How To Easily Share Files Between Mac & Windows Computers

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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.

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Comments (38)
  • BAlish

    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.

  • Prateek

    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.

  • Barbara

    “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

      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.

  • Allan Johnson

    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)

  • Allan Johnson

    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?

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.