Using iPad to access Windows or Mac files with “server message block

News Highlights: Using an iPad to access Windows or Mac files with a server message block

The Files app is a kind of central repository that allows you to work with the files stored on your iPad, network servers and cloud storage services.

The integration of the Server Message Block (SMB) network protocol into iPadOS was a breakthrough because of its benefits. It gives you access to large files, saving space on the device. You can view documents, play audio or video, mark up PDFs, move and copy files, and much more.

We show you how to access files directly from your Mac or Windows 10 computer through the Files app on your iPad.

Installation and requirements

SMB is a file-sharing network protocol that allows an application (or the user of an app) to access files or resources on a remote server. You can read, create and even update files on the server. There are some essential steps to take before setting up the SMB network share in the Files app.

Server address

Each device connected to the network has an IP address and a unique MAC address that identifies it on your network. Follow these steps to find the IP address of a device on your local network:

On Windows: open the command prompt and type ipconfig. Then write down the IPv4 address.

On macOS: If you are using Wi-Fi, press the Option key and click the Wi-Fi icon on the menu bar. Or go to System Preferences> Network and select your network connection to find your IP address.

Access to shared folders

We use the built-in features to enable file sharing on both Mac and Windows. On a Mac, go to System Preferences> Sharing and check File Sharing. Click Options and check Share files and folders with SMB.

In Windows, you need to turn on network discovery and check Enable file and printer sharing. If you’re doing it for the first time, check out our complete guide on how to enable file sharing on Mac and PC.

Permission Settings

All access rights that you give to the network file service have the same ownership and consent architecture used by the local file system. On macOS, the default file system permission is based on the UNIX-style permissions.

Here you can define privilege rules separately at each ownership level. The owner, group, and everyone else have specific access to each file or folder. For each shared folder, we recommend that you give everyone “read-only” access.

On a PC, every file and folder on an NTFS-formatted volume has an ACL (Access Control List). An ACL consists of access control for each user. NTFS allows you to control access and allow a different type of access for each user or group of users.

Connect to a file server

Open the Files app, then tap the ellipsis icon (…) in the top right corner of the browser window and tap Connect to server.

In the Server field, enter the network address of the SMB in the format smb: // IP address. For example smb: //192.168.1.12.

In the next screen, type the username and password for the server. If the details are correct, you will be connected to the network device. The new share is listed under the Shared section of the Browse menu. Tap your server and you can access all your files and folders.

Useful functions of the Files app

The Files app has several display modes: icons, list, and columns. If you have files nested in multiple folders for a particular network share, Column View lets you preview the file (PDF, audio file, or video) without opening it, giving you access to highlighting tools and more.

You can sort your files by name, date, size or tags. And perform all regular file management operations (such as move, copy, share, or delete) from your server to the iPad or cloud storage service of your choice.

Troubleshoot the network share

There are many different devices and NAS settings. Some of them will end up having trouble connecting or showing errors. There are several versions of the SMB protocol: SMB 1.0, SMB 2.0 and SMB 3.0.

After thorough testing, Files in iOS and iPadOS are only compatible with SMB version 2.0 or higher. If your Windows PC is running SMB 1.0, you will experience periodic connection failures, slow transfers and related Access Denied errors.

We do not recommend enabling SMB 1.0 due to security vulnerabilities.

To check SMB server configuration, press Windows + X keys to launch PowerShell (Admin). Then type

Get-SmbServerConfiguration | Select EnableSMB2Protocol

If the statement is true, your device supports SMB 2.o. The SMB 2.0 version is associated with “EnableSMB2Protocol” because they share the same stack. If your company uses iPads and regularly shares files with Windows PCs, we recommend enabling SMB encryption for the entire file server. Type in

Set-SmbServerConfiguration –EncryptData $ true

Visit the Microsoft website for more information on security improvements for SMBs.

That way, your SMB data is end-to-end encrypted and you protect against man-in-the-middle attacks. To maintain SMB compatibility, you must update your iPad when it is available.

Best File Manager Apps iPad

Files is a handy app to perform daily file management operations. The built-in network share capability makes it easy to view, manage and transfer files.

If you’re looking for third-party file manager apps, there are still plenty alternatives available for iPadOS and iOS.

The 5 Best File Manager Apps for iPhones and iPads

You need to manage documents, photos and more on your iPhone or iPad? These are the best file manager apps you should be using.

About the author

Rahul Saigal (115 articles published)

With his M.Optom Degree in Eye Care Specialty, Rahul worked for many years as a teacher at the university. Writing and teaching others is always his passion. He now writes about technology and makes it digestible for readers who don’t understand it properly.

More from Rahul Saigal

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