So far in the Mac Sharing series, we’ve covered:

Do you have both Windows PCs and Macs in your network? Hook them up to rapidly share their files in either or both directions.

Level: Switcher / Intermediate

Many portable USB storage devices such as flash drives are factory-formatted as FAT32 to be fully compatible with both platforms and are fine for quickly sharing files between Macs and Windows PCs where physical attendance is practical and usage is infrequent.

Cloud sharing services such as DropBox, Google Drive, and SugarSync are highly recommended and well worth considering when the computers are situated remotely.

But to do some heavy lifting – rapidly sharing many large files back and forth on a frequent basis – local network file sharing is the way to go.

If you don’t have a router, you can connect the Mac and Windows PC directly to each other via an Ethernet cable. Beginning with the assumption that both computers are on the same local network, we’ll share in one direction, then the other, letting you decide how you’d like to set up sharing.

Since AFP (Apple File-Sharing Protocol) is less well supported in Windows, Samba (SMB) is the protocol we will use. We’ll share using IP addresses for a sure-fire, direct method. This guide directly applies to MacOS X Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Tiger and Vista users may obtain some benefit.

 Mac ➙ ❖Windows sharing

To access a Mac from a Windows PC, simply choose what to share on the Mac, note its IP address and enter it on the Windows PC. Here’s how:

Firstly, decide whether you’d like to share your entire user / home folder or only a specific folder.

Turn on Sharing

  1. On the Mac, go to the  Apple Menu, open System Preferences, and click on the yellow Sharing Preferences icon (3rd down, 4th or 5th left)
  2. In the Sharing Preferences pane, turn on File Sharing in the left sidebar.

For specific folder access:

  • Add the folder/s you wish to share by clicking the [+] plus sign under the Shared Folders: box. A window will open for you to navigate to and Add folders.
  • Set the type of access you wish to allow in the Users: box. In most cases this will probably be either Read Only for when the other user cannot make changes; or Read & Write for full access to that folder.

Turn on sharing for Windows computers (SMB)

  1. While still in the Sharing Preferences panel, click the Options button on the right.
  2. Click the checkbox next to Share files and folders using SMB (Windows).

User Account sharing

  • Click one of the checkboxes next to a username to turn on User Account sharing and to grant Windows full access to that User’s files and folders using your Mac user password (unless access was restricted for specific folders in the window behind this).

For single specific folder access

    • Leave usernames unchecked.

    Click Done. Take a note of your IP address (just the numbers in the form in the Sharing preferences window before closing it.

    Find your Mac in Windows

    Under certain circumstances your Mac may already be showing in the sidebar of a Windows Explorer window. If not, click in the Address bar at the top of the window and type \\ followed by the Mac’s IP address, then hit Enter. (Note: those are backslashes as opposed to Mac’s forward slashes /)

    If you had set up User Account sharing you’ll need to enter the username and password for the Mac account.

    Choose your Mac shared folder and work with your Mac files just as you would normally work with your Windows files. Create desktop and sidebar shortcuts to those Mac folders you’ll be accessing again.

    ❖ Windows ➙  Mac sharing

    Sharing in the other direction is a similar process: find your IP Address, set up sharing, choose what to share, and connect to Windows from the Mac.

    Open Network and Sharing Center

    Do a search for sharing, or on your Windows desktop open the Network and Sharing Center by clicking (or right-clicking in Windows 8) on the Network Icon in the taskbar notifications tray, bottom right.

    Find your IP Address

    1. On the right-hand side of the Network and Sharing Center look for Connections: and click the blue link to your Network Status.
    2. In Network Status click Details… Note down the numbers next to IPv4 Address: eg.
    3. Close the Details and Status Windows.

    Turn on Sharing

    1. In Network and Sharing Center, choose Change Advanced Sharing Settings in the sidebar.
      • Turn on File and Printer Sharing for the type of network you are connected to (current profile).
      • Turn Network Discovery on or off. Turning it off will prevent the Windows PC from showing up in the sidebar and network windows of other computers on the network.
    2. For specific folder access:
      • Turn off password protected sharing (under All Networks in Windows 8).
    3. For User Account access:
      • Turn on password protected sharing.

    Choose what to share

    Navigate to a folder to share in Windows Explorer. Right-click and choose Share with -> Specific people.

    • For User Account sharing, just click the Share button.
    • For specific folder sharing, click the down-facing arrow next to the Add button on the right and select Everyone. Click the Add button.

    Set the Permission Level to Read or Read / Write, then click the Share button in that window.

    Connect from the Mac

    1. In the Mac Finder type ⌘k.
    2. In the Connect to Server window type smb:// followed by the IP address of the Windows machine.
    3. Hit Enter.
    4. The Mac will search for the Windows machine. When it finds it, a password prompt will appear:
      • For specific folder access, connect as a Guest.
      • For User Account sharing, connect as a Registered User and enter the Name and Password of the user account of the Windows machine.

    You should now be connected to your Windows folder/s from the Mac.

    Use Column View (⌘3) in the Finder to tunnel-down into a network while helping to clear up possible confusion about whose folders you are currently viewing.

    To assist in connecting to Windows the next time, drag frequently accessed folders to the Mac sidebar, or create aliases (shortcuts) by holding both the ⌘command and ⌥ option (alt) keys and dragging Windows folders to locations on your Mac.

    Next time, I’ll cover some tips on: Remote control Mac screen sharing.