Rugebregt / Rudy / Networking a Macintosh and PC (1997/1998)

A Home Macintosh and PC Ethernet LAN

How I networked my home Macintosh and PC - cheap and easy.

I spent the weekend solving a problem and I thought you might benefit from my solution. I've wanted to network my home PC and Macintosh for file sharing. I have Zip drives in both and I've been shuffling disks back and forth but I wanted a real, honest-to-goodness network. Of course, none of the establised computer stores (Frys, ComputerWare) were any help. Answers went from, 'impossible' to 'you need to set up a Novell or NT server, buy a hub and router and put Ethernet cards in both machines.' A new store in Santa Clara, "T-Zone" across from Frys on Lawerence has helpful and knowlegable sales people. They had the hardware which got me 50% of the way to my solution.

Building the Network

Install the PC Hardware

For hardware, I bought a kit called SOHOware from NDC Communications that has a hub, two PC 10BaseT Ethernet cards, cables and software. The $99 kit is designed for hooking up two PCs by creating a small ethernet network. The hub has five ports and is about 1x5 inches (I'm amazed at how cheap and small these are). The RJ45 connectors make it as easy as plugging in a phone. NDC Communications packages components individually and you can add PCs, upgrade to PCI cards, go with thin ethernet, etc. as you need.

Install the PC Ethernet Driver Software

I did have some trouble installing the driver software for the card. Windows 95 is supposed to be plug and play and when I started the machine, Windows recognized the new card and asked me whether it should install the defualt NE2000 compatible software. The NDC card came with its own software so I selected 'install from disk'. I had a lot of trouble trying to get this installed and ultimately gave up, my workaround was to remove the bungled attempts and let windows install a default driver. This was the only trouble I had and it made me again realize how nice the Macintosh is, no IRQs, memory configuration, conflict resolution and all the other mumbo jumbo. I have a request with NDC tech support but the workaround seems fine. (Note: I learned later from NDC that the Windows default driver works fine, don't bother with the disk if you're running Windows 95.)

Install the Macintosh Hardware and Software

Since my Quadra 840AV had Ethernet on the motherboard, all I needed was a Dayna EtherNet transceiver ($32). I plugged the tranceiver into the port on the back, selected "Ethernet" from the AppleTalk control panel and it was set.

Install AppleTalk and File Sharing software on the PC

PCMacLan ($169 from MacWarehouse) was recommended by knowledgeable people on the net. I recommend it too. I downloaded a demo copy of PCMacLan 6.1 software and the manual from Miramar's web site. The demo version is the same as the retail version but limits time and connections. This installs the AppleTalk protocols, file share, print share and network management software on the PC. The standard Windows 95 installer did it's thing and I was told I'd need to bind AppleTalk to the network card. It went pretty smoothly. Rebooted the machine and the demo version came up.

Start File Sharing on the PC

If you've used file sharing on the Macintosh, PCMacLan will be familiar. If you haven't, the manual from Miramar is online in Acrobat format and is very good. From the PCMacLan File Server Console you can set folders or drives to be shared, assign users and groups and set file translation attributes (mapping PC extensions to Macintosh signatures). The print server lets you use the printer attached to the PC as a print server and it works fine. My printer has both AppleTalk and Centronics ports so I didn't need this but it's nice to know it's there.

Start File Sharing on the Macintosh

To set up serving on the Macintosh I used the built in File Sharing software. Since I'm now running Ethernet and AppleTalk, I downloaded Apple's LaserWriter bridge control panel. It lets me use AppleTalk for my printer and Ethernet for the network without needing to switch them off and on. There's nothing more to do on the Macintosh.

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The Moment of Truth - Sharing Files

The cables and hub were plugged in, I got link confirmation at the hub and the network card, I rebooted the PC and Macintosh. The hub started blinking - the network is alive! Since I was using the demo copy of PCMacLan, it warned me that it was good for 30 minutes and only allowed a user 'Demo' to log in. I opened the PC MacLan Console, shared my C and D drive. On the Macintosh I selected the chooser and there was the PCMacLan device. I logged in as Demo and found the two drives. Double click and there they were on my desktop. All the common files (MS Word, Excel, JPEG, text) opened right up. Since I had ClarisWorks on both machines, I configured PCMacLan and when I opened or moved files across the net, they were automatically recognized. Same for FrameMaker.

On the Macintosh I set up a couple of folders to share using the File Sharing control panel. To access them from the PC, you use Network Neighborhood and the Macintosh shows up just like any network device. Very cool. Mac users see the Macintosh interface, PC users see the PC interface.

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Ethernet is fast. If you're used to AppleTalk or slow peripherals, this is definitely the way to go. Even with inexpensive hardware, I was getting about half a megabyte per second transfers. Copying a 10MB folder of various files in twenty seconds was pretty cool. Not to mention the joy of watching rapidly blinking lights on the hub.

I found that instead of copying files back and forth, the network is fast enough to let me open files across the network with no real delay. Even if the Mac was busy downloading files from the Internet, I could open files on the Macintosh from the PC. Same was true in reverse. No more trying to figure out which version is current, I keep my one set of files and access them from both operating systems.

PCMacLan is great. At $169, I didn't want to buy the software without trying it out. The demo version let me test all the functionality and I ordered a copy Monday morning. As far as I know, it's the only package that lets you go both ways, share PC resources and as well as access Macintosh resources. PCMacLan had a few quirks but it seemed solid, the documentation was very good and it installed on the PC cleanly.

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A Cost Saving Alternative Solution

You don't really need a hub if you only have two machines. You can hook them together with an Ethernet crossover cable (not the standard connecting cable!) and bypass the hub. You still need a card (cheap as $17), a cable and the PCMacLan software but it brings the cost down by about $70.

You could also spend a lot more on faster cards and hubs but I found this to be a simple, cost effective solution.

Another Packaged Solution

There is a kit that combines PCMacLan with a serial port adapter that connects to the PC's printer port. This gives you AppleTalk without Ethernet, a simpler but slower solution. It also takes away your printer port. My experience with devices on the PC printer port has been dissapointing and I recommend EtherNet.


Coments or questions? You can email me at:


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Last updated: Wed, Apr 22, 1998

Since posting this page, I've discovered other useful sources. Here's a summary and links or references.

If you can contribute by providing other references, I'll happily add them here.

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Last Updated: Fri, Feb 6, 1998 - Rudy Rugebregt

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