How to network between the classic Mac OS and OS X for file transfer

Sometimes you may have an old Mac lying around that you would like to retrieve files from. Thinking it's an easy task, you grab your nearest USB stick only to find the computer does not have any USB ports, or for that matter, any FireWire ports. As such the majority of transfer devices, including flash drives, CD/DVD drives, and external hard drives, will not work the the older machine.

Sometimes you may have an old Mac lying around that you would like to retrieve files from. Thinking it's an easy task, you grab your nearest USB stick only to find the computer does not have any USB ports, or for that matter, any FireWire ports. As such the majority of transfer devices, including flash drives, CD/DVD drives, and external hard drives, will not work the the older machine.

Before Apple introduced USB and FireWire in Macs starting around 1997 and 1998, the standard connectivity for desktop Macs was a SCSI port, a serial connector, an ADB port, and an ethernet port (Yes, 10Base-T was FAST!). The options for portables were about the same, with the exception of the Ethernet option, which was mainly built-in when Apple introduced PowerPC G3 based laptops (though some previous models such as the PowerBook 540 did have the older AAUI-15 ethernet option).

Luckily the protocols for TCP-based networking have not changed enough to prevent connectivity with older machines. Apple's "Apple Filing Protocol" (AFP) in OS 8 and OS 9 should be able to connect with current computers, at least in one way or another. Therefore, if you have an older Mac with an ethernet card or built-in ethernet port, you should be able to get your files off of it.

(Note that the steps here can be used for current computers as well, but most should be able to work just fine with automatic network detection technologies such as Bonjour.)

1. Get networked

If you have a computer with a built-in Ethernet port, either built-in or with a separate expansion card, you should be able to transfer files to the new system. Connect both computers to your router, or to a common switch or hub. If you have a "crossover" ethernet cable you should be able to connect to the two ethernet ports directly; however, while some ports support direct connection with both crossover and straight-through cables, older ones did not have automatic detection and switching features so this may not work.

Unfortunately, finding a PCMCIA ethernet adaptor that will work in older laptops (PowerBook 190, 1400, 2400, etc) may be hard to find, but there are a few out there. The D-Link DFE-690TXD card should work, though the specifications say the card requires a PowerPC processor, leaving out some earlier PowerBook models.

2. Get connected

Connect your system to your local network via DHCP if you have a router or other network administrative device. To do this, go to the Apple menu in OS 8 or 9, go to "Control Panels", and then open the "TCP/IP" control panel. Select "Ethernet" for the "Connect Via:" option, and then choose "Using DHCP" for the "Configure" option. After this is done, you may need to restart the system.

For your OS X machine, you can set the system to act as a router by enabling internet sharing over your computer's Ethernet port. To do this, go to the "Sharing" system preferences, select "Internet Sharing," ensure something besides "Ethernet" is selected as your source connection, and then check the "Ethernet" option in the list. With no other routers connected, your Mac running OS X should act as a DHCP server and lease an IP address to your older computer. Keep in mind that you should only do this if you are not connected to a network that already has a DHCP server on it (such as most routers).

To avoid problems, the second option is to manually set up a small network between the computers. This can be done regardless of what other devices and servers are connected to the same switch. To do this, choose "manual" in the "Configure" option of the TCP/IP control panel and then providing the following basic IP setup information (other information can be left blank):

IP Address: 192.168.0.1
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0
Gateway/Router: 192.168.0.254 (not needed, but may be required so this will do)

With these settings, close the control panel and restart the system.

Now you must set up the OS X machine to be on the same network so the machines can see each other, so go to the "Network" system preferences in OS X and select the "Ethernet" port. Then click the gear menu (below the port/service list) and select "Duplicate Service." While this step is not required, doing it will create a new software interface for the same ethernet port (called "multihoming"), which you can configure with network settings for the new network while preserving any current ethernet settings.

Change the "Configure" option to "Manually" for the duplicated port, and enter the following for the setup information:

IP Address: 192.168.0.2 (cannot be the same as the first computer)
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0
Gateway/Router: 192.168.0.254 (not needed, but may be required so this will do)

3. Set Up file sharing

With the computers on the same network, you will need to enable the sharing services so they can transfer files. In OS X, go to the "Sharing" system preferences and check the box next to "File Sharing." The default settings should work fine; however, do enable FTP file sharing in the event the default "AFP" protocol does not work (there may be bugs or unforeseen incompatibilities). To do this, select "File Sharing" and click the "Options..." button, which will bring down a subwindow that has an option for enabling FTP.

Connecting to the OS X Machine

In OS 9, you may have a network browser in the Apple menu, which you can use to browse for and connect to computers on the local network; however, in both OS 9 and OS 8 you can connect using the "Chooser" option in the Apple menu. Select this option, and you will see an item called "AppleShare." Select this item and in the file server list you should see the OS X machine appear. Select it and click "Ok," and you will be prompted with login information. When the drive mounts, you should be able to open it and copy files to it from your "Classic" machine.

If you cannot see the OS X system in the chooser server list, enter its IP address (i.e., 192.168.0.2) in the address field and click "Ok." If this does not work, then you can try connecting to the OS 8/9 machine from OS X (see below), or you can connect via FTP. Get an FTP client (such as Fetch 4.0.3 for OS 8 or 9--available here) and then connect to the OS X machine using the FTP protocol which was enabled on the OS X machine.

Connecting to the OS 9 machine

With the TCP/IP control panel settings above, start file sharing on the OS 8 or OS 9 Machine by going to the "File Sharing" control panel, and then click "Start" in the "Start/Stop" section for file sharing. Also check the box to enable file sharing over TCP/IP, and give your computer an owner name and password, and a machine name.

The name and password information you give for the owner should allow you access to the computer; however, you can use the "Users & Groups" section to give additional usernames access to your computer over the network. When this is done, go to a desired folder on the system and get information on it. In the drop-down menu, select "Sharing," and then check the option to "Share this item and its contents." Then ensure the username you selected for the owner is listed in the "owner" section and give it at least "read" privileges. After the permissions are set, click the "Copy" button to ensure all files and subfolders are given these privileges.

After these privileges are set, go to the OS X machine and locate the Classic machine in the Finder. You can optionally select the "Connect to server" option in the Finder's "Go" menu and then enter "afp://IP_ADDRESS" in the address field (where IP_ADDRESS is the one you entered for OS 8 or 9, which was 192.168.0.1 in our example above). Enter the owner name and password as the login credentials, and you should see the shared folder on the Classic Mac OS machine.

4. Other options

There are other options for getting your data off older machines. Most older Macs had floppy drives, which are still made these days. Using a utility like MacDrive in Windows, you should be able to copy the files to a floppy, and then over to a Windows machine, and finally use networking to get it over to the Mac. It may be cumbersome, but if you find an important file on your older machine that you absolutely must have, you can do this (provided it will fit on a 1.4MB floppy). Beyond floppies, you might have luck scrounging up an old SCSI CD writer that may work, but keep in mind you will have to have both working hardware, as well as drivers and software for the drive to work. The Classic OS does not have built-in burning support like OS X.



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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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