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Probably the most common cross-platform connection between two computers is the linking of a Windows PC with a Mac. There was a time when this was pretty tricky, but over the years the process has been refined considerably, thanks in no small part to Microsoft abandoning the PowerPC architecture in favor of the same Intel processors that are found in Windows computers.
There are various ways in which you can use a Windows PC and a Mac together, from file sharing to remote control, dual booting and even establishing a virtual environment.
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Why might you wish to connect a Mac and a PC? There are various reasons – you might prefer the user interface on a Mac, for instance, with the result of having a Mac and a Windows computer in the home. Alternatively you might be operating from a work environment where a switch to Apple Macs is taking place. In order to retain full functionality of existing applications, you might opt to maintain a few Windows computers until the switch over is complete.
The most common means of getting work done on a PC and a Mac is to connect to the two computers together. There are various ways in which this can be done, such as via Ethernet cable or if you have a wireless card on your PC you can connect the two machines via Wi-Fi.
Note that while it should be pretty simple to connect your Mac and your PC, any proxy settings that you have set up might need to be altered, depending on whether you are planning to simply share files or if you’re going to take advantage of Internet connection sharing.
With your Mac and PC connected, you will then be able to browse the files and folders on one machine from the other. Sharing files in this way requires permission to be set up, however, and as such you will need to spend a bit of time configuring this.
It is probably safe to say that the process of sharing files from a Mac OS X system with a Windows computer is a little easier than sharing files from the Windows machine. Both processes are pretty fast, however, but the Mac OS X method is a little more streamlined.
You may have a requirement to open, edit and even create and delete documents on your Mac and PC, regardless of which computer you’re using, but it is also possible to restrict the options down to simply reading files. This is a great way to retain control over files and prevent unauthorised persons from deleting them.
Although the process of sharing files between a Mac and a Windows machine is generally the same from version to version, experienced users of either operating system will know that there are changes with each release. As such Windows 7 users should pay particular attention to these instructions.
One of the benefits of sharing your Mac and Windows PC across a network is the advantage of printer sharing. This basically means that you can output to your printer regardless of which computer it is connected to. The computer will effectively act as a print server!
It is just as easy to print to a device connected to a Mac as it is to send output to a printer connected to a Windows computer, but if you’re new to the world of Mac OS X, printing a document to a Windows network printer might prove a little difficult.
Of course there are different ways of connecting to a Mac from a Windows PC or vice versa. Thanks to the Internet you don’t have to have your computers in the same room or even the same building to connect them together. Remote control software is available!
The number of applications and services available for connecting a PC to a Mac seems to be constantly growing, so you may need to take a bit of time to identify the most appropriate solution for your particular needs.
One popular solution is pcAnywhere, which offers the ability to connect to a Windows PC or a Mac remotely. Note, however, that as powerful as this solution is, it is quite expensive. If you aren’t a business user then there are web-based applications available free that allow much of the same functionality.
Another way of using a Mac and Windows together is to install the Microsoft operating system on your Mac. While there are licencing issues preventing Mac OS X from being installed on non-Apple hardware, the same restrictions don’t apply on Windows machines.
To get a full understanding of running Windows programs on a Mac (running Mac software in Windows is tough) you will need to spend some time going through the options. While dual booting and virtualization are both options, you should recognize that plenty of alternative applications are available in Mac OS X which can prevent you from having to run Windows software on a Mac.
For the most seamless connection of Windows and Mac OS X computers, however, you can take advantage of virtual computer solutions. Parallels is a popular option for Mac OS X, although VMware and VirtualBox are both growing in popularity. A virtual machine is basically a software environment that behaves like a hardware computer, allowing you to install a second operating system on your computer.
Using virtualization you can install Windows on your Mac, or alternatively you might even try Mac OS X on your Windows computer. Whether this gets around licensing restrictions is unclear, but many people have enjoyed using Mac OS X in this way.
- Screenshots provided by author.