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How to Share USB Devices over Ethernet With Raspberry Pi

As remote operation becomes more and more popular, you will inevitably come across the work situation when you’ll just need to use some sort of universal USB extender, or find another way of sharing a USB over Ethernet that has ideal compatibility with all popular operating systems and USB peripherals. For example, if you have a whole team using some pricey licensed software that won't start without USB dongles. No one wants to spend a fortune on individual licenses for each employee or gamble with losing or damaging said dongles as they’ll be carried around the office and plugged into different machines all day long.

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USB Devices over Ethernet With Raspberry Pi
As you may already know, there is a way to set up your Raspberry Pi as a USB-over-Ethernet server. Well, actually, there is not one, but two roads you can take here: an easy path with the hundred-per-cent efficient paid app or a bumpy ride with an open-source solution and its fiddly config process. And we’re about to take a look at both.

Quick and safe USB sharing from Raspberry Pi with FlexiHub

With the right USB-Ethernet extender software tool, sharing USB over IP from a Raspberry Pi is less than simple, and you won't have to buy any USB extension cables, extra gadgets, or layout miles of CAT5e or CAT6 LAN wire, or even use a USB to RS32 adapter.

Just follow these simple steps:
1
Download the app;
2
In your Raspberry’s terminal, run the following command: yum install [package];
3
Start the app and click “Share” next to your USB device.

That’s it!

From that point on, the shared USB device will be remotely accessible from all computers with installed FlexiHub and the Internet connection, no matter the operating systems or physical distances. Thanks to the unique Redirection USB Server, the app truly is a universal solution that works through all firewalls and doesn’t require public IP addresses. You can even use this method to share a USB hub so that any peripheral connected to its USB ports becomes instantly available for remote connections with no additional configuration needed.

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On top of that, FlexiHub has an optional traffic compression feature that is very helpful when it comes to sharing bandwidth-sensitive USB devices like USB printers or web cameras, so you don't need a high-speed 1 Gbps Internet connection to make them work. And a bulletproof 2048-bit SSL encryption to completely prevent unwanted access to your security cameras, USB dongles, or any data passed with the app.
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And the icing on this cake is that to share a USB through Ethernet you don’t really need to permanently turn your Raspberry Pi into a USB server. You can share dongle keys, webcams, printer units, and other peripherals plugged into USB ports of all computers with installed FlexiHub, including your Android tablet, and never have any trouble with cross-platform connectivity. From a Windows machine, you can even share a COM-based peripheral. How awesome is that? And, for added convenience, you’ll get an opportunity to enjoy wireless connectivity accessing shared USB devices via Wi-Fi. So long to all those CAT5e cables laying around the office.

A Free Way to Setup a Raspberry Pi as a USB-over-IP server

In principle, this method is similar to the one we've just described, but through the agency of a different USB to Ethernet extension app. And given that this time we’ll be using an open-source solution that's still in development, the set-up process requirements are there for a decent level of technical competence to perform so if you don’t have any, don't be surprised if it won’t work on the first go.

Here are some more important points you need to consider before opting for this method:

  • Only works for sharing USB devices in your LAN.
  • Can’t share USB devices from a non-Linux machine.
  • This sharing method won’t work for USB hubs.
  • It's highly recommended to have at least a 100 Mbps connection.
  • The more the distance to the shared device — the worse the connection.
  • No protection from unauthorized access.
  • No traffic compression, so an image from remote cameras may lag a lot.

Let’s start the configuration process by setting up your Raspberry Pi as a server:

1
Install the app using this command: sudo apt install usbip
2
Once the installation is complete, add the kernel module we’ll need by entering:
sudo modprobe usbip_host
echo 'usbip_host' >> /etc/modules
3
Now, use the lsusb command to view a list of all USB devices physically connected to your Raspberry Pi and remember (or write down) the 8-digit USB ID number of a device you’re going to share.
4
Use the usbip list -p -l command to find out your device’s bus ID (use the USB ID number from a previous step to identify the right device on the list). Write down that number.
5
Run the command:
sudo usbip bind --busid=N
(N is the bus ID number from the previous step)
6
Run the demon to attach the device to the USB/IP by executing the command: usbipd

Alternatively, you can create a systemd service:

vi /lib/systemd/system/usbipd.service

with the following definition (don’t forget to change the N for an actual USB ID number of your device):


[Unit]
Description=usbip host daemon
After=network.target

[Service]
Type=forking
ExecStart=/usr/sbin/usbipd -D
ExecStartPost=/bin/sh -c "/usr/sbin/usbip bind --$(/usr/sbin/usbip list -p -l | grep '#usbid=N#' | cut '-d#' -f1)"
ExecStop=/bin/sh -c "/usr/sbin/usbip unbind --$(/usr/sbin/usbip list -p -l | grep '#usbid=N#' | cut '-d#' -f1); killall usbipd"
[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target



And then you'll need to run these commands to start that service:

sudo systemctl --system daemon-reload
sudo systemctl enable usbipd.service
sudo systemctl start usbipd.service

Ok, now let's set up a client:

Note: The app does have a client for Windows, but it’s a flimsy beta version with no signed drivers or any support for Windows 10, thus not really worth mentioning.

1. To install the same app for sharing USB over IP in Ubuntu, execute these commands:
sudo -s
apt-get install linux-tools-generic -y

2. Enable the required module:
modprobe vhci-hcd
echo 'vhci-hcd' >> /etc/modules

Now, to connect the shared device to this machine, run the command: sudo usbip attach -r 0.0.0.0
(type the actual IP address of your Raspberry Pi instead of 0.0.0.0)

Or you can create a systemd service:
vi /lib/systemd/system/usbip.service

With the definition (replace N with an actual USB ID number of your device and 0.0.0.0 with your Raspberry’s IP address):

[Unit]
Description=usbip client
After=network.target

[Service]
Type=oneshot
RemainAfterExit=yes
ExecStart=/bin/sh -c "/usr/lib/linux-tools/$(uname -r)/usbip attach -r 0.0.0.0 -b $(/usr/lib/linux-tools/$(uname -r)/usbip list -r 0.0.0.0 | grep 'N' | cut -d: -f1)"
ExecStop=/bin/sh -c "/usr/lib/linux-tools/$(uname -r)/usbip detach --port=$(/usr/lib/linux-tools/$(uname -r)/usbip port | grep '<Port in Use>' | sed -E 's/^Port ([0-9][0-9]).*/\1/')"

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Save, and then run these commands to start the service:

sudo systemctl --system daemon-reload
sudo systemctl enable usbip.service
sudo systemctl start usbip.service

After that, you should be able to access the shared device remotely. If not, try all the steps again from the very beginning.

Important! If you unplug a USB device from the Raspberry Pi while it’s shared by this method it may result in permanent data loss. Turn off your Raspberry first (after it’s off, you can also disconnect its AC adapter for extra precautions).

USB sharing with FlexiHub
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A table for comparison between the two methods:

Proxi-server
Proxi-server
Redirection Server
• no need for external IP
• multi-network communication
• works through the Firewall
N/A
Supported platforms:
Supported platforms:
Server-side
Server-side
✓ Windows
✓ Linux
✓ macOS
✓ Android
✓ Linux
Client-side
Client-side
✓ Windows
✓ Linux
✓ macOS
✓ Windows (beta)
✓ Linux
Firmware for microcontrollers
Firmware for microcontrollers
Raspberry (upon request)
N/A
Security
Security
Login tokens for safe account sharing
Lock for device access control
N/A
Encryption
Encryption
2048-bit SSL
N/A
Enhanced stability
Enhanced stability
Keep connection active option
N/A

Closing remarks

For sure, it's totally up to you to decide which one of the two methods described in this article you’re going to take on board. But wouldn't it be better to invest in an easy-to-handle tool with proven efficiency than rely on something that can fail at any time and cause you who knows how much nerves, time, and money due to unplanned downtime.


Top choice
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  • Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and Raspberry Pi. 8.89MB Size.
  • Version 5.2.14094. (6 Sep, 2021).