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File sharing between Macs and Windows is a little lob-sided. Out of the box, Macs can detect any Windows computer connected to the local network. It appears right on the Finder’s sidebar. So naturally, it is very easy for a Windows user to share their files with anyone on a Mac. The reverse process – allowing a Mac to share its files – requires a little more attention. The transition from Tiger to Leopard has made it a little bit more complicated for regular users to set up shared folders because the setting has been “disguised”.

In this week’s Macnifying OS X, I’m going to show you how easy it is to share files on your Mac so that it appears on Windows computers automatically.

how to share files between mac and pc

In System Preferences, go to ‘Sharing’ and check the box for ‘File Sharing’. By default, only your Public Folder will be shared. If you want to add other folders to the shared list, click on the ‘+’ sign under the Shared Folder box and choose the folders you wish to share.

After you’re done selecting, you’ll need to set the Permissions for each shared folder. Generally, you should allow Read Only rights to avoid others from messing around with your files. As you can see from the screenshot below, I removed the group labelled ‘Users’ from the users list so only ‘Everyone’ and I appear on the list. I do this to make things easier, only to allow guests logins from other computers.

share files between computers

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Next, click on ‘Options’ and on the resulting window, check the box that says “Share files and folders using SMB” and hit ‘Done’.

share files mac windows

Now, you’ll need to add your Mac into a Microsoft workgroup. To do this, click ‘Show All’ at the top of the System Preferences windows and click on ‘Network’. Select your active connection and click ‘Advanced’.

In the window which pops up, click on the ‘WINS’ tab and enter a workgroup in the appropriate field. Microsoft has two workgroups: MSHOME and WORKGROUP. Find out which workgroup the majority of your Windows computers belong to and set the workgroup to that.

Click on ‘OK’ and you’ll return to Network preferences, now hit ‘Apply’. Now you’re halfway there – the rest of the work is performed on the Windows machines.

On your Windows desktop, right-click on ‘My Computer’ and select Properties. Click on the ‘Computer Name’ tab and make sure that your workgroup is the same as the one set on your Mac. If it isn’t then click on ‘Change’, set it and restart your computer.

Once that is done, double-click on ‘My Network Places’ and voila, all of your Mac’s shared folders should be visible. Take note that the Drop Box in your Mac’s Public folder won’t be accessible. If you want to use the Drop Box to let other users “drop” their files onto your Mac, you’ll need to change its permissions.

On your Mac’s Home folder, double-click the Public folder. Right-click on Drop Box and choose ‘Get Info’. Click on the lock icon on the bottom right hand corner of the Info window and enter your account password. Then set the permission for Everyone to Read & Write hence, allowing anyone to conveniently “drop” files onto your Mac.

Did you find this tutorial easy to follow? Did it work for you? Is there an easier way to share files between Mac and Windows computers?

Let us know in the comments.

  1. MattH.
    June 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Install Softros LAN Messenger for PC and MAC in few clicks and send files using built-in file sender by just dragging them to user in the list

  2. Ram
    December 29, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Nice and intuitive tutorial but I do have one question to ask. Will this method work if my PC and Mac are both connected to a common wifi dongle (Tata Photon+ made by Huawei) wirelessly?

  3. BAlish
    April 25, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    For some reason, when clicking on Add a Network Location the shared folders do not appear, even though I followed the instructions carefully, and restarted the connection a bunch of time.

  4. Prateek
    March 12, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Hey, I'm on Yosemite. I was able to follow the steps for Mac very clearly but then on my PC running Windows 7 I couldn't find My Network Places since I don't use PC much. Please help.

  5. Barbara
    March 8, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    "On your Mac’s Home folder, double-click the Public folder. Right-click on Drop Box and choose ‘Get Info’. Click on the lock icon on the bottom right hand corner of the Info window and enter your account password. Then set the permission for Everyone to Read & Write hence, allowing anyone to conveniently “drop” files onto your Mac."

    Sorry it was good up til this point. I'm in Yosemite and don't know how to get to the Home Folder, Public Folder then Dropbox.

    • Prateek
      March 12, 2015 at 11:56 am

      It's easy. Just go to your desktop and press COMMAND + N to open a new "Finder Window". Then scroll through the window to find a folder named "Public". You'll find the Dropbox folder there. You can then proceed with the step.

  6. Allan Johnson
    February 10, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Jackson, I have an update. I have figured out my dilemma. In order to transfer files from the PC to the iMac I first must place the files I want transferred into the "Drop Box" located in the Network Places of the PC and as you stated in your instructions, "Voila!" Thanks again man. All has transferred well even the wave files I was concerned about. The files transferred much faster than just plugging the external disk into a USB Port. Thanks a million man. :0)

  7. Allan Johnson
    February 10, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Jackson, I see the Mac Drop Box in the Windows Network Places. Another question: How do I transfer the files from Windows to the Mac. Is there a list of instructions? What should I see on the iMac? In other words, where do I drag the files?

  8. Allan Johnson
    February 9, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Jackson, I found your instructions clear and easy to follow. Thanks. I have not transferred anything yet, but I will. My main concern is transferring wave files into my DAW Workstation. I will let you know how all worked out. I am glad your information is free and I did not have to set up an account. Thank you sir.

  9. Allan Johnson
    February 9, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Thanks Jackson. O.k., the Mac Pro is wireless and receives it internet connection via Airport. The PC is connect to the AT&T Hub via the Ethernet cable.

    QUESTION: What is ADHOC and what do I need to make the connection. Thank you once again for all of this great advice and quickly responding.

    • Jackson Chung
      February 9, 2010 at 5:36 am

      Are the 2 connected to the same network? If they are, then follow the steps in the article and you're golden.

  10. Allan Johnson
    February 8, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Jackson, I failed to ask, do I connect the Ethernet cable directly to the Mac from the PC? I apologize for my ignorance.

  11. Allan Johnson
    February 8, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you Jackson Chung for your article for New Mac Users. Excellent.

  12. Allan Johnson
    February 8, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks for all the help here. I am a new Mac Pro convert from Windows 7. I want to transfer "Wave Files" from the PC to the Mac Pro. Can I perform this process with the above procedure and or do you have another outline? Thanks in advance.

    • Jackson Chung
      February 9, 2010 at 2:58 am

      What are "Wave files"? If you managed to set up the network as shown above, your computers will be linked and will appear in the network. If you have file sharing enabled in Windows, you will be able to transfer files over.

  13. Todd
    February 2, 2010 at 10:27 am

    This worked great for me. Really appreciate it; I was pulling my hair out over this.

  14. Marijo
    January 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Followed the directions, and it worked! Thanks!

  15. Sly
    January 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    oops, i menat i can't access my laptop

    • Jackson Chung
      February 9, 2010 at 3:03 am

      Can you please clarify your question again?

  16. Sly
    January 17, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I got a problem for once, i can access my laptop, it's got windows 7, but i can access my mac from my laptop. Any help?

  17. Aria
    December 31, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Hey, my System Preferences window doesn't have nearly as many options as yours, and so there is no "sharing". The closest I've got is "Network"

    • Jackson Chung
      February 9, 2010 at 3:03 am

      This tutorial was written for Leopard. What OS X are you running?

  18. Sheila Corneau
    December 28, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Very helpful post. Worked perfectly for me. I followed your instructions with my Mac with OS 10.6.2 and my PC with Windows 7.

    Not much of a computer geek here - this sharing of files doesn't go beyond the computers on my home wireless network, right? My wireless network is secure.

    Thanks again.

    • Jackson Chung
      December 29, 2009 at 8:57 am

      Thanks. And no, definitely not. Shared files are only accessible within your network.

  19. bwithage
    November 13, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Very helpful. I'm up and running. Thanks.

  20. Arif
    September 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    How can I share the mac files if the windows OS is installed in the sample laptop. (The scenario is I have a mac pro book and I have installed both the mac and windows OS in that)

    Please help!

  21. Suresh
    August 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I guess you forgot to mention one important step that is "Select the user account checkbox to On state" after selecting Share files and folders with SMB before clicking Done. I'm not able to login until this checkbox is selected.

    Also is it possible to use Sharing Only account to access a folder from windows? (Since the user accounts shown below share files and folders with SMB contains only NON sharing accounts, it may not be possible. But is there any other solution please? )

  22. Pankaj Malav
    August 9, 2009 at 1:06 am

    This post is really helpful. Thanks.

  23. Don Hamilton
    July 20, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks, Jackson. I think you are the only person on Earth who understands how to do this.

  24. Jackson Chung
    June 5, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Hi all, I'm sorry that I haven't responded to the comments quicker. To those who are having problems, I suggest that you re-check to see if you are within the same network as your Windows counterparts and also, fix the access privileges.

    To the rest, thank you very much for your comments. I'm glad that it helped.

  25. TazH
    June 5, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Thank you Jackson Chung! You have made my life easier. (:

  26. teknoxjr
    May 2, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    As a new Mac user this answered my questions and solved my problem.

  27. akshay
    April 20, 2009 at 6:57 am

    i have a problem with this, i get an error in my pc saying that windows cannot access. what should i do now??

  28. liser
    March 26, 2009 at 11:36 am

    hey! i've been following the tuto and I have connected my two windows machines between them, I also can see (both of them) on my leopard imac.
    But, i can't make the mac visible to the windows machines.
    i've followed all the steps and they aren't capable to see the mac!!

    thanks in advance!

  29. Santesa2
    March 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Excellent and easy way to share files, went through a few other tutorials before reaching this one and by far the best. Thanks Jackson!!!

  30. Brian
    November 6, 2008 at 11:46 am

    When i get back (out of town) to my ancient quicksilver g4 with tiger on it i will let you know if it works.

    • Jackson
      January 20, 2009 at 7:01 am

      So Brian, what did you find? Did it work?

  31. digideth
    November 6, 2008 at 2:06 am

    So will this tutorial work in 10.4 cause it looks like u have 10.5 running in the screenshots.

    • Jackson
      November 6, 2008 at 10:10 am

      Presumably. I don't have Tiger to mess around with. This method I posted up bypasses the need to log in to a Mac account from the Windows PC. You could easily turn on Windows Sharing in Tiger but you'll need to enable Windows Access on an account on your Mac running Tiger, meaning that you'll need to log in from the Windows box. Hope that wasn't too confusing.

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