Network File System overview

Applies to: Windows Server 2022, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012

This article describes the Network File System role service and features included with the File and Storage Services server role in Windows Server. Network File System (NFS) provides a file sharing solution for enterprises that have heterogeneous environments that include both Windows and non-Windows computers.

Feature description

Using the NFS protocol, you can transfer files between computers running Windows and other non-Windows operating systems, such as Linux or UNIX.

NFS in Windows Server includes Server for NFS and Client for NFS. A computer running Windows Server can use Server for NFS to act as a NFS file server for other non-Windows client computers. Client for NFS allows a Windows-based computer running Windows Server to access files stored on a non-Windows NFS server.

Windows and Windows Server versions

Windows supports multiple versions of the NFS client and server, depending on operating system version and family.

Operating Systems NFS Server Versions NFS Client Versions
Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11 N/A NFSv2, NFSv3
Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2 NFSv2, NFSv3 NFSv2, NFSv3
Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2022 NFSv2, NFSv3, NFSv4.1 NFSv2, NFSv3

Practical applications

Here are some ways you can use NFS:

  • Use a Windows NFS file server to provide multi-protocol access to the same file share over both SMB and NFS protocols from multi-platform clients.
  • Deploy a Windows NFS file server in a predominantly non-Windows operating system environment to provide non-Windows client computers access to NFS file shares.
  • Migrate applications from one operating system to another by storing the data on file shares accessible through both SMB and NFS protocols.

New and changed functionality

New and changed functionality in Network File System includes support for the NFS version 4.1 and improved deployment and manageability. For information about functionality that is new or changed in Windows Server 2012, review the following table:

Feature/functionality New or updated Description
NFS version 4.1 New Increased security, performance, and interoperability compared to NFS version 3.
NFS infrastructure Updated Improves deployment and manageability, and increases security.
NFS version 3 continuous availability Updated Improves continuous availability on NFS version 3 clients.
Deployment and manageability improvements Updated Enables you to easily deploy and manage NFS with new Windows PowerShell cmdlets and a new WMI provider.

NFS version 4.1

NFS version 4.1 implements all of the required aspects, in addition to some of the optional aspects, of RFC 5661:

  • Pseudo file system, a file system that separates physical and logical namespace and is compatible with NFS version 3 and NFS version 2. An alias is provided for the exported file system, which is part of the pseudo file system.
  • Compound RPCs combine relevant operations and reduce chattiness.
  • Sessions and session trunking enables just one semantic and allows continuous availability and better performance while utilizing multiple networks between NFS 4.1 clients and the NFS Server.

NFS infrastructure

Improvements to the overall NFS infrastructure in Windows Server 2012 are detailed below:

  • The Remote Procedure Call (RPC)/External Data Representation (XDR) transport infrastructure, powered by the WinSock network protocol, is available for both Server for NFS and Client for NFS. This replaces Transport Device Interface (TDI), offers better support, and provides better scalability and Receive Side Scaling (RSS).
  • The RPC port multiplexer feature is firewall-friendly (less ports to manage) and simplifies deployment of NFS.
  • Auto-tuned caches and thread pools are resource management capabilities of the new RPC/XDR infrastructure that are dynamic, automatically tuning caches and thread pools based on workload. This completely removes the guesswork involved when tuning parameters, providing optimal performance as soon as NFS is deployed.
  • New Kerberos privacy implementation and authentication options with the addition of Kerberos privacy (Krb5p) support along with the existing krb5 and krb5i authentication options.
  • Identity Mapping Windows PowerShell module cmdlets make it easier to manage identity mapping, configure Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS), and set up UNIX and Linux passwd and flat files.
  • Volume mount point lets you access volumes mounted under an NFS share with NFS version 4.1.
  • The Port Multiplexing feature supports the RPC port multiplexer (port 2049), which is firewall-friendly and simplifies NFS deployment.

NFS version 3 continuous availability

NFS version 3 clients can have fast and transparent planned failovers with more availability and reduced downtime. The failover process is faster for NFS version 3 clients because:

  • The clustering infrastructure now allows one resource per network name instead of one resource per share, which significantly improves resources' failover time.
  • Failover paths within an NFS server are tuned for better performance.
  • Wildcard registration in an NFS server is no longer required, and the failovers are more fine-tuned.
  • Network Status Monitor (NSM) notifications are sent out after a failover process, and clients no longer need to wait for TCP timeouts to reconnect to the failed over server.

Note that Server for NFS supports transparent failover only when manually initiated, typically during planned maintenance. If an unplanned failover occurs, NFS clients lose their connections. Server for NFS also doesn't have any integration with the Resume Key filter. This means that if a local app or SMB session attempts to access the same file that an NFS client is accessing immediately after a planned failover, the NFS client might lose its connections (transparent failover wouldn't succeed).

Deployment and manageability improvements

Deploying and managing NFS has improved in the following ways:

  • Over forty new Windows PowerShell cmdlets make it easier to configure and manage NFS file shares. For more information, see NFS Cmdlets in Windows PowerShell.
  • Identity mapping is improved with a local flat file mapping store and new Windows PowerShell cmdlets for configuring identity mapping.
  • The Server Manager graphical user interface is easier to use.
  • The new WMI version 2 provider is available for easier management.
  • The RPC port multiplexer (port 2049) is firewall-friendly and simplifies deployment of NFS.

Server Manager information

In Server Manager - or the newer Windows Admin Center - use the Add Roles and Features Wizard to add the Server for NFS role service (under the File and iSCSI Services role). For general information about installing features, see Install or Uninstall Roles, Role Services, or Features. Server for NFS tools includes the Services for Network File System MMC snap-in to manage the Server for NFS and Client for NFS components. Using the snap-in, you can manage the Server for NFS components installed on the computer. Server for NFS also contains several Windows command-line administration tools:

  • Mount mounts a remote NFS share (also known as an export) locally and maps it to a local drive letter on the Windows client computer.
  • Nfsadmin manages configuration settings of the Server for NFS and Client for NFS components.
  • Nfsshare configures NFS share settings for folders that are shared using Server for NFS.
  • Nfsstat displays or resets statistics of calls received by Server for NFS.
  • Showmount displays mounted file systems exported by Server for NFS.
  • Umount removes NFS-mounted drives.

NFS in Windows Server 2012 introduces the NFS module for Windows PowerShell with several new cmdlets specifically for NFS. These cmdlets provide an easy way to automate NFS management tasks. For more information, see NFS cmdlets in Windows PowerShell.

Additional information

The following table provides additional resources for evaluating NFS.

Content type References
Deployment Deploy Network File System
Operations NFS cmdlets in Windows PowerShell
Related technologies Storage in Windows Server