OS X: Sharing files between Windows and Mac

The Mac is back, even while PC sales fall. This means many Mac users today find themselves in mixed platform offices, while Windows switchers may still need to grab some precious files off their old machines. Here's how it's done (no virtualization required).

how_to_access_shared_windows_files.jpg

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Is there anybody in there

You'll need the following information about the Windows PC you want to share files from:

  • The PC network name.
  • The Windows workgroup it's on (if it is on one).

You'll find this information in the System Control panel on the PC.

Once you have this information, you can set your Mac up to access shared folders on your Windows machine. The PC will appear in Finder under the Shared category and you'll be able to browse those shared files as you would those held on any connected drive. You can also set your Mac up to share with Windows PCs.

Nod if you can hear me

  • Open System Preferences>Internet & Wireless>Network. You may need to enter an administrator name and password.
  • Click OK and select Ethernet (for a wired connection) or Wi-Fi (for wireless). Click the Advanced button.
  • In Advanced select the WINS tab. Enter a name to identify your Mac in NetBIOS Name and your PC workgroup (above) into Workgroup. You may also be able to find that network using the dropdown menu. Leave the next box blank and Apply.

Is there anyone home?

Now you connect the Mac to the PC.

  • Open the Go menu in Finder and select Connect to Server.
  • Type "smb://PC" (replace PC with the name of your Windows PC identified in step one.)
  • Click connect and you'll be asked for a username and password.

If your PC has been set up for Guest access you can use Guest as your username; otherwise, choose Registered User and enter the username and password (if the username has no password, create one in User Accounts on your PC) for the account on the PC. Check the "Remember this password" box and Connect.

Can you show me?

A list of available shared folders on the PC should appear. Select the one(s) you require access to, click OK and these folders should appear on your Mac desktop.

Sharing your Mac with a Windows machine is relatively easy, but does reduce your Mac system's overall security.

  • Go to System Preferences>Users & Groups. Click + to create a new user.
  • In the New Account menu, choose Sharing Only and create a username and password. Click OK.
  • Open System Preferences>Sharing and make sure the File Sharing button is ticked.
  • With File Sharing selected, tap the Option button to select 'Windows File Sharing' and check the account you've created for this purpose. Click OK to configure access and hit done.

The reason you set up a specific account to share with Windows machines is partially to secure your main account, as enabling this for your administrator account makes every file on your Mac accessible -- which you should not do.

A noteworthy alternative for iPad users that will enable some access to files on Windows and Macs: Parallels Access (14-day free trial, $4.99/month). This software lets you access a virtual Windows or Mac desktop, and lets you run apps on your remote machine. It's pretty cool.

I hope this brief guide helps Mac and Windows users work together.

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