Accessing files on the central Web server from a PC using Samba

Samba is a system that allows you to attach parts of a filestore belonging to a Unix host system to a PC as a networked drive so that you can access the files on it as though they were part of the PC's filestore.

This document refers specifically to Samba as it is set up on the central Web server - Many departmental Unix servers also use Samba but they may be set up differently.


You must be registered as an information provider before being able to view any files on the central Web server using Samba, even those with universal read permission. To register as an information provider, fill in and return the appropriate form. The form must be signed either by the head of the department whose Web pages you will be maintaining or, in the case of Union society pages, the Union General Secretary (or proxy).

The central Web server relies on UOB domain authentication to verify what permissions you have for the files so you need a UOB username and password to access the filestore in this way. Most people in the University already have UOB usernames. If you don't, but already have a Bristol mailname (that is a, you can apply for one using the Web form linked from Information Services registration for computing facilities.

Departmental Unix servers are likely to use a local domain for authentication, most likely the same one that you log on to when starting up your PC. This is likely to cause confusion only if you use different passwords (or have a different username as is the case in a few departments) for the local and the UOB domains.

This document describes how to set up a PC running Windows NT. Note that there are problems with using Samba from Windows 95, 98 and ME, and you are not recommended to use Samba from PCs running these operating systems. Using Samba from Windows 2000 is similar to using it from Windows NT.

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Connecting to the filestore

To mount your Web filespace on a Windows NT system:

  • Right click the My Computer icon on the Desktop and choose Map Network Drive
  • Choose a suitable drive letter (the first available one is displayed)
  • In the Path box, type \\\depts. This connects you to the directory /info/www/Depts on the Web server

If you need to connect to a directory further up the tree, replace depts by www.

  • In the Connect As box, type uob\your-username replacing your-username with your UOB username
  • If you want to have the filespace available all the time check the "Reconnect at logon" box

Note that there are some risks associated with having the filestore permanently connected, in that the files are more susceptible to accidental damage. Keeping your anti-virus software up-to-date should avoid virus problems. The Web server is also running anti-virus software.

  • Click OK to mount the filespace

If your UOB password is different from the password on your local NT domain, you will be asked for your UOB password (which will be encrypted on transmission).

On completion you should see a reference to the network drive visible in all applications.

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Using the filestore

Once you have connected the filestore to a network drive, you can use it in just the same way as any local filestore or other network-mounted drives. When opening or saving a file, choose the drive letter and go to the subdirectory where your files are stored.

It has emerged over the life of the Web that it can be very confusing to have URLs that use mixed case (that is both upper and lower case letters). Although you can still use mixed case pathnames, we strongly recommend that you use only lower case for both filenames and directory names. If you already have filenames or directory names that are in mixed case and would like help with creating links to all lower-case names, please get in touch with the Webmaster Team.

Note that it is not possible to follow symbolic links using Samba. If you have already arranged for your department's directory name to be in lower as well as mixed case (for example, "registrar" as well as "Registrar"), you will only be able to use the primary name ("Registrar" in this case) in Samba. If you try to access a symbolic link a message box with a message like:

The folder I:\registrar does not exist

is displayed.

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File permissions

By default, when you create a directory on the central Web server using Samba, the file permissions allow anyone with an account on the system to browse the contents of the directory. This is not necessary for the files in the directory to be displayed via the Web. If there is some reason you do not want others to be able to list your files, you can change the file permissions. To change the file permissions using Explorer:

  • Right-click on the name of the directory and choose Properties from the context menu
  • In the Properties dialog box, select the Security tab and click on the Permissions command button. A dialog box is displayed similar to:
  • From the drop-down box, select Special Directory Access
  • Click on the checkbox beside Read (R) to remove the tick and prevent everyone being able to browse your directory

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