Share Files from Mac OS X to Windows PC’s Easily
If you have a mixed network of Mac and Windows PC’s, chances are good that you’ll be wanting to move files between the two operating systems. The easiest way to share files from Mac OS X to Windows is to enable Samba support for a given user account on the Mac.
Samba (SMB) may have a funny name but it’s essentially just Mac OS X to Windows file sharing support. Because it’s not required by all Mac users or for Mac-to-Mac sharing, it’s actually a separate unique sharing option within OS X’s File Sharing panel, and enabling it allows a Windows PC to connect to the Mac without any additional software. Let’s cover exactly how to enable it, and then how to connect to a shared Mac from a networked Windows PC so that you can swap files back and forth with ease.
Enable Mac to Windows File Sharing in OS X
First you need to enable the Windows to Mac file sharing functionality, this is a simple preference toggle in OS X system settings on the Mac:
- Launch “System Preferences” and click on “Sharing”
- Click the checkbox next to “File Sharing” to enable it
- Once File Sharing is turned on, select it and then click on the “Options…” button
- Click the check box next to “Share files and folders using SMB (Windows)”
- Now click on the checkbox next to the user accounts you want to share or access from Windows – when you click to enable SMB sharing on a user account, you will be asked for that users password
- Click on “Done”
With SMB enabled, we now can connect from the Windows PC to the Mac. If you already know the Macs IP address you can skip this first part of this and go directly to the Windows PC to access the shared users directory.
Connect to the Mac File Share from a Windows PC
With SMB and Windows File Sharing enabled, you can now connect to the Mac from any Windows PC. First you’ll get the Macs IP address that you need to connect to, then you’ll connect to that from Windows:
- Back at the ‘Sharing” system preference panel, take note of your Macs IP address as seen below, discard the afp:// portion and pay attention to the numbers in the format of x.x.x.x
- From the Windows PC connecting to the Mac:
- Go to the Start menu and choose “Run” or hit Control+R from the Windows desktop
- Enter the IP address of the Mac in the format of \\192.168.1.9\ and choose “OK”
- Enter the shared Mac OS X users login and password and click on “OK”
Access to the shared Mac directory and user files appear as any other folder within Windows. You’re free to copy or access individual files, or perform more substantial tasks like moving an iTunes library from a Windows PC to a Mac.
This process of connecting to the Mac should be identical from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows 8 or RT, and enabling file sharing on the Mac is the same in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, and OS X Mavericks 10.9, and OS X Yosemite 10.10.x. SAMBA has been a supported Mac protocol for a very long time, so technically you will find that older Macs and OS X versions will also be supported by this.
Connecting to a Windows PC from a Mac
Going the other direction, you can connect to a Windows Shared PC very easily from a Mac running OS X:
- From the OS X Finder, hit Command+K to summon “Connect To Server”
- Choose the “Browse” button to browse the available network shares, double-clicking on the share to enter a login
- OR: In the “Server Address” field, simply enter the IP of the Windows share to connect to preceded by smb://
For example, to connect to a Windows share at 192.168.1.115, the smb address would be: smb://192.168.1.115
Note that an issue with some versions of OS X Mavericks causes smb:// to use Samba2 rather than Samba1, which may cause connection errors with some servers. If you run into such a problem connecting to a NAS or SMB Windows share from OS X 10.9 Mavericks, you can forcibly use Samba1 with the cifs:// prefix like so: cifs://192.168.1.115 – this is not the case with OS X Yosemite or other versions of OS X.
What about the .DS_Store files?
Depending on the Windows PC settings, you might see a bunch of .DS_Store files on the Mac file system. These are normal but if you’re peeved by them, you can disable .DS_Store files by entering the following defaults write command in OS X’s Terminal:
defaults write com.apple.desktopservices DSDontWriteNetworkStores true
If you want them back, just switch that to ‘false’ at the end.