Windows Server 2008 drops the ball for Mac compatibility

Windows Server 2008 drops the ball for Mac compatibility

Summary: Recently I've been faced with the task of helping somebody with a network of Mac computers, that have Windows servers. They have both Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008, and are looking to migrate and upgrade to Windows Server 2008 across the board.

TOPICS: Open Source

Recently I've been faced with the task of helping somebody with a network of Mac computers, that have Windows servers. They have both Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008, and are looking to migrate and upgrade to Windows Server 2008 across the board. Unfortunately, we've run into a roadblock which has turned into a huge headache with the file servers. We've discovered that Services for Macintosh that has been on Windows Server for over a decade and a half, is being mysteriously dropped in Windows Server 2008.

Reading around on this subject, and you will find that everybody says to use Samba. This sounds all well and good, however it just has too many problems and flat out doesn't work reliably. When connecting from any Macintosh (running Leopard, Snow Leopard, doesn't matter) to the Windows 2008 server using Samba, we've encountered various permissions issues. The worst problem is with creating and saving files in Adobe CS3/CS4 applications, where users can open files but not save them, and need to save with a new file name. None of these problems happened before when accessing the shares on Windows Server 2003 that had Services for Macintosh installed. So, we are faced with 3 possibilities: Stay on Windows Server 2003, pay for an expensive 3rd party software package to run on top of the Windows file servers that will enable Apple AFP (Apple Filing Protocol), or look at using Linux with the netatalk service. From experience, netatalk on Linux is rock solid, and fully supports Apple AFP flawlessly. It's an amazing piece of software, and this wouldn't be the first time that Linux has picked up the slack that Windows left hanging behind. But unfortunately in this situation, there's the issue of training the local IT personnel to use the Linux server. At the moment, we are not sure which path to take, so for now they will continue using Windows Server 2003 for Mac file sharing.

Why would Microsoft simply drop a feature like this? Especially when there is no solid solution to replace it? If they want customers to use Windows Server, then wouldn't they want it compatible with everything else? I've seen that other services were also dropped with Windows Server 2008 as well, like services for Netware. I can understand that, but I don't understand why Services for Macintosh were dropped, considering Apple's increasing market share and Macs becoming more and more common.

Topic: Open Source

Chris Clay

About Chris Clay

After administering Linux and Windows for over 17 years in multiple environments, my focus of this blog is to document my adventures in both operating systems to compare the two against each other. Past and present experiences have shown me that Linux can replace Windows and succeed in a vast variety of environments. Linux has proven itself many times over in the datacentre and is more than capable for the desktop.

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  • I believe that this behaviour may vary between Mac OS versions (Leopard and Tiger are different) but the reason SFM was dropped is that it's old technology that's been superseded. SFM had been in maintenance mode since NT and is replaced by NFS (supported in Mac OS X) ( NFS doesn't support alternate data streams, so you're only supposed to need SFM rather than NFS if you have apps looking for resource forks, but I wouldn't have expected something as recent as CS3 to need those... have you raised a call with PSS to see what's happening?
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • I suspect that the very reason we're having these difficulties is because we are using Samba. Considering AFS is the native protocol, it seems that even today it's still flawless and works much better. NFS might be something to try, though, although like you mentioned, resource forks cannot be supported. Thanks!
  • After a little more research with Apple, I've discovered that AFP (over TCP/IP) still seems to be the preferred protocol for Mac OS X clients (above Tiger), when setting up file sharing on Mac OS X servers. AFP over Appletalk is no longer recommended and supported above Tiger, but TCP/IP is. Apple recommends only using the SMB protocol when working with Windows clients. However in this case, we are in the reverse situation, where the clients are Macs and the servers are Windows. So, knowing this, I return to my question in my original statement back to Microsoft... why was the native AFP protocol dropped completely (with Services for Macintosh)? As I mentioned, Linux (with the netatalk service) still supports it fully, and in fact it works very well and I'm sure is still used quite a bit. Netatalk itself is still actively being developed which tells me this is probably the case. I've used netatalk for over 13 years, even back in the day as an Appletalk router, and over that time it's always worked very well. I definitely see why Mac OS X supports NFS, probably because of it's distant Unix roots and also to be compatible with Unix file servers. But from what I can gather, Microsoft went out on its own limb and just dropped the AFP protocol just because.
  • Apple's page that defines supported file sharing protocols:

    An additional interesting note that they mention in the above reference page: "However, NFS doesn’t provide AFP features that Mac OS users are accustomed to, such as Spotlight searching, native ACL, and extended attribute support.". So I think NFS is out for us.
  • Thanks for your post and research.

    I cannot believe this is happening though.. Microsoft is definitely pulling my chain here. "We took it away because we haven't supported it" is like saying "We don't want to make a highway here because no one is driving on this dirt road"! What they should have done is put AFP 3.x support in there and the problem would have been solved. Now we'll HAVE to pay ~2000 USD for a 10 user license of ExtremeZ-IP, which we'll have to dig pretty deep into our pockets to find. If I'd known, I'd hesitated before going all-in on a server upgrade.
  • Interstingly I found this thread looking for another issue with my Macs but I can't believe no one is running file server for macintosh on 2008 server. When we upgraded several years ago, I just added the file server for macintosh to the server. It was a free download.
    That being said, I'm here because the AFP which seems to be greatly hallowed is no longer supported by Apple, the people who made it. Hmmm... who's dropping the ball now? Fortunately in most cases you can change the AFP to either SMB or CIFS when you use the GO command on the mac to get to the server shares that used to AFP.
  • "I can't believe no one is running file server for macintosh on 2008 server. When we upgraded several years ago, I just added the file server for macintosh to the server. It was a free download. "

    Ummm...Microsoft discontinued this for Windows Server 2008. So I'm not sure what you're running. It doesn't exist. Then you go on to say "free download". Huh? What free download? Windows Server 2008 uses Roles and Features. Microsoft dropped the ball on Mac client support at a time when more people are using Mac's again, and we have to support them on Windows Server. Not the first time Microsoft made idiotic moves.
  • Replying to an old topic that I'm currently facing with my CEO (who is on a Mac). Our servers are primarily Windows Servers, office is about half:half Windows:Mac. I'm supposed to have an unbiased opinion on the matter; however, there really hasn't been too many complaints from our users accessing our file server using SMB. The problem (it seems) is when Mac users are moving around files, deleting, or renaming large files.

    It's funny when Apple enthusiasts bash Microsoft products for removing features, but I don't hear any of you complaining about Apple removing the Appletalk protocol. We had a lot of legacy copiers in our office, and when Snow Leopard came out, those users were unable to print to said copiers.

    So, who's making the idiodic move here is irrellevant. I wish someone would just post a plausible solution that doesn't require "switching to an all Mac shop" or "switching to an all PC shop", or reversing the role by putting an Apple server in place, requiring Windows users to connect to Macs. From what I gather the best solution is to move to an NFS based solution (Windows/Mac neutral).

    I've noticed that Windows Server R2 has a "NFS Sharing" tab when going to the properties of the folder that is being shared, and was wondering if anyone has had any success sharing with Mac clients using the Windows NFS advanced sharing feature.
    • Is it Microsoft or Apple?

      What I find very ironic how many people are complaining about Microsoft dropping support for AFP when AFP is a proprietary technology developed by their competitor to create a particular experience for users of said competitor's operating systems. However, why isn't there a greater emphasis on Apple to provide better support for SMB? In every new release of OS X for the last couple years, Apple has released a product with broken SMB support.

      Surely, as Apple has basically gotten rid of their own mainstream server products, except the lowly Mac Mini Server or the ridiculously-expensive Mac Pro Server, the onus is on them to properly support SMB as most clients are likely to be using Windows shares. The fact that more people are using Mac laptops or desktops now is even more reason why THEY have to ensure their products work well in a typical business or enterprise environment.

      Why can't Apple create an affordable alternative to ExtremeZ-IP that sits on top of the Windows server? They are the ones who know AFP intimately and who will benefit from such a product since it would encourage more IT departments to be happy to recommend Macs.

      As others have mentioned, Netatalk is an option. Another option if it's just storage you need is to use a QNAP NAS with enough resources to suit your requirements and enable the AFP protocol. One just needs to ensure they factor it into their backup strategy.
  • Bill Goodrich :

    Just as al_langevin pointed out, with Windows Server 2008 there is no Services for Macintosh anymore. It's gone, not available. And a free download to enable some sort of Macintosh protocols? I would like to see that, I've never heard of such a thing for Windows Server.

    Niclas :

    ExtremeZ-IP is probably loving the fact that Microsoft dropped support for native Macintosh protocols, I bet their business has been booming. In the original case that I posted, we ended up purchasing ExtremeZ-IP as well, at a hefty price, because the company is vendor-locked in to Microsoft at the moment. So not only do Microsoft customers with Mac clients need to buy Windows Server 2008, but they need to go out and buy yet another product to provide true AFP support because Microsoft didn't think it was important anymore to support the competition's products. Great job again, Microsoft, way to treat your customers.

    txtrainguy :

    Appletalk is a very old protocol and Macs have been able to use the AFP protocol over TCP/IP for many years. Even the old Mac OS 8 and 9 had support for AFP over TCP/IP. If you are looking for an overall stable and viable option, I would strongly suggest checking in to Netatalk on a Linux server. Why? Because Netatalk has been out for well over a decade, and is rock solid. And best of all, it's open source and doesn't involve paying recursive licensing fees. Not only that, but Linux is basically the swiss army knife of operating systems, and can do many other things as well. I can't say enough good things about Netatalk, it's great stuff and is still actively being developed, probably due to high demand of Macs gaining market share.

    You can read more on the Netatalk Sourceforge page:

    Netatalk is included with most GNU/Linux distributions right out of the box.
  • File Services For Macintosh was causing Excel to prompt for Overwriting changes or Save Another Copy because it was changing the timestamp on the file. Solution is to reinstall the service but if the MACS can use SAMBA then I would prefer to leave it off. We do have MAC users using CS3 so it is good to know that we may have problems there. I am just curious to know why apexwm is using Windows 2008 server in a network of MACS. Why don't you just use a MAC server? Wouldn't that solve your problems?
  • NanWag :

    A Windows Server 2008 is being used because the environment that the Macs are in is a heavy Windows environment. I am proposing that they invest in Intel hardware (or a virtual machine), and use CentOS with Netatalk. A Mac server is definitely another option, we have not yet looked in to it. But building a virtual machine and installing CentOS + Netatalk is a relatively inexpensive and very stable solution. I would strongly recommend Netatalk to anybody that needs a good solid file server for Macs, it really is a good product.
  • windows 2008 R2 supported Mac OS

    I think you haven't problem with integrating MacOS to MS Windows 2008 Server R2 version. Because I had good expirience last week, when I include MacOS to Windows AD to 2008 R2.
    Iftikhar Shamilov
  • Really? Microsofts fault? Come on man...

    I stumbled upon this article because I have a Mac having this issue and just had to chuckle at how ridiculous this article is. How is this Microsoft's fault. The didn't drop AFP "just because," they dropped it because it is an old, outdated, archaic protocol that had little use in the real world. Even Apple dropped it. Look, this happens to old protocols that "just work" all the time. Should they bring back Netbeui and IPX/SPX support too? You want to use old, outdated and unsupported technology, fine, don't upgrade. ISA Bus is no longer on new motherboards. Should the world end because of that. Why should Microsoft be responsible for the compatibility of machines it didn't code for or engineer? Their clients work fine. It is Apple's responsibility to make them work. Much like it isn't up to Microsoft or Apple to make sure their latest OS release is compatible with every old version of software. They are only responsible for making it compatible with CURRENT standards. I don't blame my car manufacture if the factory stereo they had designed for my car works, but the aftermarket one I bought doesn't. The CURRENT Windows clients work fine (this doesn't work on Windows 3.1! The horror! And before you try to say how old Windows 3.1 is, let me point out that the AFP protocol is 4 years older!). This is clearly an Apple is. Get of the bash Microsoft high horse. While I'm not a huge fan of Microsoft, I am a huge fan of stopping the spread of misinformation, which this article is full of.