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Share a folder from a server to a client is a fundamental task for network administrators and IT professionals. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of setting up folder shares, focusing on Windows Server environments. By understanding the intricacies of both SMB (Server Message Block) and NTFS (New Technology File System) permissions, you can ensure efficient and secure access to shared resources across your network.

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Understanding File Sharing Essentials

Before we delve into the step-by-step process of how to share a folder from a server to a client, it is critical to grasp the underlying technologies that enable secure and efficient file sharing. This understanding forms the foundation for setting up and managing access to shared resources effectively.

SMB Protocol

Server Message Block (SMB) is a network file sharing protocol included in Windows Server that allows systems within the same network to access files, printers, and serial ports from other computers. Originating as a simple protocol for network file access, SMB has evolved to support complex interactions involving file commands and file and print services. SMB operates directly over TCP (port 445) or over NetBIOS (on top of TCP/IP, ports 137-139).

Key Features of SMB

  • Network File Access: Enables computers to read and write to files and request services from server programs in a computer network.

  • Print Services: Allows clients to send print jobs to printers managed by a server running the SMB protocol.

  • Interprocess Communication (IPC): Supports communication between processes running on different computers in a network, primarily using named pipes and mail slots.

NTFS Permissions

New Technology File System (NTFS) is the standard file system of Windows operating systems since Windows NT. NTFS supports file-level security, transactions, encryption, compression, auditing, and large volumes and files. The security features of NTFS are especially pertinent to sharing as they allow detailed specifications of the permissions granted to users and groups.

Understanding NTFS Permission Levels

  • Full Control: Users can modify, add, move, and delete files and subfolders. Additionally, they can change permissions and take ownership of files.

  • Modify: Users can read, write, modify, and delete files and subfolders.

  • Read & Execute: Users can run executables and scripts, as well as view file contents and attributes.

  • List Folder Contents: Users can list the contents of a directory.

  • Read: Users can view the folder contents and open files.

  • Write: Users can add files and subfolders, write to a file, and add attributes.

How SMB and NTFS Permissions Work Together

Integrating SMB and NTFS permissions effectively safeguards data and optimizes data access across your network. Here’s how they interact:

  • SMB Permissions: Govern access to the network share. They determine whether a user can connect to the shared folder and what level of access they are granted—be it read-only or full control.

  • NTFS Permissions: Once a connection is made through SMB, NTFS permissions then determine the level of interaction a user has with the files and folders. NTFS permissions apply not only to network users but also to anyone accessing the data locally, providing a second layer of security.

Best Practices for Configuring Permissions

  1. Least Privilege Principle: Always assign the minimum permissions necessary for users to perform their roles.

  2. Consistency Between SMB and NTFS: Ensure that SMB share permissions and NTFS permissions do not conflict but instead complement each other to avoid unnecessary complexity and security loopholes.

  3. Regular Audits: Regularly review both SMB and NTFS permissions to adapt to any changes in roles, responsibilities, or security policies.

Step-by-Step Guide to Share a Folder on Windows Server

This first part explained us what are the file sharing essentials, but now, it is needed to know how to share a folder from a server to a client.

Step 1: Choose Your Sharing Method

There are two primary ways to share a folder in Windows Server:

  • File Explorer: Suitable for quick shares on any Windows version.

  • Server Manager: Ideal for managing multiple shares or complex configurations, available from Windows Server 2012 onwards.

Step 2: Share a Folder Using File Explorer

  1. Navigate to the Folder: Open File Explorer, right-click the folder you want to share, and select 'Properties'.

  2. Access Sharing Settings: Go to the 'Sharing' tab and click on 'Advanced Sharing'.

  3. Enable Sharing: Check 'Share this folder'. Assign a share name that will be used to access the folder over the network.

  4. Set Permissions: Click 'Permissions' and configure access for user groups or individual users. At minimum, allow 'Read' access for general users.

Configure Detailed Permissions

Grant 'Change' or 'Full Control' only when necessary, such as for administrative staff or specific management roles.

Step 3: Share a Folder Using Server Manager

  1. Open Server Manager: Go to 'File and Storage Services' then 'Shares'.

  2. Start the New Share Wizard: Click 'TASKS' and select 'New Share'. Choose 'SMB Share - Quick' for a straightforward setup.

  3. Specify the Path: Use the 'Browse' button to select the folder to be shared.

  4. Customize Access Permissions: As with File Explorer, adjust the SMB and NTFS permissions to define who can access the folder and what actions they can take.

Step 4: Testing and Validation

After setting up the share:

  • Test Access: From another computer on the network, access the share using the format '\ServerNameShareName' to ensure its properly configured.

  • Verify Permissions: Check different user accounts to confirm that access restrictions are working as expected.

Advanced Sharing Tips

When setting up folder shares on a Windows Server, knowing the basic steps is crucial, but understanding advanced sharing techniques can significantly enhance the security and manageability of your network shares. These advanced tips focus on optimizing share visibility and maintaining rigorous security standards on the process of how to share a folder from a server to a client.

Creating Hidden Shares

Hidden shares are an effective way to reduce the visibility of sensitive folders from casual browsing on the network. By convention, appending a '$' at the end of the share name renders the folder invisible in the usual network browsing tools, though it remains accessible to those who know the exact path.

Steps to Create a Hidden Share

  1. Select the Folder: Right-click on the folder you intend to share.

  2. Share the Folder: Access the sharing options and enter the share name followed by a '$' (e.g., 'Data$').

  3. Set Permissions: As with any share, configure both SMB and NTFS permissions according to your security policies.

  4. Accessing Hidden Shares: To access the hidden share, users must type the full network path (e.g., `\ServerNameData$`) into their file explorer's address bar.

Hidden shares are particularly useful for administrative shares or when limiting the exposure of sensitive data. However, they should not be used as the sole layer of security, as the existence of hidden shares can be discovered by determined users with network access.

Implementing Robust Security Practices

Regularly reviewing and updating share and file permissions is crucial to maintaining a secure file sharing environment. This process ensures that permissions are aligned with current security policies and compliance requirements.

Key Security Practices for File Sharing

  1. Audit Permissions Regularly: Schedule regular audits of both SMB and NTFS permissions to ensure they accurately reflect current user roles and organizational policies.

  2. Implement Permission Changes Promptly: When roles or responsibilities change, update permissions immediately to prevent unauthorized access.

  3. Use Security Groups: Instead of assigning permissions to individual users, use security groups to simplify management and reduce the likelihood of errors.

  4. Monitor and Log Access: Implement monitoring tools to log access and alterations to shared files. This not only helps in detecting unauthorized access but also assists in compliance and auditing.

Additional Considerations

  • Educate Users: Regularly inform and educate users about security policies and the importance of secure data handling practices.

  • Limit Share Points: Minimize the number of share points to what is strictly necessary. Each additional share increases the potential attack surface.

  • Enforce Strong Authentication: Ensure that strong authentication methods are in place for accessing network resources, especially for those involving sensitive data.

These advanced sharing tips provide layers of security and control, enhancing the overall integrity and performance of your network file sharing system. By incorporating these practices , administrators can significantly mitigate risks and streamline the management of network resources.

Optimize Your File Sharing with TSplus

For those seeking enhanced features and easier management, TSplus offers advanced solutions that simplify the setup and maintenance of file shares. With TSplus, you can benefit from robust security features, streamlined administration, and superior performance. Explore our solutions to enhance your network's file sharing capabilities today at tsplus.net.


Setting up folder shares on Windows Server is an essential skill for network administrators. By carefully configuring SMB and NTFS permissions, you can ensure secure and efficient file sharing across your network.

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Ultimate Citrix/RDS alternative for desktop/app access.Secure, cost-effective,on-permise/cloud

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