Apple

Apple @ Work: Windows file shares are still buggy on macOS; it’s time to fix it once and for all

Apple @ Work: Windows file shares are still buggy on macOS;  it's time to fix it once and for all

Applicationthe @ Work is brought to you by Kandji, the MDM solution designed exclusively for organizations that run on Apple. Kandji is a modern, cloud-based platform to centrally manage and secure your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV devices, saving IT teams countless hours of manual labor with features like one-click compliance templates and 150+ pre-built automations, apps, and workflows. Request access.

There’s no nice way to put it: file sharing to Windows Server on macOS is a half-baked solution at best. I don’t know if this is how Apple implemented the protocol, but I’ve spoken with countless IT pros over the past year and everyone comes to the same conclusion: is the worst part of using a Mac at work. Disconnects plague macOS in the middle of transfers while Windows remains easily connected to the same server.

About [email protected]: Bradley Chambers managed a corporate IT network from 2009 to 2021. With his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, mobile device management system, Wi- Fi enterprise, hundreds of Macs and hundreds of iPads, Bradley will highlight the ways Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management and ways Apple could improve its products for IT services.


I thought everything had moved to the cloud?

The only reason this buggy implementation isn’t a big deal externally for Apple is because so many organizations have moved to OneDrive, Google Drive, etc. Network file shares were already on the way out before the pandemic, but it’s much easier to use cloud storage for file sharing when employees are fully remote or even in a hybrid setting. Connecting to a local network when you’re hundreds of miles from the office requires a VPN connection – which many organizations have stopped using in the age of SaaS products. It’s much easier for employees to access documents in OneDrive or Google Drive than enabling a VPN, connecting to a file share, etc.

What problems arise?

Originally connected to network file shares on Windows, it’s still much easier in my opinion. This is partly due to the simplified process of having a file server on the same server as your local Active Directory. Yes, a local AD server is not like mainstream today as many businesses are moving to cloud-based solutions such as JumpCloud in place. JumpCloud tightly integrates with Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, so businesses can create their own alternative solution. That being said, AD has an advantage if you are using a local file server setup.

Even once you’ve logged in through a slightly clumsy process, good luck to stay bound. I did some tests where I connected to a Intel® NUC I have in my house acting as a media server. I will connect to the share and let it sit without file transfer. There’s almost no chance I can go two to three days without losing connection to the server. There is only many many times I’ll be in the middle of an active transfer and it decides to disconnect. In my situation, it’s annoying. If you’re at work and this happens, it’s a big deal. In a nutshell, the implementation is unreliable.

What can Apple do?

Is this a problem with how Microsoft has implemented the file sharing protocol? May be. Even so, it’s one of those situations where it might not be Apple’s fault, but it’s their problem. I tried all the hacks. I tried Terminal commands. I tried alternative apps to enable different file sharing protocols. If you think there’s a trick I haven’t tried and you offer a solution in the comments, please note it, but I’ve probably tried it. If you spend some time on DuckDuckGo researching the problem, you’ll find countless support posts and Reddit threads with people in the same situation.

In enterprise environments, I’ve consulted with Windows Server experts for over 25 years, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion – it’s something Apple needs to fix. Some versions of macOS are better than others. Some improvements make it a bit better, but others take a step back.

Whatever the problem, Apple needs to recognize it and find a permanent solution. Yes, it’s a “disappearing art”, but many organizations still need it. Even at home, it is not uncommon to connect remotely to another computer acting as a home server.

For macOS 10.16 the only bug fix I want to see is rewritten implementation of Windows File Sharing.

Applicationthe @ Work is brought to you by Kandji, the MDM solution designed exclusively for organizations that run on Apple. Kandji is a modern, cloud-based platform to centrally manage and secure your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV devices, saving IT teams countless hours of manual labor with features like one-click compliance templates and 150+ pre-built automations, apps, and workflows. Request access.

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