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Accessing Windows 7 Shares from Ubuntu is a Pain

June 28th, 2010 16 comments

This blog post is about my experiences. If you hit this page from a search engine looking to fix this issue click here to skip to the solution.

Recently, I’ve been reorganizing my computers based on their usage. My old HTPC, has resumed its duties as my primary desktop/server, my Mac Mini has been attached to the my desktop through Synergy, my server was given to my brother for personal use, and his old computer – a nettop – is now being used as our new HTPC.

After a painful decision making process – a topic for another time, and another post – I decided that this nettop, named Apollo after the Greek god of many things including “music, poetry, and the arts” [as close as I could get to entertainment],  should run Ubuntu 10.4 with XBMC as the media center app. After testing it’s media playback capabilities from a local file, I was rather impressed. I set out to add a SMB share from within XBMC, and was prompted to add a username and password.

I wasn’t really expecting this, because Leviathan – my desktop/sever running Windows 7 – has public sharing turned on, as well as a guest account. I entered in my credentials, and was asked yet again for a username and password. After trying multiple times, I decided to quit XBMC and see if I could get Ubuntu to connect to the share. Here too, I was prompted for a username and password, again and again.

Next I headed to the terminal to run smbclient. This didn’t work either, as I was shown a message saying smbclient failed with “SUCCESS – 0″. I guess success shouldn’t be zero, so my next move was to attempt mounting the network share using CIFS. Again, I was met with repeated defeat.

Begrudgingly I took to the internet with my problem, only to find that there were many people unable to connect to their Windows 7 from Ubuntu. The suggestions ranged from registry hacks to group policy administration, none of which worked. One repeated suggestion however, was to un-install the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant. However, as a user of the Windows Live Essentials (Wave 4) Beta that was recently released – I had no such program. I did however have a similar application called the Windows Live Messenger Companion, which I chose to uninstall – again, to no avail.

However, I soon reasoned that perhaps whatever was blocking people using the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant was now being used within the actual Windows Live Messenger client or the other Windows Live Essentials apps that I’d recently installed. I started by uninstalling everything but Windows Live Messenger – because I really, really like the beta version. Alas, this did not help. Next I uninstalled the actual Windows Live Messenger client and voila – I was able to connect with no prompting for passwords at all. Because that makes -any- sense.

As a matter of interest, I installed the regular WLM non-beta client and made sure that the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant was installed, and tried to connect again. Not surprisingly, I was no longer able to connect to my Windows 7 shares. After un-installing the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant my shares were back up and I was mostly happy. Except that I couldn’t use the new Windows Live Messenger beta.

I can’t be sure if the other tinkering I did also helped clear up my problems, but as a recap here are the steps I recommend to access your Windows 7 shares from Ubuntu:

1) If you have the Windows Live Essentials (Wave 4) beta installed, you’ll have to uninstall all of the applications that come with this. For now, you can install the current version of Windows Live Messenger and the other Windows Live Essentials.

2) If you have Windows Live Messenger installed, or ANY of the Windows Live Essentials programs installed check to see if you have the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant installed. If so, uninstall it.

3) Hopefully, now you can enjoy your Windows 7 shares in Ubuntu

Important Note:

Beta software has this nasty habit of leaving beta status sooner or later. If this issue is not resolved when the newest version of Windows Live Messenger is officially released, you may not be able to use the Window Live Messenger client if you need your Windows 7 shares from Ubuntu. I would suggest using an application like Pidgin as your instant messenger, as it can also connect to the Windows Live Messenger service. Other options include Digsby, Miranda, and Trillian.

Originally posted on my personal website here.