One of the major selling points for Macs and Mac OS X Leopard these days is their ability to work well in a largely Windows world. Apple offers two ways to accomplish this task: Leopard's ability to share files and printers with Windows machines, and the ability of Intel-based Macs to run Windows using either Boot Camp (which is included free as part of Leopard) or third-party virtualization tools.
Although Leopard and Windows typically play well together, understanding some of the nuances for getting a new Mac to talk with your existing PCs -- or getting the best experience running Windows on that new Mac -- can sometimes be a little challenging. In this article, we'll look at some of the details you should understand to get the best of both worlds.
When Leopard and Windows need to talk on a network
Our first set of tips relates to those situations where you have one or more Macs running Leopard that need to share files or other resources with Windows machines over a network connection. For the most part, these tips apply to home or small office environments.
Configuring network settings
On a Windows network, NetBIOS names, workgroups and Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) settings play a key role in communication among computers. As advanced Windows users know, the NetBIOS name for a computer establishes its identity on a network.
A workgroup identifies a group of computers that can communicate using SMB (short for Server Message Block ), the native file and printer sharing protocol for Windows. In the My Network Places window, individual computers are displayed within the context of their workgroups.
This is possible because SMB supports the discovery of devices on a local network using broadcasts to determine which devices are available. Normally, one PC in a workgroup, typically the first one powered on, assumes the role of the master browser on a local network and maintains a list of available devices.
Workgroups are commonly used in home and small business environments, since they provide some organizational capabilities but don't require a centralized server to manage them. A related feature in some larger environments is WINS, which provides a mechanism for enabling device self-discovery in environments where there are large numbers of PCs and other SMB devices, or where there are multiple network segments connected via a router.