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Department of Computer Science

Technical Services and Support

Accessing Files Remotely

This page is about accessing files from home systems. If you have a Linux system within the department, see Sharing Files for how to access files on our servers, and how to share files between systems. (We say Linux because that’s where our experience is. In principal, Macs have the same facilities available, and even Windows can participate to some extent.)

Accessing CS File Servers Remotely

Many of our users want to access files on computer science systems from home or from other computer systems that they control. There are two reasonable ways to do this:

  • A GUI file copy program. This lets you look at files in your CS home directory, and copy them to and from your own computer. The GUI tools generally look very similar to the Mac Finder or the Windows File Explorer, except that they’re looking at files at Rutgers rather than files on your home computer. Use this approach if you want to make copies of your files, work on them at home, and then copy them back to Rutgers when you’re finished.
  • A mount program. This lets you mount your CS home directory on your home machine. In this case your home directory at Rutgers appears to be part of the file system on your home computer. It will show up in the Finder, File Exporer, and in File dialogs in programs. Use this approach if you want to work on file at Rutgers directly, without making copies.

NOTE: This section describes approaches for normal user home computers. If you’re running a server that has multiple CS users on it, it may make sense to do more integration with our systems by setting up kerberos on your home system.  Please contact for that situation.

TECHNICAL NOTE: Most of the tools described here use sftp, which is a file transfer protocol running over ssh. It performs surprisingly well. On a local, high-speed link sshfs performs nearly as well as NFS.

  • GUI file copy: We recommend either Cyberduck or Filezilla. Both are free. The appearance, and how they work are slightly different. 
  • Mount as file system. These options will make your home directory (or other Linux directory) look like a local Macintosh file system. For typical users, MountainDuck is the easiest option, but it costs $39.

More sophisticated users may prefer to use sshfs for mounting. See the Linux sections for details. To use it on the Mac, you need two separate packages: FUSE and sshfs. Both are available from the OSX FUSE site. Another option, which also allows you to access cloud services, is Rclone. However this is a command-line tool, which will take significant knowledge to set up.

  • GUI file copy: We suggest looking at  CyberDuckWinSCP or  Filezilla or  Bitvise SSH Client.(video) All are free. The appearance, and how they work are slightly different.
  • Mount as drive letter. These options will make your home directory (or other Linux directory) look just like a disk drive on your computer. MountainDuck costs $39. The only free tool we’ve been able to find is rclone. It works fine, but it will require significant knowledge to set it up.
  • GUI file copy. Linux has a number of different window environments. The most common one in current distributions is Gnome. In Gnome’s file manager (Nautilus): at the bottom of the left bar, click “+ Other Locations.” Then at the bottom of the right section, in “Connect to server”, server address, type sftp://HOSTNAME, where HOSTNAME is the name of the computer your files are stored on. For students, you can use the name of any of the computers in the ilab. Similar capabilities should be present in the other major file managers.
  • Mount program. You will want to use sshfs. packages for sshfs are available for all major distributions.
  • find or create a “mount point.” This is a directory where the remote file system is going to be available. If it’s your own computer, it’s common to use a directory in the root filesystem sucha as /mnt, but you can also use “mkdir” to create a directory in your home directory. You must have write access to the directory. For this example I do “mkdir remote” to create a new directory
  • use sshfs to mount the remote file system. E.g. to mount my ilabl directory on remote I would use “sshfs remote”. COMPUTER should be replaced by the specific computer that has your files. If you’re a student, you can use the name of any of the ilab systems.
  • At this point, I should see all my ilab files in the directory “remote”
  • To unmount, use “fusermount -u remote” (on the Mac “umount remote”)

Note: User and groups may show up incorrectly, unless both name and number match on the two ends. This shouldn’t normally be a problem, but if you need to change a file to have a specific group, that group has to exist on both ends with the same name and number. Alternatively, you can use the idmap and gidfile options to map groups on the other end to groups on your system. In most cases this won’t be a problem.

If you want to access files on cloud services such as dropbox, we suggest that you look into Rclone. It is designed to copy files, but it also has a mount option.

For help with our systems or If you need immediate assistant, visit LCSR Operator at CoRE 235 or call 848-445-2443. Otherwise, see CS HelpDesk. Don’t forget to include your NetID along with descriptions of your problem.