Here’s the scenario: you are called in as a consultant to a school that employs a mixed Windows/Mac OS X environment. At one point during your work you realize that you need to transfer some administrative files to the Mac from a shared folder named DOCS on a Windows Server 2008 R2 file server named SERVER01. However, you have limited experience working in Mac OS X. What action do you take next?
By the conclusion of this article you will fully understand how to access Windows file shares from Mac OS X. Let’s get to it!
Preliminary terminology ^
As you know, the de facto file and printer sharing protocol in Windows is called Server Message Block, or SMB. In turn, SMB is also known in vendor-neutral circles as the Common Internet File System, or CIFS.
Mac OS X-based systems have long been able to access SMB shares hosted in Windows by employing the open source Samba network file system.
NOTE: Due to a recent changes in the GNU Public License (GPL) version adopted by Samba, Apple plans to remove Samba from future releases of its operating system, instead opting to re-write the protocol itself
We can access SMB resources by employing standard Uniform Resource Locator (URL) syntax, substituting smb for the more commonly seen http. Here is the general formulation:
For instance, we can use the URL syntax smb://server01 to enumerate all shared resources on that server, or we can use smb://server01/docs to view the contents of only the docs shared folder.
Connecting to a Windows share on Mac OS X ^
From your Mac OS X computer’s desktop, click Go > Connect To Server or press Command + K.
Connecting to a remote server in Mac OS X
In the Connect to Server dialog box, type the SMB path to your desired remote Windows server. Depending upon the host name resolution strategy in use on your network, you can use either the server’s DNS host name or its IP address. Next, click Connect.
The Connect to Server dialog box
Connecting to server…
You will next be prompted for Windows user credentials; these credentials can exist either in the Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database of a single Windows computer, or they can exist in Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS).
For Connect as: make sure to select Registered User and then supply your Windows account username and password. To be safe, I recommend that you supply your username in the “old school” NetBIOS format domain\user.
If you want Mac OS X to store your credentials in the keychain of the local system, then enable the Remember this password in my keychain option. Next, click Connect.
Credential validation in Mac OS X
If the credential validation completes successfully, then the Windows SMB resource is mounted as a “drive” on the Mac desktop and its associated Finder window opens.
A mounted SMB share
Contents of the remote share
A Couple of extra tips ^
Press Command + K to return to the Connect to Server dialog. Please note that you can use the Plus button to add the current connection URL to the Favorite Servers list. This will make subsequent connections much faster, especially if you elect to store your credentials in keychain.
To unmount an SMB volume, right-click the volume and select Eject.
Ejecting a mounted volume
To create a persistent mapping to a remote Windows share, then you need to specify a new login item or login hook. We’ll cover that topic in an upcoming installment (are you already on the edge of your seat?)
I’m sure there are some die-hard Terminal fans out there who may be boiling with the thought, “But Tim, you can also use smbclient from a Terminal prompt to do the same thing!!” True enough—perhaps in a future installment I will show you that and other command-line Mac/Windows tricks. In the meantime, please feel free to leave feedback in the comments. Thanks so much for reading, and take good care.