Living in a Windows World
by Alan Zisman
first published: 2001:12:05 on LowEnd
Grumble as they may, most Mac users recognize that
it's a Windows world
out there. Like it or not, it's up to the Mac users to go more than
in coexisting with the majority platform.
Macs can read PC floppy disks and files out of the
box, and most Mac
users quickly learn that if they're sending a document as an email
to a PC user, they had better get in the habit of tacking a DOS-style
extension onto the file name.
Lots of Mac users, though, need more. In many cases,
they would like
to connect their Mac to a Windows network to share the Internet, a
files, or a CD-burner, either at work or at home.
It can be done, but it takes some effort. Depending on
what you want
to do, it may require purchase of some additional software, either for
your Mac or for the Windows systems.
Share the Net
If all you want to share is an Internet connection,
you may be in luck
-- this can often be done without any extra expense. If there's already
Internet connection sharing on the Windows network, your Mac may be
to share it easily by opening the TCP/IP control panel and entering the
IP address of your router (or PC that's physically connected to the
OS X users can do the same thing in the Network system preference.
You may need to do some experimentation -- try first
to configure the
IP address using DHCP, which means the address is automatically set by
the network. If this doesn't work, try to manually create an address in
the same pattern as the ones used by the other machines on the network.
(On the Windows machines, you can find the IP addresses by typing
/ALL in the Start Menu's Run dialogue). Make sure that you don't pick
address that is being used by another computer on the network.
Home networks typically use addresses in the range:
where xxx and yyy are numbers between 0 and 255. The subnet mask used
most home networks is 255.255.255.0 -- this needs to be the same on all
You may also find that to connect to real Web sites,
you need to manually
enter the DNS or Name Server Addresses. These are the numeric Internet
addresses of the server that your Internet Service Provider uses to
a name like lowendmac.com to its real numeric IP address (in this case,
22.214.171.124). Once again, typing IPCONFIG /ALL on a Windows machine
should give you this information.
Sharing Files and Printers
Once your Mac is hooked into the local area network
and sharing the
Internet, a natural extension is to want to share files and hardware
printers. Unfortunately, while Macs and PCs can (more or less)
share an Internet connection, this next step is harder. That's because
while both Macs and PCs can be set to use the TCP/IP networking
they use different networking clients -- the layer in between the
protocol and the user interface. Macs use AppleTalk; Windows uses
Client for Microsoft Networks. (Bet they paid someone a lot of money to
come up with that name!)
You can get around this by using FTP (File Transfer
Protocol), an Internet
standard. There are several popular shareware FTP clients for the Mac,
such as Fetch or Interarchy. A quick check at www.download.com didn't
up with any cheap FTP servers for Mac, but it did locate several free
for Windows. Setting up an FTP server on a Windows system means that
Mac(s) on the network could log into it and send or receive files.
Nicer, however, would be to be able to let the Macs
and Windows PCs
see one another as more or less equal partners on the network. That
sharing files can be more intuitive and flexible.
If your network uses a Novell NetWare, Windows NT, or
Windows 2000 server,
you can turn on Macintosh services on the server. With that enabled,
can log onto the network, save files (which will appear as Mac files),
and use shared Postscript printers transparently from the Chooser, just
as if it was another Mac network.
NT/Win2000 servers are uncommon in home and small
however. More likely there's a peer-to-peer network, with one or more
sharing folders and/or printers. In this case, you may want to consider
one of four commercial products.
Unlike Dave, with either MacSoho or DoubleTalk your Mac can see files
printers on the Windows machines, but the Windows users can't see files
or printers on your Mac.
- PC MacLan (www.miramarsystems.com,
on the Windows computers on the network and gives them
AppleTalk capabilities. Once installed, they can share files and
connected to your Mac. Your Macs can read files on the PCs, and, in
cases, print to the PC's printers as well.
- Dave (www.thursby.com,
on your Mac (as do all the other products I'm going to discuss). It
your Mac Microsoft Networking capabilities; in other words, from the
your Mac can connect to Windows computers, accessing shared files and
If you turn on Dave sharing, the PCs on the network can access shared
and printers on your Mac. Thursby has just released version 3.1 of
with both OS 9 and OS X capabilities.
- MacSoho, also from Thursby (US$49) is a simpler
product than Dave. It's
intended for Windows networks that use the NetBeui protocol. This
protocol used to be popular, since it didn't require any of the fussing
with addresses needed in TCP/IP networks, but since it doesn't directly
support the network, it's less commonly found these days. But if you
to add a Mac to a NetBeui network, MacSoho is the way to go.
- DoubleTalk (www.connectix.com,
on top of a TCP/IP network, and allows your Mac to access shared
and printers on networked PCs. It is somewhat easier to set up and use
than Dave, but less powerful. An especially nice feature is that it
your Windows network in the Mac's OS 9 Network Browser.
How to decide? If you're adding a single (or small
number of PCs) to
an existing Mac network, PC MacLan is your best bet. If, however,
adding a small number of Macs to an existing PC network, you want one
the other products. If it's a NetBeui-based network, MacSoho is your
option. If it uses TCP/IP, get DoubleTalk if you don't want to allow
to your Mac, and Dave if you do.
There are downloadable trial versions of all of these
A couple of things to note:
What about OS X?
- While all of these products promise you can print
from shared printers
connected to a Windows computer, printer support is far from universal.
You can generally print to a Postscript printer on the network,
LaserWriter 8 in the Chooser. Support for non-Postscript printers is
at best. The new version of Dave promises inkjet support, but I don't
how wide a range of models are supported.
- If your networked PC has an internal CD-RW drive,
you may be able to
it from your Mac if your PC has Adaptec (now Roxio) Direct CD software
installed (this is bundled with many popular PC burners). Direct CD
you format a blank CD disk to use it like a big floppy disk, copying
to it directly. In that case, assuming the CD-RW drive is shared across
the network, you can copy files to it using the Mac's Finder. Very
However, the resulting disk isn't readable on the Mac. To access it,
need to read it across the network from a PC drive.
OS X 10.1 includes SMB (a.k.a. Samba) services, an
open source standard
that allows Unix-like systems (including Linux and BSD, which is at the
heart of OS X) to connect to Windows networks for file and printer
Like a lot of the nitty-gritty of OS X, Apple has not
gone out of their
way to document this. As a result, unless you're a Unix guru you're
not going to get much out of this. Currently, Thursby's Dave is the
product with an OS X-native version of their product; it's the easiest
way to access files and printers on a Windows network from OS X.
However, you can relatively easily connect an OS X
(10.1 or later) Mac
to a shared folder on a networked Windows system. To do that, in the OS
X Finder, click on the Go menu's Connect to Server item. In that
box's Address field, type an entry in the form:
For example, I have a PC notebook named "Compaq," which has a folder
as "download." So typing smb://Compaq/download lets me connect to that
folder. When I type a valid username and password (or let the keychain
do it for me), an icon for that folder pops up on the desktop. The
box stores a list of servers I have connected to, so the next time I
just choose it from the list.
Perhaps it's not surprising that connecting your Mac
to a Windows network
is not as easy as connecting a couple of Macs together. However, it can
be done, and third-party utilities like Dave or DoubleTalk take a lot
the pain out of it.
If you have both Macs and Windows machines, whether at
home or at work,
you might as well get them to communicate, share, and play nicely