Configure The Mac and Windows Workgroup Name

Verify or change the workgroup name

File Sharing - Configure the Mac's Workgroup Name

macOS High Sierra Workgroup name settings
Setting the Mac's workgroup name. Screenshot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

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 a WINS (Windows Internet Naming Service), a method Microsoft uses to allow computers on the same local network to share resources.

Luckily for us, Apple included 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 see each other on the network.

This guide will show you how to set up the Workgroup names on both your Mac and your 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 just a few changes, though the basic concept remains from version to version. You can find specific instructions for earlier versions of both OSes in these guides:

Set Up the Workgroup Name on Your Mac

Apple set the default Workgroup name on the Mac to…wait for it…WORKGROUP. This is the same default Workgroup name that Microsoft set up in the Windows OS. So, if you've never made any changes to the default networking settings of either your Mac or your PC, then you could skip this step. But I suggest plowing on through anyway, just to confirm that everything is configured correctly. It won't take long, and it will help you get a little more familiar with both your Mac and Windows network settings.

Confirm Workgroup Name

  1. Launch System Preferences by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu, or by clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock.
  2. When the System Preferences window opens, click the Network icon, which is located in the Internet & Wireless section.
  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 and 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.
  4. Highlight the active default network port, and then click the Advanced button on the bottom right side of the window.
  5. In the drop-down sheet that opens, click the WINS tab.
  6. Here you will see the NetBIOS name for your Mac, and more importantly, the Workgroup name. The Workgroup name must match the Workgroup name on your Windows 8 PC. If it doesn't, you'll need to change either the name on your Mac or the name on your PC.
  7. If your Mac's Workgroup name matches the one on your PC, then your all set.

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. Go to the Network preferences pane, as you did in the "Confirm Workgroup Name" section, above.
  2. In the Location drop-down menu, make a note of the current location name, which is probably Automatic.
  3. Click the Location drop-down menu and select Edit Locations.
  4. A list of current network locations will display. Make sure the location name you noted above is selected (it may be the only item listed). Click the sprocket button in the lower section of the window, and select Duplicate Location. The new location will have the same name as the original location, with the word "copy" appended to it; for example, Automatic Copy. You can accept the default name or change it if you prefer.
  5. Click the Done button. Notice that the Location drop-down menu now displays the name of your new location.
  6. Click the Advanced button, near the bottom right corner of the Network preferences pane.
  7. In the drop-down sheet 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.
  8. In the Workgroup field, enter the new Workgroup name. Remember, it must be the same as the Workgroup name on your Windows 8 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 8 will change the letters to all upper case.
  9. Click the OK button.
  10. Click the Apply button. 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.


Set Up Your Windows 8 PC Workgroup Name

Windows 10 System properties and Workgroup name
You can change the Workgroup name using the Change Settings in the System Properties.  Screenshot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

In order to easily share files between the two platforms, your Windows 8 PC must have the same Workgroup name as the one on your Mac. Microsoft and Apple both use the same default Workgroup name: WORKGROUP. Catchy, huh? If you haven't made any changes to your network settings, you can skip this page. But I 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, click the File Explorer icon in the task bar, 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 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 rest of this page. Otherwise, follow the instructions below.

Changing Your Windows Workgroup Name

  1. With the System window open, click the Change Settings button in the Computer Name, Domain, and Workgroup section.
  2. The System Properties dialog box will open.
  3. Click the Computer Name tab.
  4. Click the Change button.
  5. In the Workgroup field, enter the new Workgroup name, and then click the OK button.
  6. After a few seconds, a dialog box will open, welcoming you to the new Workgroup. Click OK.
  7. You'll now be told that you need to restart your computer to apply the changes. Click OK.
  8. Close the various windows that are open, and then restart your PC.

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, go to this guide: