How to connect to a Windows machine from OS X

Apple supports several ways to establish file-sharing connections with Windows PCs.

While the default and most supported file-sharing protocol in OS X is AFP (Apple Filing Protocol), Apple does include support for sharing files with Windows machines using the SMB (server message block) protocol. With OS X being a Unix-based system, Apple initially included the popular open-source Samba suite as the means for doing this, but because of licensing violations had to replace it with its own SMB implementation.

Regardless of the specifics of the SMB implementation, the methods by which you can connect to Windows machines should be the same throughout the various versions of OS X:

  1. Use Bonjour services
    OS X includes an auto-discovery service called "Bonjour," which should detect nearby Windows-based machines if you have Windows file-sharing enabled. To do this, open the Sharing system preferences and select the "File Sharing" option in the services list. Ensure this service is checked, and then click the "Options..." button. In the drop-down window that appears, check the option to share files and folders using SMB.

    With this option enabled, you should both be able to see Windows machines on the network appear in the "Shared" section of the Finder sidebar, and also be able to distribute files from your Mac to Windows machines on the network.
  2. Direct SMB connection
    Sometimes Bonjour services do not auto-detect Windows systems, but if the Windows machine you are connecting to is on the network, then you can manually invoke a connection using the Finder's Go menu. To do this, bring the Finder into focus and select "Connect to Server" from the Go menu. Then type "smb://" in the address bar, followed by the IP address or name of the computer to which you are attempting the connection. For instance, if a Windows machine on my home network has an IP address of 192.168.1.3, then I would enter "smb://192.168.1.3" as the address, and then authenticate when prompted.
  3. Use the mount_smbfs service
    The last option in OS X is to use the SMB filesystem plug-in to mount an SMB share as a local drive, similar to how one might map a network drive in Windows. To do this, first create a folder on your system that you would like to use as a mount point (ie, a folder called "mount" on your Desktop). Then open the Terminal utility (in the /Applications/Utilities folder) and then enter the following command:

    mount_smbfs //username@server/share ~/Desktop/mount


    In this command, replace "username" with the log-in name you would like to use for connecting to the server. If you do not provide this, then the command will assume the username for your account in OS X, which may be different. Replace "server" with the URL or IP address of the server being connected to, and then optionally provide the name of the folder being mounted in place of the word "share" (some Windows sharing setups will require this). When done, execute the command and you will see the "mount" folder on your desktop become the shared folder of your Windows machine, which you can then access to copy and edit files accordingly.


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About the author

    Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.

     

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