Let me be upfront about this. Chromebooks cannot, in the standard way, access your SMB shared folders. However, the ChromeOS developers are working on an API that will allow this to happen. There is no roadmap or ETA on when this feature will finally make its way to production use. So...in the meantime, what do you do?
You get creative.
I searched for a method of connecting my shared folders (on a Ubuntu 15.04 box) to my Chromebooks. After much poking and prodding, I discovered that, unless you're willing to go the Crouton route (which works), the only way to gain access to those precious shared folders is to use a third-party tool—on the desktop. That's right, I said it...
On the desktop.
This bit of "trickery" will work on any platform that is supported by said third-party tool. Just what is this magical tool of which I speak? Insync. Insync is a tool that allows you to sync your Google Drive to your desktop. It works with Linux, Windows, Mac, and even Raspberry Pi. With this tool you not only can easily sync Drive to your desktop, you can add folders to that syncing from within your desktop file manager.
And therein lies the trick.
In order to get your shared folders to your Chromebook, you use Insync, add the shared folders, and watch them sync with your Chromebook. This trick works with desktop shares as well as server shares (Insync supports Windows Server 2003, 2008, and 2012—on all levels (consumer to business). You can even add folders from an external drive to Insync.
To add a folder to the sync (after you've installed Insync and connected it to your Google account), do the following:
- Open your File manager
- Locate the folder to share
- Right-click the folder
- Select Add to Insync
- Select the account to use
That's it. The folder will now sync with your Google Drive account and be available to your Chromebook.
Do note that Insync isn't free. Check out this matrix for full pricing.
Until the ChromeOS developers manage to get SMB protocols working properly within the platform, the most reliable means of gaining access to desktop and server shares with a Chromebook is a third-party tool such as Insync.
Have you found a better work-around for gaining access to shares on a Chromebook? If so, share with your fellow TechRepublic readers.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.