Add a Mac to your Windows Network (Part II)

by Eric Geier

In Part II of our Windows/Mac sharing tutorial, we cover the nuts-and-bolts of file sharing between Windows and Mac systems on your network.

Even though you may have been sharing files between your Windows computers for ages, knowing how to network and share on Mac computers may not be obvious. The first half of this two-part tutorial series explained how to enable Windows Sharing and set the Workgroup in Mac OS X Leopard and Tiger. It also talked readers through how to configure the firewall in Mac OS and Windows to allow this type of sharing. Part II discusses exactly how to share files and folders on your Apple computers, in addition to giving tips and tricks on the co-existence of Windows-based PCs and Macs on your network.

Sharing in Mac OS X Tiger

Individual folders in Mac OS X Tiger can’t be shared on the network. However, the personal folders (Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, etc.) of each Mac account are always shared by default with computers on the network that have used the correct username and password to login. Plus the Public and Sites folder of each Mac account are, by default, shared among all computers and users on the network.


To share files on a network in Tiger, files and folders can be copied or dragged into personal folders of Mac accounts (to be shared with others on the network logged into the Mac computer with that Mac account’s credentials) or dragged into the Public or Sites folders (to be shared with all other computers and users on the network).


Tip: The Public and Sites folder of each Mac Tiger account may not appear automatically when viewing a Mac computer’s shared resources from other Windows-based computers. However, it should work by accessing the folder manually by its UNC path, for example entering MacComputerNameMacTigerShortName into the address bar in Windows.


Sharing in Mac OS X Leopard

Unlike Tiger, Leopard allows specific folders to be shared on the network; here’s one way to go about doing this:


  1. Click the Apple icon on the menu bar.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. In the System Preferences window, click the Sharing icon.
  4. On the Sharing window, select the File Sharing option.
  5. Under the Shared Folders list, click the plus sign, browse to and select the folder, and click Add.
  6. Once a folder is added, configure the permission settings as desired in the Users list box.


Tip: Sharing folders in Leopard is similar to how you do it in Windows: right-click a folder, choose Get Info, select the Shared Folder checkbox, and specify the permissions on the bottom of the window.


Note: The personal folders (Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, etc.) of Mac accounts are only accessible from other computers on the network if a particular Mac account’s credentials are entered when the shared Mac computer is accessed. This is even the case when a Mac Administrator account is used in Windows when trying to access a Mac computer; the entire Mac system is shared, except the personal folders of the other Mac accounts.


Matching account credentials on Mac and Windows

It’s best to set the same exact account names and passwords for users across all computers on the network. This is because when a Mac computer is accessed from Windows, Windows first checks to see if an account on the Mac computer matches its account name and password. If a match is found, Windows automatically uses its login credentials to connect to the Mac computer—saving the user time by eliminating the need to input login credentials. This same process applies when accessing Windows computers from Macs, or in Windows-to-Windows scenarios.


This feature of Windows and Mac operating systems, however, can become a pain (more so when using Windows) when a user wants to connect to a computer’s shared resources using an account that differs from the Windows or Mac account he or she is currently logged into.


In Mac OS X Leopard, switching the account is very easy. When browsing the contents of a computer on the network it displays which account is being used. Clicking the Disconnect button (see below) logs the user out of the current username and password. If the user clicks the Connect As... button, a login dialog box will appear and a different username and password can be used.


1035 Fig 2.jpg


In Mac OS X Tiger changing the account used to log into computers on the network is possible by clicking the Authenticate Again button on the dialog box that’s shown when connecting to a shared resource (see below).


1035 Fig 3.jpg


In Windows Vista and XP, however, it’s a bit more difficult to change which username and password are used to log in to computers (Macs or other PCs) on the network. The first time a user connects to a computer’s shared resources, she will be prompted to enter a username and password that matches an account on the remote that has been authorized to access or write to the shared folder or drive. (But if the user account she is using matches an authorized account, the user won’t even be prompted and Windows will use her account username and password.) Once a username and password is entered and the Remember My Password option is checked, the user probably won’t be prompted again to login, and the account credentials will be saved. (In the case where a user’s username and password matched, she won’t be prompted at all).


In Windows XP and Vista, you can change the username and password for particular computers on the network by clicking a link from your User Account window by following these steps:


  1. Click Start>Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel window, click the User Accounts (in XP)  or User Accounts and Family Safety (in Vista) category, and then click User Accounts.
  3. In XP, click the Windows account you’re currently logged into and on the next screen under the Related Tasks pane on the left side of the account settings window, click the Manage my network passwords link. In Vista, click the Manage your network passwords link. The Stored User Names and Passwords dialog box should appear.
  4. If you already see an entry for the computer on the network you want to change the login account for (listed as the Computer Name in the list box), select it and click the Remove button; otherwise continue with the next step.
  5. Click the Add button. The Logon Information Properties dialog box (in XP) should appear or Stored Credentials Properties (in Vista).
  6. In the Server field (in XP) or Log on to (Vista), enter the Computer Name of the computer on the network you want to change the login account for.
  7. In the User name field, enter a Mac (or Windows) account name that’s authorized to access the computer on the network, using the appropriate format; for example computernameaccoutname. If entering a Mac OS X Leopard account name, enter the actual Name of the account (not the Short Name) even if spaces are included. But if entering a Mac OS X Tiger account name, enter the Short Name for the account.
  8. In the Password field, enter the password for the Mac (or Windows) account that’s being used.
  9. In Vista, click the A Windows logon credential radio button.
  10. Click OK.
  11. You may have to Log Out of your Windows account and log back in for the changes to take place.


Tip: When changing the accounts used to log in to network computers, think about any mapped network drives or offline files you’ve set up. If the new account specified for log in doesn’t have the necessary privileges to access folders or drives that are mapped as network drives or setup as offline files, delays at boot and errors may occur.


Wrapping it up

Now that you’ve gone through this tutorial, and the previous one, you should be able to share files and printers between your Macs and PCs. You’ll also know some tricks to help yourself along the way.


Eric Geier is an author of many wireless networking and computing books including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting up Public Wireless Internet Access (Cisco Press 2006).

Adapted from Wi-FiPlanet.com.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Jun 11th 2008
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