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Smart File Sharing Between Macs and PCs

by Wei-Meng Lee

I know many MacDevCenter readers use more than one platform in their daily lives. You may use a Windows PC in your workplace then use a Mac for all your other creative tasks at home. In any case, it is inevitable that sometimes you need to transfer files from one platform to the other. While there are many ways to do this (via USB flash drive, FireWire, Ethernet, shared folder, etc.), most of them still require you to either mess with lengthy cables, or need you to know how to mount a file share in Mac OS X. But there's an easier way through the use of an inexpensive application called "PC-Mac-Net FileShare."

Obtaining and Installing PC-Mac-Net FileShare

You can obtain the free Lite edition of PC-Mac-NET FileShare from Lava Software. The Lite edition allows you to transfer files of sizes smaller than 10MB and supports up to a maximum of three users in a workgroup. The Standard and Pro editions of PC-Mac-Net FileShare cost $24.95 and $39.95 (per user), respectively. The Standard edition does not have the restrictions of the Lite edition, and the Pro edition supports file encryption, which is especially useful over a wireless network. The licensing cost is for each computer, which means that if you have a Mac and a PC, you need two licenses. But at this moment, Lava software is selling it two-for-one, which makes it affordable.

PC-Mac-Net FileShare allows you to share files over TCP/IP. You can either use it in your local network (such as in the office or at home), or over the Internet. When used over the Internet, be sure to check that your firewall opens up port 3300, the default port used by PC-Mac-Net FileShare.

I downloaded the Lite edition and installed one copy on my PC and one on my Mac (note that you have to run the software on both machines in order for file sharing to work). The user interface for both platforms looks identical.

One note for Windows XP users: most people on Windows XP use the built-in firewall to protect against unauthorized entry, so you need to change those settings in order for PC-Mac-Net FileShare to work (even to use it on the local network). To configure your built-in firewall for PC-Mac-Net FileShare to work, right-click on My Network Places and select Properties. Right-click on your network connection and select Properties. Click on the Advanced tab (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Configuring the built-in firewall

Click on Settings... and then click the Add button to add a new service. Name the service as shown in Figure 2. The second piece of information, the IP address, refers to the IP address of your Windows PC (use the command IPCONFIG to find out your IP address).

Figure 2. Adding a new service

Launching PC-Mac-Net FileShare

When you launch PC-Mac-Net FileShare, you should see the screen shown in Figure 3 (on the Mac; the PC version looks similar). You select whether to use it over the Internet, or over the Local Area Network. You also need to give a name to identify your computer and a password to ensure that only authorized people can access your files. Click Continue to display the next screen.

Figure 3. Launching PC-Mac-Net FileShare on Mac OS X

On the next screen, you will see four tabs at the top of the window (see Figure 4). The Shared Folders tab shows the folders that you currently share. Two folders are created for you automatically -- Incoming and Shared. The Incoming folder is the repository for all incoming files that you copy from another machine. The Shared folder is the folder you share with the other users. You can create or remove new folders under this tab.

Figure 4. Viewing the shared folder(s)

To view which users are currently available for file sharing, click on the Transfer Files tab (see Figure 5, where the application is running on Windows XP). Under the Connect to: drop-down list, you should see a list of all available computers. The files available for sharing from a particular machine are shown in the Remote File List.

Figure 5. Viewing the shared folders of other users (on Mac OS X)

Figure 6 shows PC-Mac-Net FileShare on Mac OS X.

Figure 6. Viewing the shared folders of other users (on the PC)

If a user's file share is protected by a password, you will be prompted to enter a password the first time you try to connect to it (see Figure 7):

Figure 7. Entering the sharing password

To copy a file, simply double-click on the file you want or select the file(s) and click on the left-arrow button (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. Transferring a file

Finally, under the Preferences tab, you can change your settings for PC-Mac-Net FileShare (see Figure 9). Note that data encryption is not supported in the Lite edition.

Figure 9. Configuring PC-Mac-Net FileShare


I have found PC-Mac-Net FileShare to be much easier to use (and more stable) than mounting a shared folder in Mac OS X. Not only does it support Mac-to-PC file sharing, but I can also use it to share files between Windows PCs. The only requirement is that all of the computers must have network connectivity and run the PC-Mac-Net FileShare application. But heck, most computers nowadays have built-in WiFi connectivity, or at the very minimum, Ethernet ports, so network connectivity should not be an issue.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.

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