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Virtual Networking for Macs and PCs

Posted on 2007-09-28
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I know very little about networking, so I'm coming to the Experts to help get me started.

Is it possible to create VPN-like file sharing system between a group of Mac and PC computers over the Internet?  

My PC would serve at the "main" computer, running Windows XP.  My computer is always connected to the Internet over a cable-modem connection.  I want certain people to be able to connect remotely to my computer, whether they be on a Mac or another PC, and grab files from certain folders on my computer.   But I also want anyone in my virtual network to be able to connect remotely to anyone else's computer in our network to share files.

Without knowing very much about the obvious security issues this presents:  Is it possible?  Is it a good/bad idea?  How do I get started?

Thanks!
Marc

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Question by:marcparillo
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cuziyq earned 2000 total points
ID: 19980156
Both OS X and Windows support VPN.  There are also many RDP clients for the Mac that allow you to remote desktop into a Windows machine.  Additionally, OS X also support file sharing with Windows clients.  It's not really an issue for the two to coexist peacefully.
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by:marcparillo
ID: 19980315
Thank You for the speedy reply!

How do you recommend I get started?  

With Windows, I suppose I can use the VPN client that comes installed with Windows XP.  But what about a Mac?

Is there a certain piece of software I should get for all machines to link up?

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by:cuziyq
ID: 19980579
VPN capabilities are built into OS X as they are with Windows.  To create a VPN connection, open Internet Connect in the /Applications folder. In Internet Connect, select New VPN Connection Window from the File menu.
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by:cuziyq
ID: 19980644
Sorry . . . got jumpy on the submit button.

On the XP machine, set it to accept incoming VPN connections by going to the New Connection wizard (as if you were setting up an outgoing VPN connection).  Under connection type, select "Advanced Connection".  On the next screen, select "Accept Incoming Connection".  Blow right past the next screen without selecting anything.  Next, select "Allow Virtual Provate Connections".  On the next screen, set up which users you want to allow access.  On the next screen, double-click TCP/IP.  Then select "Allow callers to access my local network"  Specify the IP address info.

That's it.
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by:marcparillo
ID: 19980803
That makes sense --

Maybe this is a dumb question -- but will a Windows machine be able to view folders on a Mac machine and vice versa?  Does the fact that they are different computers on different operating systems make any difference on what I can see and share?

Also -- am I setting myself up for a potential security breach using the public internet to share files, even though the file sharing capabilities are limited by IP addresses?

Thanks.

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by:cuziyq
ID: 19980990
Windows machines use a protocol called SMB for file sharing, which Macs support fully.  As long as the VPN is working, there should be no issues with connecting to Windows shares.

As for sharing over the internet, VPN packets are fully encrypted and considered safe for using over the internet.  Nowadays, most major corporations use VPN to connect different offices together rather than buying dedicated circuits.  It's cheaper and secure.  Just be sure the IP address you assign is on the same subnet as the rest of your Windows network.
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by:cuziyq
ID: 19981016
Oh, and BTW . . . if you plan on allowing your friends access to your XP PC, you either need to make an account for each friend, or make one account and have everyone use the same username and password.
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by:marcparillo
ID: 19981025
Thanks!! You've been a huge help!
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