Mac Basics: File Sharing

Learn about File Sharing.

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File Sharing allows your Mac to share files and folders with other Macs and PCs on your network.


  • Your file sharing settings may be overridden by your network router's firewall, the firewalls on other computers, or the firewall in Mac OS X v10.5 or later. Please see this article for details. Refer to your vendor's documentation about firewalls for third-party computers or routers.
  • Before you begin, you might want to create all the user and group accounts you will need in Users & Groups preferences (in OS X Mountain Lion and OS X Lion) or Accounts preferences (in Mac OS X v10.5 or Mac OS X v10.6).  See this article for details. You can set up your Mac to allow specific user and group accounts access to certain folders with appropriate access privileges.

Open Sharing preferences

  1. Log in with an administrator user account. To enable and configure file sharing you need to know the name and password of an administrator account on your Mac.
  2. From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences.
  3. Type File Sharing in the System Preferences search field, and press Enter.

Select folders to share

Below the Shared Folders list, click the Add (+) button. Find the folder you want to share. To select multiple folders, press and hold the Shift key while selecting folders with the mouse.

In the example below, the folders named "Juan Chavez's Public Folder" and "Mac 101" (/Users/Mac 101) have been selected for sharing.

Shared folders, sharing system preferences

Repeat this process for all folders you wish to share.

Note: You can also directly select a folder in the Finder to share. Select the folder, choose Get Info from the File menu, and enable "Shared Folder" to share it (or deselect "Shared Folder" to stop sharing the folder).

Get Info window

Tip: When you open a shared folder, a "Shared Folder" banner appears in its Finder window, as well as any subfolder windows.

Shared Folder banner

Accessing shared files

To access files that are being shared on a different computer or from an AirPort disk or Time Capsule, follow these steps in Connect to shared computers and file servers on a network.

For more information, please see Servers and shared computers that you can connect to and Network address formats for shared computers and servers.

Advanced topics

To learn about some more advanced aspects of File Sharing, open a section below.

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Configure user and group accounts with appropriate access privileges

  1. In Sharing preferences, select the folder that's being shared.
  2. To add to the default user accounts and groups that were selected when you shared the folder, click the Add (+) button below the Users list.
  3. Select an existing user account or group. User accounts can be created in Users & Group preferences (in OS X Mountain Lion and OS X Lion) or Accounts preferences (in Mac OS X v10.5 or later), in System Preferences. Tip: You can create a Sharing Only user account by clicking "New Person" or adding a user from your Contacts (in OS X Mountain Lion) or Address Book (in Mac OS X v10.5 or later).
  4. The default privilege for a user account or group you add is "Read Only".  If you want to change this, click the pop-up menu next to the user or group and choose one of the following privilege options:
    • Read & Write - The user can read, copy, edit, and delete the contents of the folder.
    • Read Only - The user can only read and copy (to another location) the contents of the folder.
    • Write Only (Drop Box) - The user can only copy content into the folder.  The user can not see the contents of the drop box folder.  

      Note: A "Write Only" user can overwrite items in the drop box folder, if what they drop into it has the same name as an item already in the drop box folder.
    • No Access (groups only) - User accounts in this group will have no access to the folder.  However, if a user account is added, the privileges assigned to the user account override the group restrictions.
  5. Repeat this process for other folders being shared for which you want this users to have access.

Sharing preference pane

You can also manage the user or group access of a shared folder via the Finder; select the folder and choose Get Info from the File menu.

Tip: If you need to assign the shared folder user or group account privileges to items contained in the shared folder, select "Apply to enclosed items" from the action pop-up menu. A confirmation sheet appears, click OK to complete the process.

Get Info window

Choose the appropriate network protocol to communicate with the type of computer that's accessing your shared files

You can share files using Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, or File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Note: FTP is only available in Mac OS X v10.5 and Mac OS X v10.6.

Follow these steps to select the appropriate protocols for the type of computer that will log onto your Mac:

  1. In Sharing preferences, click Options.
  2. Select "Share files and folders using AFP" to enable the Apple Filing Protocol. Use this protocol to file share with other Macs.
  3. Select "Share files and folders using FTP" to enable the File Transfer Protocol. Use this protocol to file share with UNIX and LINUX systems. (This option is only available in Mac OS X v10.5 and Mac OS X v10.6)
  4. Select "Share files and folders using SMB (Windows)" to enable the Server Message Block protocol and check the user accounts to enable for SMB. Use this protocol to file share with Microsoft Windows-based PCs and Linux computers.

    Note: You will have to enter the user's password for a user account that you enable for SMB.
  5. Once you have selected the desired networking protocols, click Done.

File Sharing options window

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