How to Become a Network Guru
Mac & PC Networking Overview
As time passes, the number of networks that include both Macs and other PCs continues to increase. Each different computer, whether a Mac, Windows PC, or whatever, is known as a different platform; and a network that combines multiple platforms is known as a mixed network. Setting up a mixed network presents its own unique challenges, since you need to know something about each platform involved.
Mixed Network Hardware
When you set up a mixed network, Ethernet is the most practical hardware option, as you can readily find Ethernet parts for any kind of computer. If you have a LocalTalk Mac network and want to add PCs, now is a good time to consider an Ethernet upgrade for your Macs.
A second option to consider is one of the new home phone line networks, detailed in Faux Pas Ethernet: Home Phone Lines. The downside to phone line networks is the lower speed, which is about an eighth of 10BaseT Ethernet.
A third possibility is a wireless network, based on Apple’s AirPort or another compatible wireless connection. There are wireless products available for both Macs and PCs that allow network communication, although you’ll probably need to add software to your setup that helps the platforms further understand each other.
Sharing Files and Printers
The main obstacle in putting Macs and Windows PCs on a network is sharing files and printers with each other. The Mac OS and Windows have very different networking systems, so sharing files or printers on a Mac doesn’t mean a thing to PCs on the network.
There are, fortunately, programs that will translate from the Mac network to the Windows network (or vice versa). Which program you use will depend on what you need your network to do.
If you need to make a Windows PC work on a Mac-centric network, you have two options.
These programs differ somewhat in their features, but both have a downloadable demo to let you try them out first.
If you want to attach a Mac to a network based on Windows, you’ll need to pick up Thursby Software Systems’s DAVE. DAVE allows your Mac to access Windows file servers and printers through the Mac’s Chooser, just like AppleTalk.
If you’re using a Unix box with an NFS file system, Thursby Software Systems also makes MacNFS for networking your Mac to the Unix box.
Can I Connect Macs and PCs for Free?
If you don’t need share files or printers, you can set up a TCP/IP network between Macs and PCs for just the cost of the hub and Ethernet cables. Mac OS, Windows, and Unix all have built-in support for TCP/IP, making this network setup possible.
Creating this kind of connection allows you to perform basic file functions: primarily moving them back and forth between computers. Some types of files—such as text files, many image formats, and some video formats—work equally well on both platforms. Application-specific formats like word processing files, however, many not work as you want them to. If you want to share application-specific files across platforms, you need to make sure you have the application on both computers and also be sure the application is capable of opening the other platform’s files.
Also in This Series
- Mac to Windows: Troubleshooting the “No Logon Servers Available” File Sharing Error · October 2004
- Using WEP Security on an AirPort Network · July 2004
- Whatever happened to…Threemacs.com? · September 2003
- Clandestine Wireless Networking and MacStumbler · July 2003
- Learning to Share With Others: Sharing Preferences Overview · April 2003
- Serving Files Using FTP in Mac OS X · December 2002
- Switching Between Networks in Mac OS X · November 2002
- The Audio/Video Quadras (660av, 840av) · September 2002
- Thoughts on Apple’s Xserve · July 2002
- Complete Archive