Dave Taylor

Building A Windows Connection To A Mac File Server

By: Dave Taylor
October 7th, 2009

My computer network has an old Mac Mini running Mac OS X Tiger (10.4), acting as a file and network printer server, along with a number of desktop computers running the newer version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard. For those computers, everything's fine, but when a colleague hooked up his Vista laptop, he couldn't see the file server at all. How do I enable that?

Dave's Answer:

You've asked a key question for modern computer networks, the ability to interoperate between operating systems. Of course, you've added a bit of a wrinkle by indicating that you have an older Mac OS X operating system running, Tiger, not Leopard or Snow Leopard, but fortunately the PC file sharing configuration hasn't changed much so what I'll show you - from my own Tiger G5 system - will be just as applicable to people running more modern Mac systems.

To show how to do this we're going to have to bounce back and forth between operating systems: I did this by having them both in the same room so I could see what was happening.

First off, when you are on the Vista system, you'll get to the Network most easily by going to your Start menu (yeah, I know, they don't call it that in Vista, but you know what I mean, don't you?):

vista start menu network

Choose that and you're at the network device browser:

vista network server missing

On my network, we're trying to connect to "G5 Server", but, as you can see, it isn't showing up.

Leave the Vista system now and turn to your Mac Mini instead. On the Mac, you want to navigate to System Preferences --> Sharing:

mac preferences sharing

What you want to select is "Windows Sharing", but when you do, you'll find that there's some configuration required:

mac preferences sharing no account

To set things up, click on "Enable Accounts" and you'll be shown a list of accounts on your Mac server:

mac preferences sharing account info

Choose the account you want, or, as in this case, the only account available, and...

mac preferences sharing account info passwd

Once you've entered the account password, you'll find that the Mac is fully set up, as shown when you go back to the "Sharing" pane:

mac preferences sharing account enabled

Coolness, that's set up.

Now, before we go back to the Vista system, I encourage you to write down the connection information shown near the bottom. On mine it's "\\\taylor".

On the Vista system, what you can do is wait until Windows sees the new server or, if you're impatient like I am, click on the top left address box in the Network window and type in the windows sharing "SMB" address, as shown:

vista entering network address

Once you've entered it, surprise, it'll ask you for login credentials:

vista adding network credentials

Assuming that you have correctly entered the server account credentials, the next thing you see will be the files and folders on the Mac server:

vista connected to mac server

Whoo hoo! Mission accomplished.

If you had been running Snow Leopard on your Mac server, by the way, the Sharing window would be a bit different, as shown in the below:

mac preferences sharing file sharing

Either way, I think you can see how to proceed.


About the Author: Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is internationally known as an expert on both business and technology issues. Holder of an MSEd and MBA, author of twenty books and founder of four startups, he also runs a strategic marketing company and consults with firms seeking the best approach to working with weblogs and social networks. Dave is an award-winning speaker and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs. AskDaveTaylor.com http://www.intuitive.com/blog/