How to use 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 files stored on iPad, network server and cloud storage services.

The integration of the Server Message Block (SMB) network protocol into iPadOS was a game changer due to its advantages. It allows you to access large files, which helps you save space on your device. You can view documents, play audio or video, mark PDFs, move and copy files, and much more.

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

Configuration and requirements

SMB is a network file sharing protocol that allows an application (or an app user) 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 you need to take before setting up SMB network sharing in the Files app.

Server address

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

On Windows: Open Command Prompt and type ipconfig. Then, write down the IPv4 address.

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

Access to shared folders

We will use the built-in functions to enable file sharing on Mac and Windows. On a Mac, go to System Preferences> Sharing, then select File Sharing. Click Options, then select Share files and folders using SMB.

In Windows, you need to make sure you turn on Network Discovery and select Turn on file and printer sharing. If you’re doing this for the first time, check out our full guide on how to enable file sharing on Mac and PC.

Authorization settings

Any access privileges assigned to the Network File Service have the same ownership and authority architecture used by the local file system. On macOS, standard file system authorization is based on UNIX-style permissions.

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

On a PC, every file and folder on an NTFS formatted volume has an Access Control List (ACL). An ACL includes an access control entry for each user. With NTFS, you can 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 upper right corner of the Browse pane and tap Connect to Server.

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

On the next screen, type in the username and password for the server. If the details are correct, you will be connected to the network device. The new share will appear in the Shared area of ​​the Browse menu. Tap your server and you will have access to all your files and folders.

Useful functions of the Files app

The Files app has several view modes: Icons, List and Columns. For a particular network share, if you have files nested in multiple folders, Column View allows you to preview the file (PDF, audio or video file) without opening it, giving you access to markup tools and more.

You can sort your files by name, date, size or tag. And perform all your normal file management operations (like moving, copying, sharing or deleting) from your server to the iPad or cloud storage service of your choice.

Troubleshoot network sharing

There are many different devices and NAS configurations. Eventually, some of them will have connection problems or show errors. There are several versions of the SMB protocol: SMB 1.0, SMB 2.0, and SMB 3.0.

Following extensive testing, Files in iOS and iPadOS is only compatible with SMB version 2.0 or later. If your Windows PC uses SMB 1.0, you will get periodic connection errors, slow transfers, and access denied errors.

It is not recommended to enable SMB 1.0 due to security concerns.

To check the SMB server configuration, press Windows + X keys to start PowerShell (administrator). Then type

Get-SmbServerConfiguration | Select EnableSMB2Protocol

If the claim is true, the device supports SMB 2.o. SMB version 2.0 is linked to “EnableSMB2Protocol” as they share the same stack. If your business uses iPad and periodically shares files with Windows PCs, we recommend enabling SMB encryption for the entire file server. To type

Set-SmbServerConfiguration –EncryptData $ true

Visit the Microsoft website for more details on SME security improvements.

This way, your SMB data is end-to-end encrypted and offers you protection from man-in-the-middle attacks. To maintain SMB compatibility, you should update your iPad whenever it is available.

Best iPad File Management Apps

Files is a useful app for performing everyday file management tasks. With the built-in network sharing feature, you can easily view, manage and transfer files.

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

The 5 best file management apps for iPhone and iPad

Do you need to manage documents, photos and more on your iPhone or iPad? Here are the best file manager apps you should use.

About the author

Rahul Saigal (115 articles published)

With his M.Optom Degree in Eye Care Specialty, Rahul worked as a lecturer for many years in college. Writing and teaching others is always his passion. Now he writes about technology and makes it digestible for readers who don’t understand it well.

More from Rahul Saigal

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