How to Share on Mixed HomeGroup, Workgroup, and Apple Networks

By Woody Leonhard

Sharing with the Public folder in Windows 8.1 is quick and dirty. As long as the person trying to get into your Public folder is connected to your network and he can supply a valid username and password — one that will log on to your computer — he can get at the contents of Public.

HomeGroups work only with Windows 7, 8, and Windows 8.1 computers. That’s it. If you have a Vista or (shudder!) XP PC on your network, it can’t join the HomeGroup so it has to access the shared data directly. Toss a Mac into the mix and, oy vez!

Sharing with XP and Vista computers

Windows XP and Vista support workgroups, which aren’t nearly as fancy as HomeGroups. Workgroups and HomeGroups co-exist peacefully, but you have to jump through some extra hoops to cross from one to another. Here’s how:

  • If you try to connect a Windows XP or Vista PC to a Windows 7 or 8 or 8.1 PC, you get a challenge like the one shown. The person using the Windows XP PC has to provide a valid username and password for the machine that she’s trying to get into.


  • If you’re using Windows 7 or 8 or 8.1 and trying to get into a PC that isn’t in your HomeGroup, you see a challenge like the one shown here. Again, the person using the PC has to provide a username and password that’s valid on the PC that he’s trying to access.


Sharing with a Mac

Surprisingly, connecting a Mac to a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 PC is quite similar. The Mac can’t join your HomeGroup, no way no how, but it can get into the Public folder of a specific PC. Here’s how:

  1. In the Mac OS X Finder, choose Go→Connect to Server.

    The Mac responds with the Connect to Server dialog box.


  2. In the Server Address box, type smb:// followed by the name of the PC you’re trying to connect to, then /Public. Click Connect.

  3. When you see the challenge, enter a username and password that’s valid on the computer you’re trying to get into. If you’re asked for a workgroup name, type workgroup.

    You end up in the Public folder.

You can also enable Windows-style file sharing on your Mac, so you can pull files from the Mac into your PC.