Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 6.04
April 2000



How To



Download ATPM 6.04

Choose a format:

How To Become a Network Guru in 10 Easy Steps

by Matthew Glidden,

Part 7—Mixed Networks Make Strange Bedfellows

As computers invade our homes in increasing numbers, many people find themselves using more than one computer platform. In my home, for example, there’s a do-it-all Power Mac 8500, but also a PC laptop from work. I work on both, and I sometimes need to share files between them or move files from one to the other. Both computers have floppy drives, so I could swap files 1.4 megabytes at a time—but that soon becomes cumbersome. Connecting them both to a network will solve the problem, but only if I can also overcome the obstacle of different network and file formats.

Connecting Macs and PCs to the Same Network

Although many Macs can use both Ethernet and LocalTalk networks, Ethernet is the only real option for PCs, so it’s best to connect Macs and PCs using Ethernet. For each computer, you’ll need an Ethernet adapter and a piece of straight-through category 5 Ethernet cable. Most Macs and many PCs have Ethernet support built-in. You’ll also need a hub or switch to act as the central connection point, as shown in the figure below.


If you’re trying to connect one Mac to one PC, you can use a crossover Ethernet cable instead of the hub and straight-through cable. This kind of connection only works for two computers.


You can find Ethernet adapters, cables, hubs, and switches at most “real ”and Internet computer stores. Ethernet adapters, hubs, and switches come in 10Base-T, 100Base-T, and 10/100Base-T varieties. The number refers to the data transmission speed, so 100Base-T is faster. 10/100Base-T devices can handle either Ethernet speed. Note that your Ethernet adapters and hub (or switch) must share a common speed to work together.

Setting Up the Network Software

Once you connect your computers the same network, you need to make them “understand” each other. Macs and PCs use different network “languages” to share access to files and printers, so you need to add translation software if you want them to play nicely together. There are several options to choose from, depending on what you need to do.

DAVE from Thursby Systems installs on a Mac, allowing you to interact seamlessly with a Microsoft Windows-based network. You access the Windows network through your Mac’s Chooser (or Network Browser), just like on a Mac-only network. You can exchange messages with Windows users, use Windows printers, and perform any other network functions. The latest version of DAVE is 2.5, which is compatible with Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT. You can download a demo version from the Thursby Web site. The single user version costs $149.

PC MacLAN from Miramar installs on a Windows-based PC, enabling you to access shared files and printers on an AppleTalk network. PCs can access the AppleTalk network through the Network Neighborhood, and Macs gain access through their Chooser (or Network Browser). PC MacLAN includes Dataviz’s MacOpener, translation software that lets you access a wide variety of Mac formats from your Windows PC. There are versions of PC MacLAN for Windows 95, 98, and NT. You can download a demo version from the Miramar Web site and e-mail for pricing information.

TSSTalk from Thursby Systems is basically equivalent in function to PC MacLAN, enabling your Windows PC to access an AppleTalk network. You can download a demo version from the Thursby Web site. The single user Windows 95/98 version costs $149 and the Windows NT version is $169.

MacNFS from Thursby Systems installs on a Mac, allowing you to connect to UNIX NFS file servers. This is primarily for education or corporate users, as home users are less likely to have UNIX boxes around. You can download a demo version from the Thursby Web site. The single user version costs $149.

Macs and PCs both support TCP/IP connections, so it’s also possible to set up a TCP/IP-only connection between them. Although TCP/IP is free, it’s also more complicated to use than the programs mentioned above. Next month’s Network Guru column will cover setting up and using TCP/IP connections between Macs and PCs.

Converting Between File Formats

Before you go about setting up your network and sharing files, keep in mind that Macs and PCs are still different beasts. Using one of the network translators above doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of opening Mac files on a PC, or vice versa.

When it comes to opening files from other computer platforms, DataViz is pretty much the de facto translation standard. If you need to open Windows PC files on your Mac, use MacLinkPlus. To view Mac disks and open Mac files on your Windows PC, use MacOpener or Conversions Plus. If you routinely work with a variety of file formats and platforms, these translators will save you big bucks on headache medication.

Copyright © 2000 Matthew Glidden. Matthew Glidden is the webmaster of, a guide to constructing and maintaining home and small-office Macintosh networks. He can also tango and juggle, not necessarily at the same

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (4)

anonymous · May 19, 2001 - 16:02 EST #1
Excellent explications, found exactly what I was looking for, and thank you for that!
K. Raley · December 31, 2001 - 12:59 EST #2
I appreciate your efforts to get this online. I could not find the help I needed in several networking books and I find it for "free" right here. Great asset to both the Mac AND the PC-using community. Thanks! -Kevin
Matthew · June 3, 2002 - 14:58 EST #3
This is a great article, but all of the software you mention is over $100. Does anyone know of any cheaper software?
Yerbua · June 13, 2002 - 12:25 EST #4
After all this time, this info is still valuable. The OS Help doesn't come close. Thanks again.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article