Accessing your Math department network space

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Members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Mathematics are allocated a certain amount of space on a shared network file system. This space can be accessed by simply logging into any departmental machine. Your network space appears as your home directory when you log into a linux computer or as the X: drive when you log into a Windows machine. Users sometimes need to access this space from their own laptop or home computers. This document explains some of the methods by which that can be done.


The easiest way to access your network disk space from a linux computer is to use sftp. To use sftp to access your network space, simply type 'sftp' in a terminal window.

Another way to access your network space is via sshfs. Sshfs packages are avaiable in all of the major flavors of linux. In debian or ubuntu linux, you can install sshfs by simply opening a terminal window and typing, "sudo apt-get install sshfs".

Once sshfs is installed, you may wish to add your user name to the fuse group. This will allow you to mount sshfs file systems as a regular user. For example, if you usually log into your linux computer as user johndoe, you would add yourself to the fuse group by opening a terminal window and typeing, "sudo adduser johndoe fuse".

To mount an sshfs file system, open a terminal window and type something like: mkdir ~/mathfs sshfs ~/mathfs

This will mount your Math department network space on the /mathfs directory in your home directory. Replace 'username' in the above example with your Math department user name. Also, replace 'path_to_your_home_directory' with the path to your home directory. For faculty, this is /fac/username. For graduate students, this is /grad/username. For staff, this is /staff/username. For visitors, it is /visitor/username.  

Hint: You can make it possible to connect to your Math Department network file space by typing just a few characters. To do this:

  1. Create an alias for the sshfs command you use to mount your network space. Edit your shell startup script, either .cshrc for csh and tsh users or .bash_profile for bash users. If you use csh, you would add a line similar to the following: alias mathfs 'sshfs mathfs"</code>. For bash users, add a line similar to the following: alias mathfs='sshfs mathfs'. Use your own Math department login name and home directory, of course.
  2. Generate a ssh key to connect without a password. To do this, use the ssh-keygen program. For instructions on using ssh-keygen, type 'man ssh-keygen' in a terminal window.

At this point, just typing 'mathfs' in a terminal window will mount your Math Department file space on the mathfs directory.


Windows itself does not provide a way to access other computers via sftp. You can download and install a package that provides an sftp program. Examples are SecureCRT or putty. DoIT provides a free SecureCRT download. These packages allow you to copy files back and forth from your home computer to your Math Department file space via the sftp and scp programs. They do not provide an sshfs program that would allow you to make a Windows share to your Math Department network file space.

At the time of this writing, there was no free Windows program to allow you to connect your Windows computer to our network file system as a Windows share. You cannot connect your Windows computer to our network via the usual Windows network drive mapping protocol because this access is blocked by the campus firewall. The computer staff at the UW Math Department recommends a commercial product called ExpandDrive. This product allows you to map a network share to any computer running an ssh service.


As mentioned above for Windows users, the campus firewall blocks access to Math Department computers via the smb protocol. However, you can use ssh and scp to copy files back and forth between your home computer and your Math Department network file space. To do this, open a Terminal window and type something similar to the following: scp fmydocument.doc This would copy the file mydocument.doc to your home directory on the network file server. For complete instructions on using the scp command, type 'man scp' in a Terminal window.

On campus, you can mount your network drive via samba. You must prepare your mac properly, though to keep it from trying (and failing) to write to protected space. (for more information on this, see

Step 1. login to your mac as an administrative user and type

  sudo tcsh  (you will have to type the password)
  defaults write /Library/Preferences/ DSDontWriteNetworkStores true

Step 2. In the finder, click on the Go menu item, then select connect to server. When the dialog box comes up, type


You will be prompted for your password. This will work if your username on your Macintosh is the same as it is on the math server and you are connected to the Van Vleck network via a wired connection.