Configure the Mac and Windows Workgroup Name

Verify or change the workgroup name on a Mac and PC

Both your Mac and your Windows PC must have the same workgroup name in order for file sharing to work as easily as possible. A workgroup is part of WINS (Windows Internet Naming Service), a method Microsoft uses to allow computers on the same local network to share resources.

Luckily for us, Apple includes support for WINS in OS X and macOS, so we only need to confirm a few settings, or possibly make a change, to get the two systems to recognize each other on the network.

macOS High Sierra Workgroup name settings
Screenshot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

File Sharing: Configure the Mac's Workgroup Name

This guide will show you how to set up the workgroup names on both your Mac and PC. Although the steps outlined are specific to OS X Mountain Lion and Windows 8, the process is similar for most versions of the Mac operating system, with just a slightly different item name showing up here and there. The same can be said for Windows, with the basic concept remaining the same from version to version.

Set Up the Workgroup Name on Your Mac

Apple sets the default workgroup name on Macs to WORKGROUP. This is the same default workgroup name that Microsoft sets up in Windows. If you've never made any changes to the default networking settings of either your Mac or your PC, then you can skip this step, but we suggest following it to confirm that everything is configured correctly.

Confirm Workgroup Name

  1. On your Mac device, open System Preferences by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu or by selecting the System Preferences icon in the Dock.

    System Preferences in macOS.
  2. Select the Network icon.

    Selecting Network.
  3. In the list of network ports on the left, you should see one or more items with a green dot next to it. These are your currently active network connections. You can have more than one active network port, but we're only concerned with the one that is marked with a green dot that is closest to the top of the list. This is your default network port; for most of us, it will be either Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

    Various available network connections in macOS.
  4. Highlight the active default network port, then select the Advanced button on the bottom-right side.

    Selecting Advanced.
  5. In the window that appears, select the WINS tab.

    Selecting the WINS tab.
  6. Here you will see the NetBIOS name for your Mac, as well as the Workgroup name. The Workgroup name must match the Workgroup name on your Windows PC. If it does not, you will need to change either the name on your Mac or the name on your PC. If your Mac's Workgroup name matches the one on your PC, then you're ready to share files over a network

Changing the Workgroup Name on Your Mac

Because your Mac's current network settings are active, we're going to make a copy of the network settings, edit the copy, and then tell the Mac to use the new settings. By doing it this way, you can maintain your network connection, even while editing the settings. This method also tends to prevent some problems that can occasionally occur when editing live network parameters.

  1. Open System Preferences and select Network.

    Selecting Network.
  2. In the Location drop-down menu, take note of the current location name, which is probably Automatic.

    Selecting Location.
  3. Select the Location drop-down menu, then select Edit Locations.

    Selecting Edit locations.
  4. A list of current network locations will display. Make sure the location name you noted above is selected. Select the sprocket or gear icon in the lower section of the window, then select Duplicate Location. The new location will have the same name as the original location, with the word "copy" appended to it, such as Automatic Copy. You can accept the default name or change it.

    Selecting Duplicate Location.
  5. Select Done. Notice that the Location drop-down menu now displays the name of your new location.

    Selecting Done.
  6. In the bottom-right corner of the Network preferences pane, select Advanced.

    Selecting Advanced.
  7. In the drop-down window that opens, select the WINS tab. Now that we're working on a copy of our location settings, we can enter the new Workgroup name.

    Selecting the WINS tab.
  8. In the Workgroup field, enter the new Workgroup name. Remember, it must be the same as the Workgroup name on your Windows PC. Don't worry about the case of the letters; whether you enter lower case or upper case letters, both Mac OS X and Windows will change the letters to all uppercase.

    Entering a new Workgroup name.
  9. Select OK, then select Apply. Your network connection will be dropped, the new location you just created with the new Workgroup name will be swapped in, and the network connection will be re-established.

    Selecting OK.

Set Up Your Windows PC Workgroup Name

In order to easily share files between the two platforms, your Windows PC must have the same workgroup name as the one on your Mac. Microsoft and Apple both use the same default workgroup name: WORKGROUP.

If you have not made any changes to your network settings, you can skip this page. We encourage you to read through it anyway, both to confirm that the workgroup name is configured correctly and to become more familiar with navigating your Windows 8 settings.

Confirm Your Windows Workgroup Name

  • If your Windows PC is showing the Desktop, select the File Explorer icon in the taskbar, then right-click the Computer item (in later versions of Windows it may be named This PC) in the sidebar of the File Explorer window. Select Properties from the pop-up menu.
  • If your Windows PC is currently showing the Start screen, right-click on a blank area. When the taskbar opens, select All Apps. Right-click the Computer or This PC tile, and select Properties from the menu bar.

No matter how you got here, you should now see the Desktop with the System window open. In the Computer Name, Domain, and Workgroup section, you will see the current workgroup name. If it is identical to the workgroup name on your Mac, you can skip the following instructions.

Changing Your Windows Workgroup Name

  1. With the System window open, select Change Settings in the Computer Name, Domain, and Workgroup section.

    Selecting Change Settings in Windows 10.
  2. The System Properties dialog box will open. Select the Computer Name tab, then select Change.

    Selecting Change.
  3. In the Workgroup field, enter the new workgroup name, then select OK.

    Changing the Workgroup name.
  4. After a few seconds, a dialog box will open, welcoming you to the new workgroup. Select OK.

    Joining the workgroup welcome message.
  5. You will be told that you need to restart your computer to apply the changes. Select OK.

    Restart required notice in Windows 10.
  6. Close any windows that are open, then restart your PC.

    Prompt for restart.

What's Next?

Now that you've ensured that your Mac running OS X Mountain Lion or later and your PC running Windows 8 or later are using the same workgroup name, it's time to move on to configuring the rest of the file sharing options.

If you're planning to share your Mac's files with a Windows PC, check out our guide How to Share Files Over a Network.

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