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Cross platform file sharing sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to get a PC and and a Mac to share files with each other.

We showed you how to get Windows and OS X to work together Computing Harmony: Seamlessly Blend Windows and OS X Computing Harmony: Seamlessly Blend Windows and OS X If you know the right tricks – most of which are simple and free – you can easily manage both the Windows and Mac OS X under the same roof. Read More , but now it’s time to turn our attention specifically toward file sharing. Today we will show you exactly how to share files from one system to the other.

I’m going to assume you’re running the latest version of both Windows and OS X: 8.1 and Yosemite, respectively. These instructions should generally work for earlier versions of both operating systems, and likely even for future versions, but some things might look different than what you see here.

With that warning out of the way, let’s get started!

Sharing From Your Windows Computer To Your Mac

Instructing your Windows computer to share files is relatively straight-forward, but first you have to make sure you’ve enabled file sharing File Sharing, Manual Syncing & Bluetooth Tips For Windows Phone 8 File Sharing, Manual Syncing & Bluetooth Tips For Windows Phone 8 Having used the Windows Phone platform since 2010, one of the things that has struck me is how difficult Microsoft initially made it to share files to and from your phone. With the original Windows... Read More . Head to the Control Panel, then to Network and Internet, then HomeGroup and sharing options, then Advanced sharing settings. Ensure that file and printer sharing is turned on for your current network.

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The hard part is done, let’s get to the actual sharing!

On your Windows computer, right-click the folder you’d like to share to the network, then click Properties and open the Sharing tab.

windows-set-up-sharing

You should see a Share… button. Click it.

windows-sharing-users

Specify which users you would like to see and modify the folder in question. On a home network allowing everyone to see, and specific users to edit, is often the best policy – use your discretion.

File sharing is now set up, so let’s head over to your Mac. Open the Finder and you should see the Windows computer in the sidebar under Shared.

see-windows-share-on-mac

Click it, and you’ll be asked whether you want to log in. If you don’t need write access, “Guest” should work. Otherwise, log in with the username and password from your Windows machine.

access-windows-share-from-mac

Once you log in, you can start browsing files. It works pretty much like you’d expect.

windows-share-on-mac

Congratulations: you’ve set up your Windows computer to share files, and opened them on your Mac. Now let’s try it the other way around.

Sharing Files On Your Mac With Your Windows Computer

On your Mac, open up System Preferences, then click Sharing.

mac-file-sharing-setting

Take note of the Computer Name field at the top of the window – you’ll need it later.

Click the checkbox beside “File Sharing” and file sharing is turned on. Now click the Options button.

mac-file-sharing-password-windows

Ensure that SMB is enabled – this is the kind of file sharing used by Windows computers. You should also enable Windows File Sharing for your account (by checking the box in the field below), if you’d like full access to your Mac’s file system from Windows computers on your network.

Now head to your Windows computer and open Windows Explorer. With any luck, you should see your Mac from here.

mac-share-visible-windows

If your Mac doesn’t show up, don’t panic: just type “\\” followed by your Mac’s name (as seen earlier) into Explorer’s address bar. In my case, this would be “\\JPot”. If this doesn’t work, you can also type “\\” followed by your Mac’s IP (which you can find, on your Mac, in the File Sharing pane in System Preferences).

When you do manage to connect, you should see this prompt for your password:

mac-share-windows-login

Type the username and password you use to log in to your Mac, and you’ll have access to all folders. You’re in!

If you’d rather not share your entire filesystem, or wish Windows users didn’t need to remember a password, you’ll need to create a sharing account. Head to the Users & Groups section of System Preferences, then create a new account.

mac-create-sharing-account

Make sure the account is marked as “Sharing Only”, as seen above, and give it an easy-to-remember name. Head back to the Sharing section, and give this account access to the folders you’d like to share – you can make that access Read Only, if you’d rather people not mess with your files.

Using Third Party Software

If you’d rather not set up network-wide file sharing, there are other options. For example, a program called Dukto lets you share local files and text snippets between any two computers Dukto Offers Cross-Platform, Drag-And-Drop File Sharing Dukto Offers Cross-Platform, Drag-And-Drop File Sharing Drag and drop a file; send it to the desktop of another computer on your network. Dukto makes local file sharing simple, regardless of operating system. Read More .

Install this program on your Mac and your Windows computer and you can quickly send files from one computer to the other. If even this seems too complicated, there are plenty of simple file sharing apps for Mac The 2 Good Mac File Sharing Apps Compared: CloudApp vs Droplr The 2 Good Mac File Sharing Apps Compared: CloudApp vs Droplr Read More .

For some users, syncing files with BitTorrent Sync From Pirate Darling To Dropbox Alternative: BitTorrent Sync Lets You Keep Your Files Synchronized Across Machines From Pirate Darling To Dropbox Alternative: BitTorrent Sync Lets You Keep Your Files Synchronized Across Machines Cloud-based file sync services are easy to use and work well, but your privacy may or may not be your first priority. Not to mention the fact that these services always come with a storage... Read More might be superior to file sharing. The program lets you sync folders between Windows and Mac computers, meaning you’ll always have access to files on both machines regardless of whether you’re connected to the same network.

How Do You Share Files?

With the above information you should have no problem sharing files from one kind of computer to another. Let me know how it goes in the comments below, along with any other cross-platform file sharing tips you might have.

Did it work for you?

  1. SlowEnter
    November 19, 2016 at 2:32 am

    I made a shared folder that has all permissions and from my windows I can acces files and write in the folder but on mac i camt open them because of permissions...but I can open everything from windows, have been stuck on this for some time now. Would apreciate some helo thanks

  2. Zoo
    March 7, 2016 at 5:53 am

    Hi,

    First off, thank you for this post. This was very informative.

    I was able to set up and transfer files. But I am facing an issue with the Sharing of the Windows Folder when I am trying again. The Properties says it is not shared and when I try to share it again, it says the folder cannot be shared. What am I doing wrong here?

    Thanks again.

    • Justin Pot
      March 7, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      That's odd, is the account you're attempting to share from an admin account?

      • Zoo
        March 7, 2016 at 5:57 pm

        I figured it out Justin. It's shared already, so don't need to share it all the time when I am trying to access it. I was able to connect to it from the Finder Menu.

        Thanks and good luck!

        • Justin Pot
          March 7, 2016 at 6:58 pm

          I'm glad you figured it out!

  3. MR
    January 26, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    I was able to follow your instructions to set up sharing on my Mac and connect from Windows. However, despite setting permissions to Read & Write, my Windows user can only read, not write. I tried creating a Dropbox (write only) folder and the Windows user can't log in to that at all. Any suggestions? I'm using Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.8.5.

    • Justin Pot
      January 27, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Did you add a specific user with read/write access, MR? And did you log in from the Windows side using that user?

      • MR
        January 27, 2016 at 1:22 pm

        Thanks for your note. Yes, I created a new user with read/write access and logged in as that user from Windows. I can read, but not write.

        • MR
          January 27, 2016 at 1:27 pm

          I think I figured it out -- I shared a folder with a lot of folders I need within it. I have read access to everything, but write access only to the top-level folder that was explicitly shared.

          I'm not sure why the Dropbox I tried to make didn't work, since that was a single folder, but I'll call that user error of some kind.

        • Justin Pot
          January 27, 2016 at 2:50 pm

          Network issues can be complicated to suss out so far as permissions are concerned, it's a step-by-step process really. But this is what I was going to suggest next. Keep playing with it, and sorry this isn't easier for you.

        • MR
          January 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

          Don't apologize! These are the most useful directions I've found for this messy process.

          For other users' reference, after creating sharing on my Mac, I had to enter the IP address in Windows (as described in this article) and then wait a looooooong time. I had pretty much given up and was doing something else on my Mac when it finally connected. Maybe it would have connected by name instead of IP if I had waited long enough. But you only need to type the IP address once so it is easy enough.

        • MR
          January 27, 2016 at 4:53 pm

          Sad update: Although I can write files to my Mac in the exact folder I've shared, my Mac user does not have permission to use them! Bah humbug.

        • Justin Pot
          January 27, 2016 at 4:55 pm

          As a Canadian apologizing is a deeply held cultural norm to me. I hope you get this all working eventually, just keep at it.

  4. Samo Jones
    January 10, 2016 at 8:32 am

    this doesn't work. you need to re trace your steps. after the windows part, the windows folder does not show up on a network.

    • Justin Pot
      January 10, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      I use this every day, so I know it works, but in some cases things can get more complicated. I recommend trying to connect directly with your IP address: in Finder hit "Go", then "Connect to Server", then "smb://" followed by the IP address of the computer you'd like to connect to. If this works, you've got a starting point at least. Sorry I can't help more.

  5. bettus
    May 23, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Hi there, I tried to get my Win 7 (Dell Inspiron 1420) connect to the Yosemite (Macbook Pro) os. But once shared from the win7 side on the Macbook it says "The operation cannot be completed because the original item for "FOLDER NAME" cannot be found. How do you think I should go on? All comments are appreciated!

  6. pistachio
    February 13, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I use Lan messanger at work. IPmessenger, pussbullet for android and Dukto for my N900.

  7. brin
    February 11, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    nice piece you got here....thanks

    • Justin Pot
      February 11, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      Glad it's useful!

  8. Mike Henry Sr.
    February 11, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Why not just use Dropbox or Box.net or OneDrive or Google Drive? I haven't thought about file sharing in years thanks to those services. Mike...

    • Justin Pot
      February 11, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      For large files like videos the cloud still isn't terribly practical, but I do see your point.

    • Anonymous
      February 11, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      That would be a waste of bandwidth if you are trying to share files locally.

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