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Sharing Files, Devices, and Services on Mac OS X (El Capitan Edition)

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In this chapter from My OS X (El Capitan Edition), you learn how to use your Mac to share and access resources over a network.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In this chapter, 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
  • Turning your Mac into an Internet Access Point

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. El Capitan 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 El Capitan-based Macintosh on your network. You might want to refer to Chapter 3, “Connecting Your Mac to a Network,” and Chapter 12, “Using El Capitan 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 recently Apple has switched to SMB as the preferred protocol. SMB is traditionally used 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 El Capitan, 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!

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 Me to Be Discovered By 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 devices 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 or device.

  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 El Capitan 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 Accept or Accept 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, or click Cancel in the notification that appears.

  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, by clicking the Don’t See Who You’re Looking For? link.
  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.

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