Fast file transfer between a mac and PC on a network?
March 31, 2005 12:47 AM   Subscribe

I've got a mac and a PC sharing the same desk, both on a 802.11g network, but file transfer between the two is atrociously slow, like only a couple hundred kb/sec. Is there any way to transfer lots of data quickly between the two (like several Mb/sec)? A crossover ethernet cable between the two? USB? Firewire?
posted by mathowie to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Crossover ethernet cable would be the easiest and pain free way.

USB yes but you need special (i.e. not free) software.

Technically the Mac can act as a firewire drive, but I never got any Windows machine to recognize it. So a better question would be has anyone ever gotten a PC to read a Mac in target disk mode? I even have MacDrive 6 installed which make my Windows machine read and write HFS disks and it's no go..
posted by sammich at 1:40 AM on March 31, 2005

with a crossover cable you'd need to give each an address directly ( and for example) unless you configure one of the machines to be a dhcp server (not worth the bother, unless one of them does it automatically).

if you have a separate wifi hub and it has ethernet ports you could also wire both to the hub (no crossover). then the hub would give you addresses via dhcp.

if you make your own cables (easy with the right tool, and you get the length you want) look for a wiring diagram on the net. the wiring order is important and not obvious.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:30 AM on March 31, 2005

IP over firewire is, to me, the best. Firewire 400 gives you 400Mbps and Firewire 800 gives you 800Mbps. Both Windows XP and Mac OS X.3+ support IP over firewire natively. You just have to add the connection yourself in windows and in OS X, it'll be under the area where you select 'built-in ethernet', 'airport', 'modem', etc...

Give one an IP of 192.168.x.y and give the other an IP of 192.168.x.z and you'll be set. Use whatever filesharing method you like the most.

I use it for transferring files between my windows desktop (xp sp2) and my powerbook (os X.3) all the time.

A couple of caveats:
Using firewire may be a problem for XP, because firewire ports on PCs are uncommon and an extra hardware purchase may be required.

If you have OS X.2 on your mac, you'll have to download a special (free) IP over Firewire patch from the Apple Developer's Network (or whatever it's called).

If you have OS X.1 or lower, no IP over firewire for you.
posted by grahamux at 3:53 AM on March 31, 2005 [1 favorite]

The way to wire a crossover cable, using Cat5 cable, is to have the wires in this order on one end:


And on the other end


As you look at the little plastic RJ45 connector on the end of the cable, the little release spring should be facing down, with the metal pins facing up when you insert the wires.

In the UK, you can get a huge spool of cable for about £20, and a crimping tool for about £8. RJ45 ends cost about 15p a piece.
posted by gaby at 3:56 AM on March 31, 2005

If you have a vaguely modern Mac (2001 onwards, I think) you don't need a crossover cable, since they have smart ethernet ports that rewire themselves when you use a patch cable.

Apart from using a cable, the other way to speed up transfers is to not use Appletalk or Windows networking, but ftp or scp or similar instead. I'd also suggest burning a CD if all else fails.
posted by cillit bang at 4:23 AM on March 31, 2005

Three Macs (with a section on file sharing with PC's)

Connecting Options.
posted by jeanmari at 4:51 AM on March 31, 2005

I have had good luck mounting my Mac 10.3 as an external firewire drive to my PC. This is how I go about syncing up 3000 songs in my iTunes and 1800 pics in my iPhoto. If you hold down the "T" key on the mac while it boots it will boot into "Target Disk Mode" which basically turns it into a giant Firewire drive. After that you should be able to transfer the files fine. The only catch here is that you may have to make sure your Mac isn't using the mac osx formatting, you can actually give your mac HD NTFS permissions, which should allow you to share you files just fine between both machines.
posted by Numenorian at 5:57 AM on March 31, 2005 [1 favorite]

If your Mac is new enough, you do not need a special crossover cable. The Ethernet port will do auto-sensing and determine will switch the a crossover configuration automatically.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:49 AM on March 31, 2005

I had this problem a few weeks ago, when i upgraded my windows server at work from NT4 to 2003.

Network copying was unbelieveably slow... it is fixable though! You don't to use firewire or a crossover cable!

try this:

+ On the mac go to Go > Connect to Server (cmd K)
+ type in smb://192.168.X.X (whatever the ip of the pc is)
+ enter your username/pass as usual
+ voila, you should have full speed copying.
posted by derbs at 7:15 AM on March 31, 2005 [2 favorites]

Full speed copying, however, in regards to two computers both connected to the same 802.11 access point, can be slow. Both computers are sharing bandwidth, because there is only so much space in the radio spectrum for the channel they are using to communicate with the AP. Each packet must go to the AP and then the AP must send it back to the other computer.

Most APs are not smart, so when you send a packet over the wireless network, it spends time encapsulating that packet to send over the ethernet network, and then encapsulating that packet back into a wireless packet to send to the associated wireless units. (Remember, this is ethernet and everybody has a fair shot at the packet, so it broadcasts it everywhere). This will also slow things down.

You can put your PC and Mac into Ad Hoc mode, and associate them to each other wirelessly, without the meddlesome AP in the middle, and transfer speeds will increase. However, you will lose your connection to the internets when you do that.
posted by stovenator at 7:47 AM on March 31, 2005

I've strung firewire between the two machines and given them both internal IPs, and then mapped the mac drive on the PC, which seemed to work out fine.

It's going fairly fast, much faster than the network, but still not super duper fast. I'm transfering 250Mb in 1,500 files (one giant folder full of stuff) and it's taking ten minutes. Previously on the wireless network, moving just 50Mb would take about 20 minutes, so this is much better, though I wish it was a faster operation. I have like 15Gb of photos I want to backup over this connection.

Going from the mac to the PC via a direct network connection, moving another 100Mb file filled with 20k files is taking longer, about 15 min. Not at all as fast as an external firewire drive, but ten times better than the wireless network.

I guess I'll just set the multi Gb transfers to take place while I sleep. Thanks all!
posted by mathowie at 10:58 AM on March 31, 2005

Try to transfer an equivalent amount of data as a single file (i.e. zip up the giant folder and transfer that). Is that just as slow?

It may be that one of the OSes doesn't like folders with so many entries.
posted by todbot at 12:26 PM on March 31, 2005

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