Can a Mac use a PC's internet connection without wireless?
August 18, 2008 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Mac/PC Internet Sharing: My work PC (running XP) has an internet connect, but no wireless. Is there a way to connect my MacBook Air to my PC via USB so that my Mac can use my PC's internet connection?

I don't think there's much to add, except that I have full administrative control over the PC, but not over the network. I suppose I could pick up a cheap wireless access point for the PC, but I'm really looking for something that I can do right away.
posted by lionelhutz5 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
via usb? No, but if you have an available ethernet port (or buy another ethernet card) you can have the PC do internet connection sharing.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:00 AM on August 18, 2008

Also you can have it bridge the connections, which might be saner on a network you dont control
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:02 AM on August 18, 2008

The Air doesn't have an Ethernet port, so you would also need to buy the breakout dongle Apple sells (not sure if other USB/Ethernet converters work with the Air) if you were following dda's advice.

You could also buy a wireless adapter for the PC and use it to "broadcast" the wireless signal, which wouldn't be as safe as dda's recommendation (unless you locked the connection down), but certainly less messy.

Going from $13.99 on Newegg.
posted by indiewizard at 8:13 AM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. If anyone has further thoughts on why this wouldn't work over USB between the two computers, I'd really appreciate it. If the point of a network bridge (as I understand the helpful link from dda to be saying) is to allow networking between different network adapters, why can't USB be one of them? They make USB wireless access points, after all.

As you may have recognized, I am not very knowledgeable about networking, so I apologize if this is obvious. But, here is my logic: the MacBook Air can use a USB wireless card (e.g., from Verizon), and can therefore "network" through USB. The PC can share its internet connection using a USB-connected wireless adapter/access point, and can therefore "network" through USB. So, shouldn't both machines be able to do the same thing without the middle man of wireless? Is it that the wireless provides the network protocol (or a more precise term)? Is there no USB -to-USB network protocol?

By the way, all of the solutions involving ordering new equipment are helpful for the future, but my goal is to do this today with the resources I have on hand. So, downloading software would be ok because I can do it immediately.
posted by lionelhutz5 at 9:51 AM on August 18, 2008

You could have it bridge via: firewire (no go with the air), ethernet or wireless.

You need 2 on the pc - one input (currently ethernet), and something else for output. If you don't have it, you can get the wireless adapter for the pc (as mentioned above) and use it to 'bridge.'
posted by filmgeek at 9:57 AM on August 18, 2008

Can't bridge via USB because USB items can't 'route' data- they're dependent on a host. Firewire devices can.
posted by filmgeek at 9:57 AM on August 18, 2008

because the USB spec doesnt include networking. Firewire and Bluetooth do, but not USB. Third-party developers have made networking over USB, so thats why you see it on cable modems and such. You would have to purchase software for this.

>Is there no USB -to-USB network protocol?

No, there is not. It is not part of the spec. Here is a third-party "cable" that will do this. The "cable" is actually a controller. Thirty bucks here. Never used one, no idea on OS X compatibility.

>but my goal is to do this today with the resources I have on hand.

You should have thought of that before you bought a device without an ethernet jack.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:58 AM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks again for the responses. DDA almost had best answer until he gratuitously disparaged the MBA. For the record, ethernet won't work here, which is why I asked about USB. (Also for the record, the MBA is a phenomenal machine. I carry an Airport Express that solves the ethernet issue in hotels. I've needed it twice in 6 months, with lots of travel. Anyway, I don't want to use it here, which is why I asked about USB.)
posted by lionelhutz5 at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2008

damn dirty ape wrote "You should have thought of that before you bought a device without an ethernet jack."

While that may on the surface seem like a disparaging remark, as an MBP owner I wholeheartedly agree that a modern laptop with no hard-wired ethernet, no FireWire, no optical drive, no standard video out port, only a single USB port, no locking cable slot and no user-replaceable battery is not really a good investment for anyone who doesn't expect to deal with annoyances. You really shouldn't be angry at anyone who looks at your machine, looks at what else is available in that price range, and shakes his or her head. Apple makes some great hardware, but they're also really good at making the hardware difficult to use for no reason other than that they can, or that it "looks better" to, say, hide the power button and all the USB ports on the back of the iMac, or remove items that are standard on all other computers, just because. I'll take "easier to use" over "looks a tiny bit better" any day.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: CLV and DDA: you certainly have every right to discount the utility of the MBA, but not every question by an MBA user is an invitation to do so. I am aware of what the MBA lacks, I was aware when I bought it, I am quite happy with the machine, and comments about whether I chose the right computer are just not remotely responsive to the question.
posted by lionelhutz5 at 11:52 AM on August 18, 2008

This page talks about using a USB to Ethernet adapter for OS X:

If you had two of these, one on each machine, theoretically you could do what you want. Of course, then you have to figure out connection sharing on the PC. I'll bet dollars to donuts that if you get it going, something will happen and the setup will break in some fashion.

I'd be more inclined to get Apple's ethernet dongle, then put a dumb hub or switch on your desk and plug the PC and Mac into it plus your original network cable. Forget the PC sharing. Too complicated. Hopefully your work network is using DHCP so the Mac can acquire an IP number and away you go.
posted by diode at 4:51 PM on August 18, 2008

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