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Difference Between NFS and CIFS

computer1NFS vs. CIFS

In the realm of computers, file systems and network protocols, two names often surface ‘“ the NFS and the CIFS. These acronyms sound too technical, because indeed they are really tech related, not to mention, understanding each concept requires some background in computer networking and its various applications.

To clarify the technicality of this topic, let’s start off with the NFS. The NFS is actually the acronym for Network File System. This network is practically used for Linux or Unix based OS (operating systems), homologous to Microsoft’s Window OS platform. This is a very convenient tool used in computers, because this application is used for remote access. In this sense, the user can take a look, or even change/edit some of his old files in one computer, by using another PC as a remote (the remote computer). In terms of history, this protocol was initially conceptualized and used by Sun Microsystems, back in 1984.

On the contrary, CIFS is its Windows-based counterpart used in file sharing. It is said that CIFS is the more talkative version of the two, in the sense that it always initiates a request for accessing a file on another computer that is connected to the server PC. This server computer will then make a response to the request made by the program.

CIFS is actually the public version of SMB (Server Message Block protocol), invented by Microsoft. This mechanism enables joint sharing of multiple devices such as printers, files, and even serial ports, among various users and administrators. Because this networking is typically used in Windows operated computers, it can also be termed as the Microsoft Windows Network itself. As such, CIFS is often used in big firms and companies who have employees working with lots of data that needs to be accessed by multiple users.

On a good note, some of the advantages of CIFS include:

1. Being broader in scope because it is capable of shared access to various applications, such as print, browsing and many others applications.

2. Unicode and high performance in nature.

3. It is also said that CIFS does not have to be used only for Windows.

Although NFS already has many versions under its belt, some of its advantages are:

1. It has a very simple implementation process compared to CIFS’ talkative, response-based nature.

2. It also boasts of a safer file caching.


1. NFS is for Linux or Unix based OS, whereas CIFS is used for Windows operating systems.
2. CIFS is regarded as the more chatty, or talkative network system protocol, when compared to NFS.

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  1. Nice explanation.

  2. Microsoft did not invent SMB. IBM did.

  3. Nice and concise. Though, NFS is not an acronym. It is simply an abbreviation 🙂

  4. Quoting the NFS 4 RFC: “The protocol is designed to … perform well where latency is high and bandwidth is low” sounds more “high performance” than your “chatty, or talkative”… c.f.: http://blogs.technet.com/b/neilcar/archive/2004/10/26/247903.aspx – even getting some directory listing takes ages over CIFS/SMB if you use it over a slow, high latency link (such as ADSL)

  5. Correction: The NFS is actually the “abbreviation” for Network File System.

  6. I’ve noticed NFS is not very forgiving when there are network breaks or glitches. How does CIFS compare?
    Also, since CIFS is more ‘chatty’, does it use more bandwidth and slower if all other things are held constant?

    • Sorry it is a year late, but incase anyone is readings this. If you add the soft option (replacing hard) to the NFS config then the error is returned to the application rather than hanging it.

  7. It’s disturbing how much of this is wrong. CIFS is not exclusive to windows and NFS is not exclusive to linux/unix. In fact you can use either on either file system. Also note that Microsoft did not invent SAMBA/SMB. It was actually created by a guy at IBM back in 1983. CIFS is not the “public” version. CIFS is a bastardized version of SAMBA to add on some additional capabilities required by the MS OS’s and then called it the Microsoft SMB protocol which is probably why MS people think they invented it. But that is not the case.

    NFS – Network File System
    CIFS – Common Internet File System

    The one you got right is that CIFS is much more chatty than NFS because of those additional MS capabilities.

    @Joeseph Spenner – Yes the NFS works well with breaks, as @Alex mentioned, you need to understand the configuration options that allow for that better performance based on your needs and requirements.

  8. Is it possible to have both in the same local network?

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