- You can transfer files between Mac and Windows using native tools if both devices are on the same network.
- Cloud storage services can sync files across multiple devices over the Internet, but may incur subscription fees.
- Consider using external drives or free apps like Resilio Sync for occasional file transfers between devices.
Sharing files between a Mac and Windows PC requires no additional software when they are connected to the same network. In other cases, you may need to explore alternative options, such as paying for a cloud storage service. We explore all the methods below.
Use File Sharing to Transfer Files from Mac to Windows PC
If your Windows PC and Mac are connected to the same network, it’s relatively simple to set up and start using file sharing on macOS. We’ll divide the process into two sections, one for each operating system.
Setting up file sharing on macOS
Before accessing Mac files from your Windows PC, you need to set up file sharing on your Mac:
- Open System settings on your Mac and navigate to General > Sharing.
- Enable File Sharing and click on the Information (i) icon next to File Sharing to fall over.
- Click on Possibilities to launch the SMB File Sharing window. Enable Share files and folders using SMB.
- Below Windows File Sharing, check the box next to the name of the account whose files you will access in Windows. Enter this user’s password and click ALL RIGHT.
- Click on Do in the SMB File Sharing window.
- Take note of the IP adress under the File sharing: enabled status at the top of the window.
Once you’ve set up file sharing on your Mac, it’s time to move to your Windows PC.
Access and copy Mac files to your Windows PC
Follow these instructions to transfer files stored on your Mac to your Windows PC:
- Open File Explorer on your Windows PC.
- Click in the address bar and enter your Mac’s IP address. Ignore the SMB prefix: the IP address should look like \\192.168.xx.
- Windows will ask you for the username and password of the Mac user files you are accessing. Remember to enter them exactly as you did on your Mac.
- You will now be able to access shared folders on your Windows PC. Copy the files as you would from any other Windows folder.
If you access these files frequently, you can map the folder as a network drive in Windows to make opening them easier.
Use File Sharing to transfer files from Windows PC to Mac using macOS
To access files from your PC on your Mac, you must first set up file sharing in Windows. Again, we will divide the process into two sections for clarity.
Configuring File Sharing in Windows
Here’s what you need to do to enable file sharing in Windows:
- Navigate to the folder you want to share, right-click it in File Explorer and choose Properties.
- Head towards the Sharing in the Properties window and click the tab Share… button.
- Click the drop-down menu in the new window and select the username you want to share the folder with. Then click Add.
- Click on Read under the Authorization level column next to the username to change between Read (access only) or Read write (access and make changes).
- Click on Share. Windows will ask you to enable network discovery and file sharing. Select Yes and wait for the process to complete.
- Now open Command Prompt or PowerShell on Windows, type ipconfigand hits Enter to find the IP address of your Windows PC and write it down. In most cases this will be IPv4 address below Ethernet Or Wireless LAN.
That’s all you need to do on your Windows PC.
Access shared Windows files on your Mac
To access the files you just shared on your Windows PC using a Mac connected to the same local network:
- Open a Finder window by clicking on the Searcher icon in the Dock.
- Click on Go > Connect to server from the menu bar.
- Type the IP address of your Windows PC into the field Server address field and hit Connect.
- Enter your Windows username and password, then press the button Back key.
- Select the folder you want to mount on your Mac and click ALL RIGHT.
You will now see your Windows folders under the Locations section of the Finder sidebar. Now that you’ve connected your Mac and Windows PC, you can easily share more folders.
Other ways to share files between Mac and Windows
The methods we’ve shared are ideal if your computers are connected to the same network. But if you want to access files remotely or skip the Windows and Mac setup process, you can use the following alternatives.
Use cloud storage services
Cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox store a copy of your files on their servers and allow you to access them anywhere. Simply install and configure them on each of your computers so that they automatically synchronize your files.
However, you need an active Internet connection to ensure files are updated. Additionally, if you want more storage space than is offered in the free tiers, you will need to pay for a subscription. You also have to wait twice: once for the files to be downloaded from the source machine, and again for them to be downloaded to the target PC.
Use a removable USB storage device
This is often the easiest way to transfer files between a Windows PC and a Mac. All you need is an external hard drive or USB drive to copy files to and from your devices.
Remember to format your drive using the exFAT file system, as it is compatible with Windows and macOS and can support large file sizes. While this won’t let you sync your files in real time, it’s much easier to use, especially since it’s plug-and-play.
Plus, it’s a one-time expense, unlike cloud services which require a subscription. If you’re considering going this route, consider important factors when purchasing an external drive for your Mac and PC.
Share files over the internet without cloud storage
If you don’t want to spend on cloud storage but still want to access your files remotely, you can try Resilio Sync or Syncthing. These free apps allow you to share files between Windows and macOS using an encrypted key.
This is ideal if you occasionally need to transfer large files between devices. However, you need to keep both devices on and file transfer may take longer if you don’t have a fast and reliable internet connection.
Get a NAS drive
A Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive is ideal for syncing files across multiple devices. Consider investing in one if you work with a large team or back up and protect multiple large files.
Although it can be a bit complicated to set up and has a high upfront hardware cost, this option is the gold standard for backing up terabytes of data.
Third-party options for copying data between Windows PCs and Macs are ideal if you frequently need to work on files across multiple devices. But if you occasionally copy and paste files from your Windows PC to your Mac (and vice versa), the built-in options on both operating systems are more than sufficient for your needs.