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Sharing Files, Devices, and Services on Your iMac (Yosemite Edition)

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In this chapter from My iMac (Yosemite Edition), you learn how to use your Mac to share and access resources over a network, including sharing files and folders using AirDrop and File Sharing, file sharing with Windows computers, setting Share Permissions, using the Share menu to quickly share files online, sharing and accessing network printers, sharing your screen and viewing remote systems, and turning your Mac into an Internet Access Point.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Your Mac 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. Yosemite 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 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 Mac or another Yosemite-based Macintosh on your network. You might want to refer to Chapter 3, “Connecting Your Mac to a Network,” and Chapter 12, “Using Yosemite with Your iDevices,” for more details on networking and peripherals, respectively.

File Sharing on Your Mac

The most common network activity (beyond email and web surfing) is file sharing. Your Mac 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 a Mac-to-Mac file sharing protocol, but with Yosemite, Apple has switched to SMB as the preferred protocol. SMB has traditionally been used primarily in Windows environments and offers significant performance improvements over AFP.

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 Yosemite, your Mac includes a zero-configuration version of file sharing called AirDrop. AirDrop enables you to wirelessly share files with other 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 enables you to 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 the Lion (or later) operating system.
  • All systems must have recent wireless-AC or N Wi-Fi hardware—2011 or later Macs will work fine.
  • Your computer will not be able to browse the contents of other systems, only send files.

Configuring AirDrop

Before you get started using AirDrop, you might want to make a few changes to help restrict or open access to the service. To modify who can see you (and whom you can see!), complete the following:

  1. Open a new Finder window and make sure the Favorites sidebar section is expanded.
  2. Click the AirDrop icon.
  3. Click the Allow Others to Find Me option to choose whether you are visible to everyone, just people in your contacts, or no one.

  4. Click the Don’t See Who You’re Looking For? link to enable support for some older Macs.

  5. After making your changes, you should see other AirDrop clients begin to appear in the AirDrop window.

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. You will see “Waiting” shown below the remote computer’s icon while the receiving user confirms the transfer.

  6. The files are copied to the remote system. A blue circle around the receiving computer indicates progress.
  7. 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 Yosemite user wants to send files to your Mac, 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 Downloads 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 the Share Menu to Send via AirDrop

The Share menu is a relatively new user interface (UI) element and feature in OS X. It enables applications to share files and folders from almost anywhere—even file open and save dialog boxes, as you’ll see here.

  1. Select a file (or open a file) within an application.
  2. Look for the Share icon. Click it to show the Share 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. Enable support for older Macs, if necessary.
  6. Click the person or machine you want to send the file to.
  7. The copy begins as soon as the recipient accepts the transfer. Click Done to exit and the copy will continue in the background.

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. Yosemite 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 Mac 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 Mac can make any files or folders available over a network, you must enable File Sharing.

  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 (Legacy OS X) or SMB (Yosemite and Windows). If possible, stick to SMB for the best speeds.

To choose which protocols can be used to access the files on your Mac, 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. If you are only sharing between Yosemite machines, all you need is SMB.
  5. If you want to use SMB to share specifically with Windows systems, you must enable each account for access. Within the Windows File Sharing section, check the box in front of each user 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 14, “Securing and Protecting Your Mac,” 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, has 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 Users 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 Mac 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 Mac. 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 Mac.

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 Mac. To access remote shares by URL, follow these steps:

  1. When you create a new file share on your Mac, Yosemite 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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