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ATPM 8.02
February 2002






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How to Become a Network Guru

by Matthew Glidden,

Mac File Sharing

File sharing is the ability to let other computers on a network access the files on your computer. Of course, you control who can open or modify what; your Mac has specific pieces of software that exercise this control.

Note: In this section, you need to know what OS version is on your computer. Choose Finder from the upper-right corner menu, then About This Macintosh… from the Apple menu. You’ll see the Mac OS (or System) version here. Make note of it for later reference.

Note: If this article refers to software you can’t find on your Mac, see the Missing Software page for help tracking it down or, if need be, reinstalling it.

One Final Note: The images below may vary from the actual appearance on your own Mac, as Apple has changed things over time (the functionality should be the same, though). I’ve added images and comments where OS versions notably differ.

Sharing Files on the Network

This section helps make your Mac’s files accessible to the network. If you just want to connect to existing shared files, skip ahead to the Accessing Shared Files section.

In the Apple menu, check the Control Panels submenu for File Sharing and open it (for System 7 users, open Sharing Setup instead).


This control panel has the basics of file sharing, the owner name (an account name for you, the owner), the owner password, and the computer name (on a network, each computer has a different name to distinguish itself; set that name here). Then Start File Sharing, if it’s not already running. This may take a minute while your Mac notifies the other Macs on the network that it’s ready to share files.

Note: If you connect to the Internet from this Mac, I recommend unchecking the TCP/IP File Sharing option, for security reasons. See the Network Security page for more details.

Now select the Users & Groups tab (for System 7.x users, open the Users & Groups control panel).


Here’s the System 7.x Users & Groups control panel. The New User and New Group commands are in the File menu, as opposed to the Mac OS 8 & 9 buttons shown above. The owner icon has a thick border to distinguish its icon from other users.


The Guest user is anyone who accesses your files without a name and password. Open the Guest account to allow or prevent such access. If you prevent it, only people with a specific User account can access your files. Choose New User to add a user account, and New Group to add a group account. Groups save time by controlling access for several users at once. Drag a user icon onto the group icon to add it to that group.

Sharing a Disk or Folder of Files

On the Desktop, click once on a disk or folder you want to share. Then select Sharing from the File menu’s Get Info submenu to bring up the sharing access window. (System 7 and Mac OS 8 users select Sharing from the File menu, as there is no Get Info submenu.)


This window permits or denies access to your shared files when users connect from another Mac on the network. Read-only means users can see, open, and copy files, but cannot make changes. Read & Write means they can also change the contents of your shared files. Everyone refers to the Guest account, if you allow Guest access. The Copy button will make all subfolders like the enclosing folder, resetting any specific access changes you’ve previously made.

Typical File Sharing Setup

For home networks, you’ll allow Guest access and give them read and write access, since you know everyone who’ll be connecting to your files. In professional situations, you’ll need to be more circumspect, probably creating user accounts for each worker and denying Guest access.

Accessing Shared Files

Setting up your shared files (what you just did) takes a bit of work, but it’s typically a one-time thing. Accessing shared files from the network is the everyday task. Open the Chooser from the Apple menu, then select the AppleShare icon to see a list of Macs with shared files.

Select the desired Mac, then OK to see its shared files. Select Server IP Address… to connect to an unlisted Mac via TCP/IP (if allowed by File Sharing, as detailed above).


The Network Browser program, which comes with recent Mac OS versions, lists shared files under Local Services. If you access shared files frequently, you can add specific Macs to your Favorites list or drag them to the Desktop for quick access.


However you select it, the specified shared Mac appears as an icon on your Desktop (this is also known as mounting the shared folder). You can use it like any other folder, although the response may be slower if the network is busy.


Also in This Series

Reader Comments (5)

Mike Jones · November 30, 2002 - 18:39 EST #1
Hi. I have a G4 400MHz desktop computer running on a dial-up modem. I just purchased a 1GHz G4 Titanium PowerBook and want to connect the two to do file transfers. I have an RJ-45 cable. Now what do I do? I would like to also access the internet through the G4 desktop from the PowerBook. How do I go about this? Would it be easier to switch the phone connection to the PowerBook?

The desktop is running OS 9.2. The PowerBook is running OS X 10.2 (Jaguar).


Mike Jones
Mila A · February 19, 2006 - 01:11 EST #2
Hello, I have an old Mac 9500/200 Power PC and just purchased a new Power Book G4. I need to transfer files from the old mac which has no internet at all to the new powerbook. I was told I can use a crossover cable which I purchased but I can not figure out how to make the laptop work. I connected both computers and turned file sharing on but I have no idea what to do next. Can you please help me?


Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · February 19, 2006 - 10:25 EST #3
Mila - in my experiences doing this, the network settings on both computers has to be the same (except for the individual computer's IP address, of course). If you use the crossover cable, try opening the network settings (TCP/IP control panel on OS 9 and earlier) and putting something like 192.168.1.x in the field for the machine's IP address (where 'x' is a unique number for each machine between 2 and 254) then putting in the subnet/submask field, and in the router field. A restart may be required on the older machine. Then, on the PowerBook, go to the Sharing preference pane and turn on personal file sharing. Next, on the older machine, open the Chooser from the Apple menu and select the AppleShare icon. If you don't see the other machine in the bigger window, click the button to connect to a Server IP address in put in the PowerBook's 192.168.1.x address. When you're asked for a name and password, use the same info as for the user account when you boot up and log into the PowerBook. Finally, you'll see a list of drives to which you can connect via sharing. For your PowerBook, you'll probably see two—the hard drive's name and your user folder name (short version). If you know you only need to access the home folder of your PowerBook, you can use that name, otherwise, connect to the entire hard drive. You'll see it mount as an item on your 9500's desktop and you can copy stuff to and from it like any other drive. When done, eject it by dragging it to the trash can.

P.S. - if you already have a home network with a broadband router sharing an internet connection among computers in your house, you should neither need to custom TCP/IP settings, nor a crossover cable. A crossover cable simply takes the place of an existing network cable/router setup.

Additionally, all new Macs have auto-switching ethernet ports. Even through you'd need a crossover if you were connecting two 9500s, in your case you wouldn't need one because your PowerBook will automatically switch to crossover mode. So you can just use a standard (and cheaper, usually) ethernet cable. And no, I don't know why places charge more for crossover cables. Just because they can, I guess. The ONLY difference between a crossover cable and a standard cable is that certain wires are reversed to connect to different pins inside the cable jacks.
mike childers · May 17, 2006 - 13:59 EST #4
I am trying to use FTP to share files between a win98 PC and an iMac. the ftp keeps asking me for a password. I try to use the password that is set up for the IMAC - no luck. Any ideas?
ATPM Staff · May 17, 2006 - 17:31 EST #5
Mike - which computer is acting as the FTP host? The PC or the Mac? The simplest setup is to turn on FTP file sharing on your iMac, then connect to the iMac's IP address with an FTP client on your PC. Be sure to use the short version of your username and the exact password (case sensitive, I'm pretty sure).

If you've set up your PC as the FTP host and are connecting to it with the Mac, you must use the name and password that is defined on the PC.

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