Network Basics: Macintoshes with PCs

Life would be too boring if Macs really lived on one side of the tracks and PCs lived on the other. If your organization has a mix of both Macs and PCs, odds are good that you eventually want to network them together. Fortunately, you have several ways:

  • If your network has an OS X Server, you can use the Windows client software that comes with OS X Server to connect any version of Windows to the server. Doing so enables Windows users to access the files and printers on the Macintosh server.

  • The server versions of Windows include a feature called Services for Macintosh that allows Macintosh computers to access files and printers managed by the Windows servers without installing special client software on the Macintosh computers.

  • If you use NetWare, you must purchase separate NetWare client software for your Macintosh computers. After you install this client software, the Macs can access files and printers managed by your NetWare servers.

The biggest complication that occurs when you mix Macintosh and Windows computers on the same network is that the Mac OS and Windows have slightly different rules for naming files. For example:

  • Macintosh filenames are limited to 31 characters, but Windows filenames can be up to 255 characters.

  • Although a Macintosh filename can include any characters other than a colon, Windows filenames can’t include backslashes, greater-than or less-than signs, and a few other oddball characters.

The best way to avoid filename problems is to stick with short names (under 31 characters) and limit your filenames to letters, numbers, and common symbols (such as the hyphen or pound sign). Although you can translate any filenames that violate the rules of the system being used into a form that’s acceptable to both Windows and the Macintosh, doing so sometimes leads to cryptic or ambiguous filenames.