How to Connect to a Server

Access a server on your Windows PC or Mac

Whether you own a Mac or a PC, chances are good you'll have to know how to connect to a server. Connecting your computer to a server allows you to access shared files from your employer or make sure you have all the details for any other files you might need. Servers also allow you and collaborators to stay connected and informed from anywhere with an internet connection.

Both Mac and Windows computers can open shared files and make remote connections to servers over the internet. Once you've created the link on your computer, you can configure it to reconnect to the server every time your device starts up.

Technician in Server Room
Getty Images/Erik Isaakson

How to Connect a PC to a Server

Windows 10 makes connecting to a server straightforward to do as long as you have the correct technical info and login credentials. By setting up the server connection on your PC, everyone in the network can have access to the same resources. To connect your PC to a server, you just need to follow a few simple steps.

  1. Open File Explorer and select This PC.

    Selecting This PC.
  2. Select Map network drive in the toolbar.

    Selecting Map Network Drive
  3. Select the Drive drop-down menu and choose a letter to assign to the server.

    Selecting a drive letter.
  4. Fill in the Folder field with the IP address or hostname of the server you want to access.

    IP Folder
  5. Check the box next to Reconnect at sign In to automatically connect to the server each time you start up your computer.

    Reconnect At Sign In
  6. Select Finish to add a shortcut to the server in the Computer window. You may also have to log in with your username and password to access shared files, depending on how the server is configured.

    Finish Button
  7. Once you've successfully logged in to the server with your PC, you can log in to the server without having to set up the connection again.

How to Connect to a Server on Mac

There are several ways you can use your Mac to connect to a server with little to no fuss. Additionally, you'll be able to connect to Apple or Windows servers that use a variety of different protocols. Some of the most natural methods involve using Finder to access shared files quickly and easily.

  1. From your home screen, click the Finder icon in the Dock to open a Finder window.

    Selecting Finder.
  2. From the sidebar, click Network in the Locations section. Alternatively, Go > Network.

    Viewing Network.
  3. You may not be able to see any items in the Locations section. To reveal them, hover over Locations, then click Show.

    Selecting Show to see network devices.
  4. Double-click the server you want to connect to from the Finder window, then click Connect As.

    Selecting the connect as button.
  5. Choose how you want to connect to the server:

    • Guest: If the shared server permits guest access, you can join as a guest user.
    • Registered User: Connect to the other Mac using a valid login name and password. If you have difficulty logging in, contact the server administrator to make sure the credentials you are using are on the list of allowed users.
    Connection login screen.

Automatically Reconnect to a Server on a PC

Rather than having to manually reconnect to the server, you can set up an automatic login every time you start up your computer. To set this up, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Open File Explorer and select This PC.

    Selecting This PC.
  2. Select the Computer tab, then select Map Network Drive.

    Selecting Map Network Drive
  3. Enter the IP address of the server or share name to give the path of the shared drive, then check the box next to Reconnect at sign-in.

    Reconnect at Sign-In
  4. Wait for the drive to be mapped.

  5. Double-click the drive to check the connecting and settings.

Automatically Reconnect to Server on a Mac

Once your computer has connected to the network drive, you can set up an automatic login that will happen every time it starts up. To set this up, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Open System Preferences either from the Dock or under the Apple menu.

  2. Select Users & Groups.

    Users and groups in System preferences.
  3. Click your user name from the list, then click the Login Items tab.

    Selecting Login Items.
  4. Drag & drop the mounted network drive into your login items list.

  5. Check the Hide box to prevent the drives window from opening each time your computer logs in or boots.

    The Hide checkbox.
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