How to Share Files Between Mac and Windows

Whether you are switching from a PC to Mac or just need to transfer some files between the two, there are several ways to go about it. There is a simple way of sharing files using the operating systems’ built-in tools, but some third-party solutions may come in handy. Read on to learn about several go-to methods for sharing files between Mac and Windows.

How to Share Files Between Mac and Windows

How to Share Mac Files With Windows Users Using Built-in Tools

Before explaining how to use the systems’ native tools to transfer files, please note this method is only possible if both computers are on the same local network. If this is not the case, feel free to head to the third-party solutions section below.

Set up File Sharing on Mac

For Windows users to access your Mac files, you need to turn on file sharing and enable SMB sharing. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of your Mac screen.
  2. Select “System Preferences.”
  3. In the “System Preferences” window, click “Sharing.”
  4. Enable the File Sharing checkbox in the left panel.
  5. Press the “Options” button.
  6. Go to “Share files and folders using SMB.”
  7. Select the checkbox next to each user account you want to share files in the Windows File Sharing list.
  8. Enter the password for each user and click “OK.”
  9. After you have selected all the necessary users, click “Done.”

Enabling file sharing on Macs follows the same steps in macOS Monterey 12, macOS Big Sur 11.0, macOS Catalina 10.15, macOS Mojave 10.14, and macOS High Sierra 10.13.

Choose What to Share

After the file-sharing set-up with the Windows user, you’ll be back on the Sharing window. Choose the folders and users you want to share with them:

  1. Under Shared Folders, click the “plus” button.
  2. Navigate to the folder you want to share, select it and click “Add.”
  3. Repeat steps one and two as necessary.
  4. Select the shared folder.
  5. Click the “plus” button under Users.
  6. Choose the user and click “Select.”

For removing folders or users, use the “minus” button.

Access Mac Files on Windows

Now it’s time to do the actual sharing. Head over to your Windows computer and follow the steps below to transfer files from Mac to Windows:

  1. Go to the Start Menu and select “Run” or press the “Window+R” shortcut.
  2. Type your Mac’s IP address and press “OK.”
  3. Enter your Mac’s username and password in the pop-up window, and click “OK.”

File Explorer will display a folder with files and users you’ve granted permission to access through Shared Folders and Shared Users.

This connecting process to Mac should be identical in Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and the latest Windows 11.

Remember to deselect all the user accounts before turning off Windows sharing because the users’ passwords are not stored securely.

How to Share Windows Files with Mac Users using Built-In Tools

Read on if you want to go the other way around and share files from Windows to Mac. The steps are relatively simple and divided into three stages.

Set up File Sharing on Windows

The first stage entails setting up file sharing on your PC. Start with making sure that Network Discovery is turned on in Windows:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to “Network and Internet.”
  3. Select “Ethernet” or “Wi-Fi” from the left panel.
  4. Press “Change advanced sharing options” located on the right, under Related settings.
  5. Click on the arrow to expand the Private network menu.
  6. Tick the checkboxes next to “Turn on network discovery” and “Turn on file and printer sharing.”
  7. Click on “Save changes.”

Choose What to Share

Now that the PC has been given the green light to share files, choose the files and folders you want to share and follow the steps below for each one:

  1. Right-click the item and scroll down to “Properties.”
  2. Under the “Sharing” tab, tap the ”Share” button.
  3. Choose the user or the group to share the item using the drop-down menu.
  4. Click “Add.”
  5. Under the Permission Level, choose “Read” if you only want the user to view and open files. Choose “Read/Write” if you want them also to be able to modify and delete the items.
  6. Click “Share.”
  7. Copy the link to the shared folder on the File Sharing window.
  8. Select ”Done.”

Access Windows Files on Mac

Once you’re all done with choosing the files to share, it’s time to access those files from your Mac:

  1. Open the Finder app on your Mac.
  2. In the menu bar on the top of the screen, choose “Go” and scroll down to ”Connect to Server.”
  3. In the Server Address box, type the network address in either of these two formats:
  4. Press “Enter.”
  5. Enter your PC’s username and password in the pop-up window and click “Connect.”

The content you shared from Windows will be available in the Shared section of Finder. To transfer files, just drag and drop them to your desired location.

Third-Party Solutions to Transfer Files Between Mac and Windows

As we’ve explained, it’s smooth sailing if the Mac and PC are on the same local network. If not, there are other ways to transfer your files listed below:

Share Files Using a Cloud Service

If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, this might be your best option.

Most cloud services like Dropbox or GoogleDrive have apps available for Windows and macOS. Plus, they are free and fairly easy to use. Simply install the apps in your system and either copy and paste or drag and drop the desired files onto the cloud drive. The systems will then sync up, and the files will show up on your second system.

Share Files Using a USB Flash Drive

A quick and straightforward way to transfer files between Mac and Windows is using a USB stick. You can move the files and folders onto the stick and plug them into your second system. Just make sure to choose the exFAT file format as it is compatible with both systems. This method works best if you only need to transfer a smaller number of files.

Share Files Using a Portable Hard Drive

If you need to transfer multiple files between Mac and Windows, this is the way to go. They offer different storage capacities, with the most popular being 1TB or 2TB. When using a portable hard drive, also format it to FAT32 to get access for both Mac and Windows OS systems.

Sharing Is Caring

Now that we’ve shared our go-to methods for transferring files between PC and Mac, the rest is up to you. Choose the best option for you and start sharing files to your heart’s content. If both computers share a network, you can keep it in the family and use their built-in tools for file sharing. If not, you can always use a cloud service, USB stick, or portable hard drive.

Have you ever had to share files between Mac and Windows? What method did you use? Let us know in the comment section below.

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