Samba's main philosophy is that it is better to teach the server to speak the client's language than the other way around. Past experiences with client software such as PC-NFS have led many network administrators to share this belief. SMB/CIFS is the protocol of choice for resource sharing in Windows networks. The advantage of using the Windows' native CIFS support is that it is no longer your responsibility to verify that third-party client networking software is compatible with the latest hotfix or service pack from Microsoft. The CIFS client software updates are included with the OS upgrades.
The dominance of CIFS in Microsoft networks means that the components necessary for connecting to a Samba host are usually present in default Windows installations. There was a time many Windows releases ago (such as with Windows for Workgroups) when TCP/IP network stacks were hard to find and install. Such instances still exist, but are thankfully rare.
This chapter is devoted to helping you understand the pieces necessary for the latest Microsoft operating systems to communicate with Samba servers. Its intent is not to act as a Windows troubleshooting guide or to provide an in-depth look at Windows networking. By the end of our discussion, however, you will be comfortable verifying that the necessary networking protocols and services are installed and functioning properly. If you are already comfortable with configuring Windows clients to access Microsoft servers, it is safe to skim this chapter and move on to the next.
The dialog boxes and screenshots that you will see throughout this chapter are taken from a Windows XP client. All of the concepts and terminology, however, apply to Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 hosts. Microsoft has come a long way in consolidating the user interface between releases. but each one does possess a few nuances, which are highlighted as we continue our discussion.