Departmental File Sharing: How to connect to your M: drive


Central File Service (Departmental Drive)

Recommended For

Document storage


Staff, Faculty, Grad Students


The Central File Service Departmental Drive, is a network folder that can only be accessed on Princeton’s network, either on-campus of through VPN. 

It can be accessed on Windows, Linux, and OSX devices through the following protocols, CIFS/SMB/NFS.   It used ti store and share data for departments.

There are automatic snapshots taken of all data under the following schedule:

Bi-hourly: 24 version are kept

Nightly: 7 Versions are kept

Weekly: 4 Versions are kept


The Departmental Drive can be leveraged as a data source or landing area for Windows, Linux, or OSX applications. 

The Central File Service is integrated into Princeton's Active Directory, where existing AD groups can be leveraged.

A limitation of CFS is lack of access external from Princeton's network.  Content cannot be shared directly through the Internet.  External access is only permitted through the VPN.

Data Classification Types

Restricted, Confidential, and Unrestricted within Princeton University

Available Space

10TB per department

How to Get Started

Send email to

Cost Associated with Service    


There is a one-time charge past 50TB.  Please contact for the current rate.

Not sure this is the right solution? Before you start, make sure this is the best solution for your needs. See Help Me Choose a File Storage Service

Detailed Description

The Central File Server is a file sharing service provided by OIT to promote document sharing and collaboration across the network and within departments. Scores of departments and projects are putting it to work for temporary file storage and document management. If you often use computers from multiple locations, the Central File Server is a great way to share, move, and store files.

You can use your departmental space to store your important files so that they are accessible to you from any computer connected to the network. Once a folder is created and a specific access group defined, the folder can be used for the following document management operations:

Transfer documents between computers

Large text documents, heavily formatted documents and documents which contain non-text objects in significant numbers or of significant size may be difficult or impossible to convey via text-based e-mail messages or as e-mail attachments. The shared server provides an easy and effective way to transfer such documents to someone else on the network.

Post documents for informational purposes

Informational documents that cannot be easily disseminated by e-mail or that lose their currency after a relatively short period of time can be posted in a designated folder on the shared server. Such files might include extensive and/or heavily formatted text documents, files containing images and other non-text objects, large spreadsheets, etc.

Facilitate collaboration on documents

Applications supported through the DeSC program, including Microsoft Word and Excel, enable collaboration on the production and editing of files. Collaboration is sometimes easiest when all revisions and comments can be tracked on one document. The shared server makes this possible. The document - whether a grant proposal, meeting minutes, or legal document - can be stored in a designated folder on the shared server. Each collaborator who is given access can then mark changes, make comments, and see others' revisions.

Access your M: drive using a Windows computer on campus

Many departments on campus have departmental folders on \\files\dept that are shared by the administrative staff and faculty.

Access your M: drive using a Windows computer from off campus

If you are off campus and connecting to the Internet, you will need to make a VPN connection to the University before accessing the Central File Server. See Solution 6023 for information about Virtual Private Networking (VPN). Once established, map your M: drive as follows:

  1. In the search box on the taskbar, enter \\\dept and press Enter.
  2. Expand the window by clicking on the maximize icon if needed. 
  3. You may be prompted to enter in your credentials. Enter your user name as PRINCETON\yourNetID and your password. Click OK.
  4. Single click on your departmental folder in the list to select it.
  5. Click on Home at the top of the window to display the header menu
  6. On the header menu, click on Easy Access, and choose Map a Drive.
  7. On the Map Network Drive screen, change the drive letter to M:
  8. Click the checkbox to the left of Reconnect at sign-in. Click Finish 
  9. Select Connect using different credentials if needed
  10. The drive is now mapped.

Access your M: drive using a Macintosh computer

If you use a Mac computer running OS X, you can use Samba technology to connect to your M: drive.

If you are off campus and connecting to the Internet, you will need to make a VPN connection to the University before accessing the Central File Server. See Solution 6023 for information about Virtual Private Networking (VPN).

Once established, map your M: drive as follows:

  1. At the Finder tool bar, click Go
  2. Select the Connect to Server from the drop down list
  3. At the Connect to Server screen, type in the following at the Server Address
    • smb://
    • where DEPARTMENTAL_FOLDER is the name of your department's folder
  4. If there is request of “Enter your name and password” screen, then select Registered User at Connect As:
  5. Enter your Princeton netID for Username
  6. Enter your University password
  7. The mapped drive will appear on your desktop where you can interact with it like any other folder on your hard drive.

Restore backed-up files using the ~snapshot folder

The Central File Server provides a backup service using snapshot technology. Every 2 hours your files are imaged and retained on the server in the event that you accidentally delete, overwrite, lose, or corrupt a file. If you are saving your intellectual property to the Central File Server, you can restore files yourself. See the instructions within Solution 9679.