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My iMac: Sharing Devices, Files, and Services on a Network

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This chapter helps you make the most of your iMac network connections by showing you how to share files, folders, and devices across networks and between Mac and Windows machines.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

  • → Sharing files and folders with Macs Using AirDrop and File Sharing
  • → File sharing with Windows 7 computers
  • → Setting Share Permissions
  • → Using Share Sheets to quickly share files online
  • → Sharing and accessing network printers
  • → Sharing and accessing flatbed scanners
  • → Sharing your iMac screen and viewing remote systems
  • → Turning your iMac into an Internet Access Point

Your iMac is a self-contained workstation that packs all the power you need into a highly integrated package—and one that is fully capable of integrating with new or existing networks. An iMac with Mountain Lion can share and access a variety of resources with other computers on your network. Files and folders can be shared with other Macs and Windows PCs; printers and scanners can be shared with other Macs; even your screen can be made available to other computers on your network.

To make the most use of the information in this chapter, the assumption is that you’ve already established a network connection and have connected any printers or scanners to either your iMac or another Mountain Lion-based Macintosh on your network. You might want to refer to Chapter 3, “Connecting Your iMac to a Network,” and Chapter 11, “Connecting Devices to Your iMac,” for more details on networking and peripherals, respectively.

File Sharing on Your iMac

The most common network activity (beyond email and Web surfing) is file sharing. Your iMac comes ready to share files using several popular protocols—AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) and SMB (Simple Message Block) are the most popular. AFP, as the name suggests, is for Mac-to-Mac file sharing, and SMB is used primarily in Windows environments. In addition to the protocols for sharing files, you also have different methods for how you share them. Traditional file sharing requires that you turn on file sharing, choose what you want to share, tell another person how to connect, and so on. With Mountain Lion, your iMac includes a zero-configuration version of file sharing called AirDrop. AirDrop lets you wirelessly share files with other Mac users who are in your vicinity—with no setup required!

Using AirDrop to Wirelessly Share Files and Folders

AirDrop is a fast and easy file-sharing system that lets you send files to another Macintosh without any setup—no usernames, no passwords, nothing except a Wi-Fi adapter that is turned on! Unlike traditional file sharing, AirDrop’s simplicity does present a few challenges that might make it less than ideal for your particular file-sharing situation. Specifically, AirDrop requires the following:

  • All computers sharing files must be using Lion (or later) operating system.
  • All systems must have recent wireless-N Wi-Fi hardware—2010 or later iMacs will work fine.
  • Your iMac will not be able to browse the contents of other computers, only send files.

Sending Files with AirDrop

To use AirDrop, be sure that your Wi-Fi adapter is turned on (see Chapter 3 for details), identify the files that you want to share with another person, and then follow these steps:

  1. Open a new Finder window and make sure the Favorites sidebar section is expanded.
  2. Click the AirDrop icon to browse for other OS X computers.
  3. Other computers are shown using the owner’s avatar picture (set in Address Book) as their icon.
  4. Drag the files you want to transfer to the icon of another computer.
  5. Confirm the transfer by clicking Send when prompted.
  6. You will be asked to wait while the remote system confirms the transfer.
  7. The files are copied to the remote system. A blue circle around the receiving computer indicates progress.
  8. Close the AirDrop window to stop being visible on the network. After you’ve closed the AirDrop window, you can go your merry way. You don’t need to disconnect or change your network settings. You’re done!

Receiving Files with AirDrop

Receiving files with AirDrop is even easier than sending them. When a nearby Mountain Lion user wants to send files to your iMac, follow these steps:

  1. Open a new Finder window and make sure the Favorites sidebar section is expanded.
  2. Click the AirDrop icon to become visible to other AirDrop users.
  3. When prompted to receive files, click Save or Save and Open to accept the transfer, or Decline to cancel.
  4. The files are transferred to your Download folder.
  5. Click the X on the downloading file or folder to cancel the download.
  6. Close the AirDrop window to stop being visible on the network. That’s it! Your AirDrop session is automatically ended when the window closes.

Using Share Sheets to Send via AirDrop

Share Sheets are a new UI element and feature in Mountain Lion that enable applications to share files and folders from almost anywhere—even file open and save dialog boxes, as you’ll see here. To use a Share Sheet to send a file via AirDrop, complete these steps:

  1. Select a file (or open a file) within an application.
  2. Look for the Share Sheet button. Click to show the Sharing menu.
  3. Select AirDrop from the list of sharing options.
  4. A new window appears listing all nearby users with AirDrop open in the Finder.
  5. Click the person you want to send the file to.
  6. The copy begins as soon as the recipient accepts the transfer. On the receiving end, an AirDrop transfer sent via an application appears identical to one sent directly from the Finder; the process is the same as that discussed earlier.

Configuring Traditional File and Folder Sharing

When AirDrop won’t do (you need to browse another computer’s files or share with Windows/older Macs), you need to turn to the traditional file sharing features built into OS X. Mountain Lion provides consolidated controls for sharing files, regardless of what type of computer you want to share them with. You set up file sharing by first enabling sharing for your iMac and then choosing the protocols available for accessing the files. Finally, you decide which folders should be shared and who should see them.

Enabling File Sharing

Before your iMac can make any files or folders available over a network, file sharing must be enabled.

  1. In the System Preferences, click the Sharing icon.
  2. Click the checkbox in front of the service labeled File Sharing.
  3. The details about your sharing configuration are displayed on the right side of the sharing window.
  4. Close the Sharing Preferences panel, or continue configuring other sharing options.

Choosing File Sharing Protocols

Files can be shared over AFP (Mac) or SMB (Windows). If you’re working in a Mac-only environment, AFP will be perfect. Mixed environments should use SMB.

To choose which protocols can be used to access the files on your iMac, follow these steps:

  1. In System Preferences, click the Sharing icon.
  2. Click the File Sharing service label.
  3. Click the Options button to display the available sharing protocols.
  4. Check or uncheck the protocols that you want to use.
  5. If you’re configuring Windows file sharing (SMB), all accounts are disabled by default. Check the box in front of each user account that should be allowed to connect.
  6. Enter the password for each account.
  7. Click Done.
  8. Close the Sharing Preferences, or continue configuring sharing options.

Selecting Folders and Permissions

After enabling file sharing and choosing the protocols that are used, your next step is to pick the folders that can be shared. By default, each user’s Public folder is shared and accessible by anyone with an account on your computer. (See Chapter 12, “Securing and Protecting Your iMac,” for configuring user accounts.)

  1. In the System Preferences, click the Sharing icon.
  2. Click the File Sharing service label.
  3. Click the + button under Shared Folders to share a new folder.
  4. Find the folder you want to make available and then click the Add button.
  5. Close the System Preferences, or continue configuring sharing options.

Setting Folder Access Permissions

By default, your user account has full access to anything that you share. The default user group named Staff, and everyone with an account on the computer, have read-only access.

To change who can access a file share, complete the following steps:

  1. In the System Preferences window, click the Sharing icon.
  2. Click the File Sharing service label.
  3. Click the Shared Folder name that you want to modify.
  4. Click the + button under the User’s list to add a new user (or – to remove access for a selected user).
  5. A window for selecting a user displays. Within the Users & Groups category, pick the user or group and click Select.
  6. Use the pop-up menu to the right of each user in the Users list to choose what the user can do within the shared folder.
  7. Close the System Preferences.

Accessing Shared Files

Shared files are only useful if you can access them! Your iMac provides two methods of connecting to shared folders: by browsing for them on your local network and by entering a URL to connect directly to the shared resource.

Browsing and Connecting to Network Shares

Browsing and connecting to a local network share is similar to browsing through the folders located on your iMac. To browse for available network shares, do the following:

  1. Open a new Finder window and make sure the Shared sidebar section is expanded.
  2. Click the computer that is sharing the folders and files that you want to access.
  3. If you have not logged into the computer before and saved your password, a list of the publicly accessible file shares is displayed in the Finder window.
  4. Click the Connect As button on the upper right of the Finder window.
  5. Enter the username and password that you have established for accessing files on the server.
  6. Click Remember This Password in My Keychain to enable browsing directly to the file shares in the future.
  7. Click Connect.
  8. The file share list updates to display all the shares that your user account can access. Double-click the share you want to use.
  9. The share is mounted as a disk and can be used as if it were local to your iMac.

Connecting to Remote Shares

Sometimes file shares aren’t directly browseable because they’re hiding their available shares, or they are located on a different network from your iMac. To access remote shares by URL, follow these steps:

  1. When you create a new file share on your iMac, Mountain Lion provides you with a list of URLs that can be used to access that file share (see step 3 of “Enabling File Sharing”). You can use these URLs to directly access a file share rather than browsing.
  2. Choose Go, Connect to Server from the Finder menu.
  3. Enter the URL for the file share in the Server Address field.
  4. Click + if you want to add the server to the list of favorite servers.
  5. Click Connect to connect to the server and view the available shares.
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