How to Setup a Network Between Mac and Windows

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Here's how to connect 2 computers by a ethernet cable directly.

this is the most simple, reliable, and fastest file transfer method.

Hardware Connection Setup

Connection by a Ethernet Cable

If you have a Mac and PC, and without internet connection, you can network the 2 computers by just plug in a ethernet cable.

ethernet cable

Software Setup

If you want to connect machine A and B, and access it via A, you need to turn on file sharing on B.

If you want to access it via B, you need to turn on file sharing on A.

If you want to access it at either A or B, you need to turn on file sharing on both.

Turn on File Sharing on Mac

MacOSX Sharing panel
The Sharing Control Panel on the Mac.

As of 2017-09, the panel looks a bit different, but basically the same.

Turn on File Sharing on Windows

On Windows Vista, go to Control Panel, click on the Classic View on the left, then click on “Network and Sharing Center” icon. Then, for the folder you want to share, get the folder properties, Share tab.

Windows filesharing panel
Windows “Network and Sharing Center” control panel.

View Shared Folders

Once both machines have sharing on, you need to connect them to view. On Mac OS X 10.4.x, goto Finder, menu 〖Go ▸ Connect To Server〗, then press the Browse button. You can type a server address directly, for example, 〔cifs://WORKGROUP;XAH@XAH-PC/USERS〕.

On Windows Vista, open folder, then press 【Alt+d】 to put cursor on the file path field, then type for example: \\169.254.223.41\xah. Then it will ask you for login name and password, the login name has this syntax: username@domain or DOMAIN\username.

Note: the syntax \\ip_address\login is Microsoft's Uniform Naming Convention (UNC).

Access Thru Wired Access Point

If you have wireless networking setup, and you also have a Ethernet cable connected between your Mac and Windows. You will have 2 connections to access either machine. One is thru wireless, and the other thru wired. The wired is some 10 or 100 times faster. (see detail below)

Which way you access depends on the address you used. Suppose you connect from Windows to Mac. In Windows Explorer, i can type either the following IP address to open my Mac folder:

\\169.254.223.41\xah   ← wired, computer to computer
\\192.168.1.2\xah      ← wireless thru router

In general, if you want to use the wired, use the IP address that starts with 169. The one starting with 192 is actually your router address. That means, when transferring files, the data goes wireless to the router first, then wireless to the destination machine.

How to find out the local IP address of Mac or Windows?

On Mac, in System preference, Network icon, click either the wifi or the ethernet.

Or, start Terminal, type ifconfig

On Windows, press 【❖ Window+r】, then type cmd.exe to start the terminal, then type ipconfig

On linux, type ifconfig

〔►see Linux: Networking Commands