Sharing’s Caring


Macs have always had impressive networking capabilities from the beginning. In this entry, I’ll dive into more detail on setting up file sharing between two 68k Macs. All you need are two Macs and a serial (aka Printer/Modem) cable!

In this project, I’m using two 68k Macs: A Macintosh SE running System 6, and a Macintosh Classic running System 7. The Classic will sort of act as the server, in that it will share files off its hard drive to the SE. For a cable I’m using an old printer cable, but theoretically any 8-pin Mini-DIN serial cable (male-male) should work.

The technology that powers this magic is AppleTalk, which you can read all about on Wikipedia – if you’re interested.

To start things off, connect the two machines with the serial cable. You can technically select the port you want to use, but I use the printer port as it appears to be the default for AppleTalk. Later versions of the Mac OS have a control panel that lets you change AppleTalk settings easily and decide between printer/modem port – but to be honest, I forget how that’s done in System 6 & 7. So it’s the printer port for me!

The Server

Now that the two machines are connected, let’s start with the “server” which is the Macintosh Classic running System 7. You would need the file sharing & AppleTalk software installed as a prerequisite. First of, open control panel and take a look at the “Sharing Setup” control panel…


In the image above, we can see the Sharing Setup control panel open on the left. On this screen, we can select the owner/admin username, password, and a name for your Mac. File those out and click the “Start” button to start up file sharing. At the bottom of the window you’ll see “Program Linking” if this is turned on, the connecting “client” Mac will be able to launch Applications off the server’s hard drive.

On the right screenshot, I have our next destination: the infamous Chooser. This can be found under the Apple menu. Open it up and you should make sure AppleTalk is set to “Active”. You shouldn’t have to reboot at this point, but it might not hurt.


Moving right along, on the Classic we can start to share folders as we’d like. The owner/admin will automatically be able to mount the entire drives like my “Mac Classic HD” for instance. But what if I wanted more granular control of the sharing? As an example, in the left screenshot above – I created a folder on my desktop called “Shared Stuff”. Click on the folder, then go to the “File” menu and choose “Sharing..” (this option is combined with “Get Info” in later versions of the Mac OS) On the screen that opens, you can select users, groups – and what type of control they will have over the contents of the Shared folder.

On the right screenshot, you can see two more control panels that offer settings for file sharing. The top one is the File Sharing Monitor – which simple shows who is connected and how much load on your system it’s taking. The bottom window is the “Users & Groups” control panel. This is where you can make additional users or combine them into groubs (which work just like folders essentially). Later versions of the Mac OS combine these into a single control panel – which I think makes a lot of sense!

Ok, so the Classic (server) is pretty good to go. Let’s take a look now at the SE which will be a “client”.

The Client

cropped-se.pngJust like with the other machine, we need to make sure the necessary software is loaded on the Mac. Since this machine is currently running System 6, what I need is the AppleTalk system file in my System Folder, along with the Chooser, which under System 6 is a desk accessory. In my case, my System 6 disks didn’t have AppleTalk so I had to download it separately. I found a copy here.


Let’s get started:


The process is very simple! Go the the Apple menu, and select “Chooser” – assuming you have the AppleTalk file in your System Folder you should see it on the list of icons on the left side. Make sure AppleTalk is “Active” (you may need to restart if it’s not).

You should see the name of the other Mac(s) connected under the list of file servers – in my case it’s my Mac Classic. Also note that I’m using the owner/admin username here. Click on the sever name and click ok and you should see:


This is basically a log in screen. Enter your name and password then press Ok…


Now, based on whatever user we connected with, we can see whatever things were shared. Since I’m an owner/admin I can see the hard drive. Based on the settings I’ve used here the drive will always be on my desktop whenever I start up…


And here it is! I’m seeing the files on my Classic’s hard disk from my SE!

AppleTalk over Ethernet

It’s also possible to share files just like this over ethernet. If you have two classic Macs that are connected to the same network via ethernet – you can use the AppleTalk control panel to select “Ethernet” on both, and from there on out – the process is the same. This method works well for transferring files between older 68k Macs and later models like the original iMac which only has USB and no serial ports.

Wrapping up

That’s about it, but this is just ONE way of accomplishing file sharing between Macs. There are plenty more options here – for instance we can “daisy chain” multiple Macs together. You can also connect to file shares over other channels besides a serial cable. There are technologies like EtherTalk and PhoneNet which allow AppleTalk over ethernet and phone cable respectively.

I hope you found this article useful! Have fun!