to keep things in sync.

This sounds like one is trying to use Roboform2Go to share everything.

I have Roboform on 4 machines. All have Roboform as shared folders. You can also sync your data on their website.