As of February 2021, Windows held over 75 percent of the desktop operating system market while macOS sat at a little under 17 percent.
While there are far more Windows users than Mac users, there are enough people on Macs that sharing files between platforms is a common requirement. Let’s look at 5 solutions for how to share files between Mac and PC.
- Cloud Storage Solutions
If both computers have an internet connection — and what computer doesn’t these days — you can use cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive for sharing files.
Upload the file from the computer it’s located on to the cloud then download it on the other computer. Most cloud storage services also let you sync your files automatically.
For example, if you use Dropbox it creates a folder on your computer that automatically syncs to the cloud. Any file you save there gets uploaded in the background.
You can set both computers up to sync this way and just save or copy the file you want to send to your Dropbox folder. Once it finishes uploading on the first system, it will automatically download on the second. Things like word processing documents and spreadsheets are small enough that this process is nearly immediate.
- USB Storage Devices
If the Mac and PC are near one another or you’ll be near each of them yourself, you can use a USB stick or external USB hard drive to transfer files.
Save the file to the device on the computer it’s located on and plug the drive into the other computer. It gets mounted as an external drive on that one and you can simply drag the file into a folder on the computer to make a copy.
There are a couple of requirements for these sneakernet transfers to work though.
First, both computers need to have the same type of USB connection or the device has to support different connections. USB connections come in the traditional rectangular USB-A style and the newer, smaller USB-C format so make sure you’re working with computers that support the same connection.
Second, the USB drive needs to get formatted in a way that works on both Mac and Windows. The best format to use is FAT32. It supports large drives but works seamlessly on both platforms.
If you use an Apple-specific format like HFS+ then Windows won’t recognize it. And if you use the Windows NTFS format, you’ll need extra software on your Mac to read those files.
- How to Share Files Between Mac and PC on a Network
If both computers are on the same network, either wired or wireless, you can transfer files between them across the network.
Macs support Windows file-sharing standards so they can connect to shared drives on a Windows PC or share their files for Windows to access across the network.
To enable this feature on your Mac, open System Preferences and double-click on the Sharing icon. Choose File Sharing in the menu on the left-hand side and click the Options button.
Check the following two boxes to turn on file-sharing:
- Share files and folders using SMB
- Share files and folders using AFP
Check the box beside your account in the Windows File Sharing section to turn on sharing for all your files. You’ll need to enter your account password to confirm.
Click Done and then use the +/- buttons in the Shared Folders box to select the folders you want to share across the network.
On the Windows PC, open a File Explorer window and enter // followed by your Mac’s IP address to connect to it. You can find the IP address in the System Preferences > Sharing window on your Mac.
If you use a Mac and either an iPhone or iPad, you may already know how to Airdrop to Mac. Airdrop is a file-sharing feature built into Apple’s operating system that lets you send files from one device to another when they’re close to one another.
Unfortunately, Airdrop doesn’t work with Windows. At least you can’t transfer files with the official Airdrop service. Fortunately, some third-party solutions offer similar features. One of the best of these tools is Droplr.
With Droplr, you drag-and-drop a file into the app and it uploads it to the cloud automatically. Once the file finishes uploading, Droplr gives you a link that you can use to access the file on any other computer.
Visit that link on the other computer and the file downloads automatically. It takes a couple more steps than Airdrop would but it’s almost as simple and supports both Windows and Mac.
- Send Files by Email
The final option for transferring files between a Mac and a PC is a little old-school but it still works as well as it ever did — send the file by email.
This option doesn’t work if you’re working with large files like video or audio but for typical office documents, pictures, and other smaller-sized files, email is a simple way to get them from one computer to another.
Simply create a new email to an address you can check on the other computer and attach the file you want to send to the message. Check your email on the other computer to retrieve the message and save the attachment there.
Just remember that email generally gets sent across the internet unencrypted. Don’t send any sensitive files this way if you can avoid it.
What Kind of Files Do You Need to Transfer?
The type of files you’re sharing will have a bearing on which of these 5 solutions for how to share files between Mac and PC is the best choice for you. Consider the file size, sensitivity of the data, and what connections there are between the computers so you can choose the method that best suits your needs.
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