Share files between Linux and Windows computers | Opensource.com

Share files between Linux and Windows computers

Set up cross-platform file sharing with Samba.

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If you work with different operating systems, it's handy to be able to share files between them. This article explains how to set up file access between Linux (Fedora 33) and Windows 10 using Samba and mount.cifs.

Samba is the Linux implementation of the SMB/CIFS protocol, allowing direct access to shared folders and printers over a network. Mount.cifs is part of the Samba suite and allows you to mount the CIFS filesystem under Linux.

Caution: These instructions are for sharing files within your private local network or in a virtualized host-only network between a Linux host machine and a virtualized Windows guest. Don't consider this article a guideline for your corporate network, as it doesn't implement the necessary cybersecurity considerations.

Access Linux from Windows

This section explains how to access a user's Linux home directory from Windows File Explorer.

1. Install and configure Samba

Start on your Linux system by installing Samba:

dnf install samba

Samba is a system daemon, and its configuration file is located in /etc/samba/smb.conf. Its default configuration should work. If not, this minimal configuration should do the job:

[global]
        workgroup = SAMBA
        server string = %h server (Samba %v)
        invalid users = root
        security = user
[homes]
        comment = Home Directories
        browseable = no
        valid users = %S
        writable = yes

You can find a detailed description of the parameters in the smb.conf section of the project's website.

2. Modify LinuxSE

If your Linux distribution is protected by SELinux (as Fedora is), you have to enable Samba to be able to access the user's home directory:

setsebool -P samba_enable_home_dirs on

Check that the value is set by typing:

getsebool samba_enable_home_dirs

Your output should look like this:

sebool.png

Sebool

(Stephan Avenwedde, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. Enable your user

Samba uses a set of users and passwords that have permission to connect. Add your Linux user to the set by typing:

smbpasswd -a <your-user>

You will be prompted for a password. This is a completely new password; it is not the current password for your account. Enter the password you want to use to log in to Samba.

To get a list of allowed user types:

pdbedit -L -v

Remove a user by typing:

smbpasswd -x <user-name>

4. Start Samba

Because Samba is a system daemon, you can start it on Fedora with:

systemctl start smb

This starts Samba for the current session. If you want Samba to start automatically on system startup, enter:

systemctl enable smb

On some systems, the Samba daemon is registered as smbd.

4. Configure the firewall

By default, Samba is blocked by your firewall. Allow Samba to access the network permanently by configuring the firewall.

You can do it on the command line with:

firewall-cmd --add-service=samba --permanent

Or you do it graphically with the firewall-config tool:

5. Access Samba from Windows

In Windows, open File Explorer. On the address line, type in two backslashes followed by your Linux machine's address (IP address or hostname):

You will be prompted for your login information. Type in the username and password combination from step 3. You should now be able to access your home directory on your Linux machine:

Access Windows from Linux

The following steps explain how to access a shared Windows folder from Linux. To implement them, you need Administrator rights on your Windows user account.

1. Enable file sharing

Open the Network and Sharing Center either by clicking on the

Windows Button > Settings > Network & Internet

or by right-clicking the little monitor icon on the bottom-right of your taskbar:

In the window that opens, find the connection you want to use and note its profile. I used Ethernet 3, which is tagged as a Public network.

Caution: Consider changing your local machine's connection profile to Private if your PC is frequently connected to public networks.

Remember your network profile and click on Change advanced sharing settings:

Select the profile that corresponds to your connection and turn on network discovery and file and printer sharing:

network_sharing.png

Network sharing settings

(Stephan Avenwedde, CC BY-SA 4.0)

2. Define a shared folder

Open the context menu by right-clicking on the folder you want to share, navigate to Give access to, and select Specific people... :

give_access_to.png

Give access

(Stephan Avenwedde, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Check whether your current username is on the list. Click on Share to tag this folder as shared:

tag_as_shared.png

Tag as shared

(Stephan Avenwedde, CC BY-SA 4.0)

You can display a list of all shared folders by entering \\localhost in File Explorer's address line:

show_shared_folder_1.png

Shared folders

(Stephan Avenwedde, CC BY-SA 4.0)

show_shared_folder_2.png

Shared folders

(Stephan Avenwedde, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. Mount the shared folder under Linux

Go back to your Linux system, open a command shell, and create a new folder where you want to mount the Windows share:

mkdir ~/WindowsShare

Mounting Windows shares is done with mount.cifs, which should be installed by default. To mount your shared folder temporarily, use:

sudo mount.cifs //<address-of-windows-pc>/MySharedFolder ~/WindowsShare/ -o user=<Windows-user>,uid=$UID

In this command:

  • <address-of-windows-pc> is the Windows PC's address info (IP or hostname)
  • <Windows-user>is the user that is allowed to access the shared folder (from step 2)

You will be prompted for your Windows password. Enter it, and you will be able to access the shared folder on Windows with your normal Linux user.

To unmount the shared folder:

sudo umount ~/WindowsShare/

You can also mount a Windows shared folder on system startup. Follow these steps to configure your system accordingly.

Summary

This shows how to establish temporary shared folder access that must be renewed after each boot. It is relatively easy to modify this configuration for permanent access. I often switch back and forth between different systems, so I consider it incredibly practical to set up direct file access.

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About the author

Stephan Avenwedde - Stephan is a technology enthusiast who appreciates open source for the deep insight of how things work. Stephan works as a full time support engineer in the mostly proprietary area of industrial automation software. If possible, he works on his Python-based open source projects, writing articles, or driving motorbike.