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I'm trying to connect a linux computer to an existing Windows network. Do I need to run the samba server or should the samba client be sufficient?

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neither are required you can do this with a mount command:

# mount -t cifs //SERVERADDRESS/SHARE -o username=USER,password=PASS /mnt/MNTDIR
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How do I determine the server address for the windows network? (In case it's not obvious, I'm not a sysadmin and am really out of my league here...) – MCS May 21 '09 at 16:58
Someone's going to have to tell you either the name of the machine or its IP address, as well as the names of any shares set up on that computer that you'd like to connect to. – nedm May 21 '09 at 17:01

You want the samba client (smbmount) or CIFS (a client-only driver) which is also maintained by the samba team. Most versions of Linux will have both, although samba may not be installed by both.

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You want the client if you are trying to access existing drives on the network from this computer.

You want the server if you are trying to share drives on this computer with the network.

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On a Debian/Ubuntu based system you need the package you NEED is smbfs. This is the package that includes mount.cifs.

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It depends on what you mean by "connect", and what type of Windows network you are talking about.

If the Windows network is domain based (eg Active Directory), you might want to run the winbind daemon (which usually depends on the other Samba daemons) and properly connect the Linux computer to the domain so it can use the networks shared credentials etc.

If you just want to very occasionally mount the odd Windows file share, then you only need the client components (eg smbfs).

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