How to use AFP to connect to a NAS on macOS Sierra

5 March 2017, 05:04

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Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) is a decades-old network file sharing technology invented by Apple and used on the Mac range of computers. In modern releases of macOS/OS X it’s officially deprecated in favour of the newer SMB file sharing, which is the same technology used by Microsoft Windows to share files across a network. However, while macOS defaults to SMB and will choose it automatically should you try to connect to a NAS or server, AFP is still there and can still be used. Often it’s preferable to using SMB because it can be more stable, especially when accessing things like network attached storage (NAS) devices.

Connecting to something like a NAS via AFP is complicated because, as mentioned, OS X defaults to SMB. Therefore, if you click the NAS’s entry under the Shared heading of Finder, you’ll automatically connect via SMB.

Connecting via AFP involves a little trickery. Here are the steps required. We assume throughout that you’re connecting to a NAS, but these steps should work equally well if connecting to another computer, or to a server of some kind.

Finding the NAS address
First, we’ll need to discover the NAS’s IP address on the network.

  1. Head over to the homepage of the old app Bonjour Browser, and download it.

  2. Once the app is up and running, look for the Apple File Sharing heading, and click the small triangle to the left to unfold the entries there.

  3. You should see an entry for your NAS, identified by its network name. Make a note of the IP address, which will be a series of numbers separated by periods (full stops) – something like 192.168.1.81, or perhaps 10.0.1.45. Ignore the numbers after the colon.

  4. You can now close Bonjour Browser and delete it if you wish because we won’t need it in future.

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Connecting to the NAS via AFP
Now we have the IP address, we can use Finder to connect.

  1. Open Finder, then click the Go menu entry, and Connect To Server.

  2. In the dialog box type afp://, followed immediately by the IP address you discovered earlier. For example, I typed the following:
    afp://192.168.1.81

  3. In the dialog box click Registered User, then type your NAS username and password when prompted. Don’t forget to put a check in the box so the password is added to the keychain, so you don’t need type it in future.

  4. Choose the folder you want to open.

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If you want to find any of the network folders once you’re connected, just browse to the /Volumes folder – open Finder, tap Shift+Cmd+G, and type /Volumes. Then click Go.

Creating a permanent desktop link
Should you create aliases to any files on the NAS then the NAS will be automatically connected to (if it isn’t already connected) when you double-click that alias in future. To create an alias, drag the file from the NAS and onto your desktop or a Finder window while holding down Option (Alt) and Command keys together.

To create a desktop shortcut that automatically connects to the NAS and then shows its files for browsing, try this trick:

  1. Open Finder, then click the Go menu entry, and Connect To Server.
  2. Type the address, as stated above – for example, afp://192.168.1.81 in my example.
  3. Highlight this text and then click and drag it to the desktop.
  4. You’ll now have a desktop shortcut of an @ sign. Double-clicking this will connect to the NAS.

How long is AFP likely to stick around if it’s already been deprecated? AFP is required for correct functioning of Time Machine over the network (that is, to a Time Capsule) and I suspect this is why it hasn’t already been removed from macOS. AFP still sees some bug fixes in subsequent releases of OS X/macOS although Apple’s engineers stop short of new feature additions. Therefore I suspect AFP will stick around until Time Machine is removed from macOS – and that might happen in the coming years if Apple moves to a cloud-based backup system, the framework of which we can already see within macOS Sierra in the form of Store In iCloud, the feature that puts unused files within iCloud Drive if storage space becomes tight. That said, I don’t recommend any of my clients upgrade to macOS Sierra because of its incomplete/buggy PDF implementation, and the days of professionals upgrading on day one of a new OS X/macOS release – of even upgrading at all – have perhaps passed.


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