July 14, 2009

Linux Migration Guide: Accessing Windows Data from Linux and Vice Versa

Since you're starting from the Windows world before moving to Linux, you no doubt have files on a Windows drive somewhere that you'll want to access from Linux. Some of those files may be on a computer that's set up to boot into either Linux or Windows. Others may live on other Windows computers you have networked together in the house. Either way, don't worry, you can get to those files.

Some nice general resources on this issue are:

Accessing Windows Data On Your Linux Box

If you've set up your computer to boot into Linux or Windows, or you kept your old Windows hard drive intact in case you needed anything on it, then you probably want to get to the Windows files without having to reboot the computer. While Windows doesn't know how to see Linux data, you can tell Linux how to see Windows data.

Your Windows partition is probably in FAT32 or NTFS format. Many distributions today can handle both of these formats by default. If you find that yours doesn't understand NTFS, use the distribution's package management software (see "Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Linux Maintenance" to install the necessary NTFS drivers).

If all goes well, you should be able to mount (link to the maintenance article's accessing storage media section) the Windows partition, access its data, and in general get things done without a problem.

Some useful resources to help you out:

Accessing Linux Data on Your Windows Box

If you're dual-booting and have booted into Windows, you may want to reach your Linux data. While Windows can't natively do this, there are a number of Windows programs available that make this possible.

Check out:

Accessing Windows Boxes Over the Network

If you have a home network then you may have a variety of operating systems running. The good news is that you can share files across these operating systems without losing too much hair in the process. First, you need to set up your Windows computers to play nicely. Browse to the folder you want to share, right click it, and in Properties choose Sharing. There you'll find the share settings.

Then you should be able to open your Linux file browser and automatically see the available Windows shares.

Some resources on this topic are:

Accessing Linux Boxes from Your Windows Boxes

Offering Linux directories (folders) for Windows users to see over your network isn't quite as straightforward. The tool you'll use for this is called SAMBA. Aside from being a spicy Latin style of dance, SAMBA in the Linux world is a server that allows you to heavily integrate Linux machines into Windows networks.

For our purposes, we're focusing on letting you offer Linux folders to share with your Windows boxes. To do so, you'll use a small subset of SAMBA's features unless you want to get really fancy. So when you look through these resources on the topic, be sure to focus on just getting to your Linux files from Windows computers over the network:

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