How to Setup a Network Between Mac & Windows

By Xah Lee. Date:

This blog is a short tutorial on setting up a network between Mac and PC.

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 crossover cable between them. See: twisted pair Ethernet cable. Quote:

If you just have one Mac and one PC, this is the most simple, reliable, and fastest file transfer method. (this is some 90 times faster than wireless thru router.)

〔“Belkin 100BT Crossover Yellow Molded” amazon

Connection thru Router

If you have a router with internet connection setup, all you have to do is to connect a Ethernet cable from your router to Mac, and from your router to PC.

If your router is wireless, then you don't need to do anything. (presuming that both your machines have Wireless network interface card. On the Mac, it's built-in, called AirPort. On the PC, it's usually built-in these days too, but if not, you can buy one. They usually comes in the form of a USB stick.)

Software Setup

To let a computer access a remote machine X, you have to turn on file sharing on machine X.

Turn on File Sharing on Mac

MacOSX Sharing panel
The Sharing Control Panel on the Mac.

Go to System Preferences, Sharing icon, then the Windows Sharing checkbox. If you need to use tools like rsync or unison to access the Mac, you also need to turn on ssh daemon (check the Remote Login checkbox).

See also tutorials: Linux: Sync Files Across Machines: rsync Tutorial and How to Use Unison.

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: \\\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 & 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:

\\\xah   ← wired, computer to computer
\\\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?

In Mac OS X, start Terminal, then type ifconfig.

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

Wireless Speed Issues

When transferring a 1.47 giga byte file from Windows to Mac, it takes 2 minutes with wired computer-to-computer connection. But takes a estimated 3 hours over a wireless network thru router.

Note: actual wireless speed varies, depending many factors. i.e. the router wireless protocol used, encryption on/off, etc. You can also setup computer-to-computer wireless… but i haven't explored it. See: Wireless LAN.