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Struggling to fix several issues since I switched to Lion (see here and there), I came across several ways of connecting network shares to my MBP: NFS, AFP, SMB, CIFS (maybe others).
What are the differences between all these protocols and what is the one giving the more advantages to a MacOS system?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Essentially, NFS is the Unix way of doing network shares, AFP is the Apple way, and SMB/CIFS (they're basically the same thing) is the Microsoft way. AFP will generally work best with a MacOS system (except that most third-party implementations are currently struggling to catch up with a change made in Lion where an older and less secure authentication method was dropped) because it's better integrated with OS X authentication and with Time Machine.

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I tend to see AFP and SMB/CIFS as end user methods, NFS can easily be used on OSX as an autofs system for automatically mounting everything from one or more file server.

Generally AFP and SMB/CIFS you need to use Finder, but NFS you can simply jump to /net and start visiting any host.

AFP is going to support Apple's resource forks and attributes natively, SMB/CIFS will by default dump these attributes into a new folder .DS_Store everywhere.

The document Mac OS X Server File Services Administration has a useful chapter titled "Understanding File Services" which also introduces the differences.

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The link (Mac OS X Server File Services Administration) returns a damaged file when trying to open. Tracked it down to this: http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/FileServerAdmin_v10.6.pdf

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