Sharing Files Between Mac OS 8.1 and Mac OS X

Sharing Files Between Mac OS X and Mac OS 8.1

a.k.a. The Case of the Disappearing PowerMac G5

For some time now, I have been sharing files between my Quadra 840AV, running Mac OS 8.1, and my PowerMac G5 Dual 2.3 GHz, running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. This involved a little bit of setup on both ends, but has worked very well for quite a long time. In case you haven’t done this before, to make this work the following needs to be done to each machine:

On the Quadra 840AV (or any Mac OS 8.x or 9.x machine)

1/ Configure TCP/IP correctly via the TCP/IP control panel and verify that you have full internet connectivity

2/ Go to the AppleTalk control panel and be sure that “Connect via” selection is set to “Internet”.

On the PowerMac G5 Dual 2.3 GHz (or any Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger machine)

1/ Go to the Sharing preference panel and ensure that you have a name filled into the “Computer Name” field, and that “Personal File Sharing” is set to “On”.

File Sharing On

2/ Go the Network preference panel. Determine which Ethernet port you are using (there are two on particular model I am using) and select it in the “Show” selection. Select “AppleTalk” from the button bar along the top of the main portion of the Ethernet details pane that is presented and check the “Make AppleTalk Active” check box.

Network Preference Panel

AppleTalk On

That’s it! Now, returning to the Quadra 840AV (or whatever Mac OS 8.x or 9.x machine you are using), start Chooser and select “AppleTalk” in the left pane. The PowerMac G5 (or whatever Mac OS X 10.4.x machine you are using) should show up in the right pane of the Chooser window, under the name you entered in the Sharing preferences panel of the PowerMac G5 (or whatever Mac OS X 10.4.x machine you are using).


This worked for a very long time, and then suddenly, one day, it didn’t anymore! With no apparent changes made by myself to any of the above, one day the PowerMac G5 just no longer showed up in the Chooser! It had just disappeared! What had gone wrong? Like all good users, I swore up and down that I had not changed anything. What had broken now? Honestly, these older Macs are so cantankerous!

Now happily, Apple thoughtfully provides a work around for situations like this. In that same Chooser AppleTalk window, you can click the “Server IP Address” button and directly enter the IP address of the intended destination machine. I did just that – I got the address of my PowerMac G5 from its Sharing preference panel, entered it, and all was well. Its shared disks showed up and I was able to mount the one I wanted to reference and carry on. Inconvenient and unobvious, but workable. I was thus able to limp along for a time while I figured this out.

But what had gone wrong? It was so graceful and elegant to simply select the PowerMac G5’s name in the Chooser window, and I missed it. I Google’d and Google’d trying to find a probable cause for the disappearance, and I tinkered and tinkered hoping to experimentally stumble upon that same cause, but I could never get it to show up again.

Finally, I stumbled upon not the cause, but rather an old article in the Apple support archive ( addressing this very topic (“Your Computer’s Name Does Not Appear on the Network”). The offered prescriptions sounded pretty much like what I have described above, but there were a few nuggets of wisdom:

1/ It may help to turn Personal File Sharing off and then back on again in the Mac OS X Sharing preference panel

2/ Be very sure that you do not have AppleTalk active on two or more Ethernet ports on the same OS X machine. If you should happen to do this, you are engaging in “multi homing” and there are a few other things you then have to get right to make that work.

The above therefore, taken together, form a more complete prescription for file sharing between Mac OS Classic and Mac OS X than you might have otherwise had, and I thought I would pass it along. So, if you are having troubles getting your Mac OS X computers to show up in your vintage Mac’s Chooser, please be sure that you have done all the initial configuration shown above, and if that doesn’t resolve the problem, try the above two steps from the Apple support article.

One last thing, while we are on this topic. Please note that Mac OS X support for AppleTalk ceased and desisted with Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard. I have the next Mac OS X release (10.6.x Snow Leopard) running here in the Happy Macs Lab and I can verify that there is no AppleTalk selection in its Network preference panel. Hence, from your vintage Mac, you will not be able to see (in Chooser) or share files with any Mac OS X computer running Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard or later, no matter what configuration magic you can conjure up.

Let’s bring this story back to its beginning and close it out. This post started with the case of the disappearing PowerMac G5. How did this story end? Happily, I am pleased to report. With all of the above in mind, I did finally unearth and resolve my problem, and my PowerMac G5 once more happily shows up in my Quadra 840AV’s Chooser selection pane.


What was the issue? I am almost embarrassed to say! My PowerMac G5 has two Ethernet ports , as I indicated above. I had been tinkering with my network connector, moving it from Ethernet 1 to Ethernet 2 and back again, attempting to get my connection to run at 1 Gbps, which the PowerMac G5 2.3 GHz is quite capable of, but which for some reason it was not doing. Eventually, I discovered that it ran at 1 Gbps when plugged into Ethernet 2, but only at 100 Mbps when plugged in to Ethernet 1. I am not sure if this is by design, or if Ethernet 1 has some form of configuration error or hardware issue, but of course, I left my network connection plugged in to Ethernet 2.

What I didn’t do of course was go into the PowerMac’s Network preference panel and turn AppleTalk “off” on Ethernet 1 and “on” on Ethernet 2. As a result, my network cable was plugged in to Ethernet 2 but AppleTalk was enabled on Ethernet 1. Doh! Why I could connect to my Quadra 840AV at all, I am not sure!

A stupid mistake on my behalf, and one which caused lots of research and tinkering, but hey, that is half the fun with vintage Macs – working on mysteries without any clues (anyone who catches the music lyric reference there should comment on this post!).

That’s it then! I hope that this post may have been of some help to anyone having similar connectivity problems.

Meantime, the work never stops here at the Happy Macs Lab… see the “p.s.>” below!

p.s> this blog is all about pre Intel Macs, but (gasp) I also own three post PowerMac (i.e. Intel) Macs as well. One of them is a 2007 MacBook Pro (Core Duo 2.2 GHz – one of the first Intel MacBook Pros), and as I write this, I am upgrading it to Mac OS X Mavericks. It is hard to believe that Apple has extended Mavericks support back this far, but I am pleased to be able to upgrade that venerable machine from its original Leopard to Mavericks. I will let you all know how that went when it is done!

2 thoughts on “Sharing Files Between Mac OS 8.1 and Mac OS X

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