Network Mac to PC, share files between Mac and PC, cross platform network, mixed platform network

I wrote an email to a bloke called Simon and tried to explain how to network a Mac and a PC together. This is one of those things that is in fact easier to do than to explain, but it isn’t a straightforward process by any measure.

The email I wrote relied on there being a router involved and both machines connected to it, receiving DHCP addresses from it. The instructions on doing this bit are usually included with your router and would probably be part of the initial set up that you go through. From there you need to follow the steps here to get it all running.

I am using Mac OSX 10.4.x and Win XP Pro, but it works the same with Win XP Home. This is what I said:

Part 1

OK – if you have OSX 10.2 or above this is going to be a piece of cake. Without going into the detail too much, when you network two computers they need to be in the same ‘group’. By default, a MacOSX machine is placed into a group called ‘workgroup’. However, a Windows machine by default is in a group usually called MSHOME. You can choose to change either or both to be the same.

In Windows (XP), click on control panel, then System. In the box, click the tab for computer name, then look for the button to ‘Change’ it. In there you can type ‘workgroup’ for the group – it will only go in as capitals. You will need to re-start the machine to apply the changes.

Or, in Mac, open your applications/utilities folder and start up ‘Directory Access’. You will need to authenticate – click on the lock and type your password. In the list of services highlight the one with ‘SMB/CIFS’ and then click on ‘Configure…’ – you can now type in the name for the workgroup that you want. You won’t need to re-start!

Personally, I leave the Mac as Workgroup and change the PC to be the same. With luck this is all that you’ll have to do… apart from set up a shared folder. For lots of reasons I only ever share a folder on a PC, not the entire drive. Create a folder, name it and right click on it. In properties, set up the share name there. On the Mac, go into the System prefs and under ‘Sharing’ click on ‘Windows Sharing’. The Mac will tell you the path that other users can use to get to your machine, so make a note of it – it will be something like \\\username.

Part 2

The next step is to make sure that you can ‘see’ the PC from the mac and vice versa. Ensure that your network cables are connected to your router and that both machines have Internet access – open a browser and check a search in Google, for example. If you have set the router up properly this should be straight forward, and the router should be supplying ‘DHCP’ info for both the PC and the Mac.

You need to know what the IP address is for the PC – you can get this usually from the router’s internal info or from the PC itself. Depending on the router, log in (could be or as the address to log in to the router – type this into Safari or Firefox), and look for the ‘DHCP assigned routing table’. In there you will see what each machine connected to the router has been assigned. If you prefer to use the PC, go to the start button and then click on ‘Run’ and type in ‘cmd’ – this starts up the command line prompt in a window. Once there, type ‘ipconfig’ and you should see the IP address that the PC has been assigned.

If that all works, on the Mac go into applications/utilities and start up the Network Utility. Click on ‘Ping’ and type in the IP address for the PC. If all is well, the Ping will start and you should get ten results under 1ms. You can do the same to the Mac from the PC – go into the command line again and type ‘Ping’ and the IP address for the Mac…

If you can ping both machines successfully, there is no reason why you can’t now mount the shared volumes with ease.

Part 3

On the Mac, open a finder window and on the top left click on the ‘network’ icon and browse to ‘servers’ – you should see the PC listed there – click on it and click ‘connect’. You will be prompted for a user name and password – the username is typically the name of the account you created in win XP. If you use a password, type it there. The list of available shared volumes will appear, click the one you want. If there is only one it may not give you the option, so check to see if a network icon appears on your desktop. If you arrange the desktop view by name it will appear under the hard drive icon in the top right of the screen.

That is full access to the PC shared folder, and you can simply drag and drop stuff into there or from there.

On the PC the Mac should now appear in the Network places. You could click on the ‘Show Workgroup’ icon and browse for it if not. However, if you can’t find it, you may need to ‘Add a network place’. To do this you’ll need the info you noted down earlier when prompted by the wizard. This will then give you an icon in the ‘My Computer’ area which will link to the Mac and will be called something like ‘username on MacOSX (computername or share name), so for me it is ‘Hal on Mac OSX (Jumbo).

Again, you’ll need your Mac OSX username and password (the one you use for admin stuff, like installing apps), and then the mac folders will appear for you… simply drag and drop files to and from whatever folder you need.


After that I guess it is time to open up any bottle of something nice to drink that you have got lying around. I would think I might have missed some bits and pieces out, so feel free to let me know if I have.

6 thoughts on “Network Mac to PC, share files between Mac and PC, cross platform network, mixed platform network

  • 8 October, 2005 at 8:06 pm

    I can ping my Mac from my PC (XP Pro), but not the other way around… When I go to network utility in OSX 10.4 and try to ping the PC it reports 100% packet loss. Basically I get up to the end of Step 2.
    What could be the reason for this?

  • 28 October, 2005 at 11:49 pm

    I’d bet you have got your Win machine with a firewall on it… the default setting for a PC seems to be to turn on the firewall. My brother even had a software wall or two and wondered why he coudn’t ping between machines.

    Just as a test, hunt down the setting to turn off the firewall (you’ll get a load of warnings about doing this – including the inevitable hell and damnation that will follow, along with the demise of an entire tribe of endangered hobbits… but do it anyway).

    Once off, you’ll be pinging back and forth like a good ‘un!

  • 7 March, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    I have a Dell PC running XP connected to the internet (usb broadband modem) and a number of macs connected to the pc via a network hub. the older macs (os 8.6 – 9.2) can surf the net fine but my newer macs (osX 10.3.9) cannot ???? I am able to file share between the new macs, the old macs and the pc. OSX network status shows a green light and a connected IP address but will not find the internet.
    I have had all the computers surfing the net at the same time before, I’m at my wits end trying to work out why it’s not working now!!??



  • 7 March, 2006 at 9:50 pm

    Hi Trig – thanks for the comment.

    So let me get this straight… your PC is acting as a gateway for the other machines, which are connecting to it via the hub? The PC is always on and connected, and the other machines ae effectively sharing this connection, right?

    There are probably several areas to troubleshoot here, and I have to say I am possibly not the best person to do that for you. However, the first thing that comes to mind os the WinXP firewall – have you got it set up to allow all the machines through it? Older Macs use a different protocol, I believe (it’s been a *very* long time since I even looked at OS9, let alone 8.6 – which was the very first OS I had). Do you have any other software based firewalls in place, such as Norton?

    One of the reasons I ended up getting a router was precisely because of the problems you are having. If the router is connected and dishes out the DHCP numbers, the rest is a piece of cake, relatively speaking. Beware that some routers do not like to work on a mixed network… I recently bought a D-Link router which was supposed to work, but just didn’t. The moment I added a different platform machine to the network it wouldn’t play fair!

    I would definitely recommend you try out the LinkSys WAG54 which is just a delight to set up (about two clicks I’d say!) and has worked flawlessly for me for the last 6 months using PCs and Macs, laptops and desktops, wireless and wired. It runs Cisco software, so is very reliable, but one *slight* criticism is that the WAP on it seems to be a little underpowered – I get a weak signal in some parts of a not so very big house! Newer models may well have this sorted, of course. The router does tend to run a bit warm, but you could do a lot worse than get one of these.

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  • 6 November, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    SOOO sad I missed you three, but we’ll make up for it soon. Hope you had a great weekend. HUGS!!!

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