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?


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.


I tend to see AFP and SMB/CIFS as end user methods, NFS can easily be used on OS X 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.


I'm writing this comment in 2016, Apple defaults now to SMB, however MacOs performance remains abysmal in SMB. On Gigabit ethernet, it's generally 40% slower (50 to 75 MB/s in SMB vs 80 to 120 MB/s in AFP or NFS). With 10GigEthernet, it's even worse: SMB tops at 250 MB/s, while AFP reaches happily 1 GB/s and maxes out the link.

I'm making comparisons using high-end linux storage servers from various client machines. A comparable Windows or Linux client maxes out 1 GgigE link on SMB (100-120 MB/s), and reaches 800 MB/s or more with 10 GigE. It's really MacOS SMB client implementation that sucks rocks.

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    As of Jan 2017, this issue is a simple google search away. Disabling signing in the smb client restores performance to nearly wire speed. – Matt Simerson Jan 14 '17 at 20:37
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    @MattSimerson please provide a link. I can't find anything relevant, only stuff relating to Windows servers, that I don't use, and don't seem to apply anyway to anything older than Sierra; but SMB client has been abysmal on all OS X/mac OS since at least Leopard. – wazoox Jan 14 '17 at 22:16
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    Links tend to rot quickly: this search should last: mac sierra smb performance. Every search hit has the answer contained within. – Matt Simerson Jan 16 '17 at 4:03

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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