How do I transfer files between a PC and a Mac?

Technical Note: 23
Reads: 14727
Creation Date: 06/12/1999
Modification Date: 19/08/2005

Macintosh files have two parts, "data" and "resources". PC files have only one part, "data". When you move a Macintosh file to a PC, the "resource" part is thrown away, leaving the data. With most files this is doesn’t matter, as the resource part is empty or not important. With some files however, particularly application or module files, the resource part is essential, and without it the application stops working.

Macintosh files stores the "kind" of the file (e.g. "Openlab LIFF" or "Word document") in a hidden part of a file. PCs have no way of storing this information. This can mean that files are transferred successfully, but Openlab will not open them because it does not know what they are. The common symptom for this is that the file does not have a proper icon on the Mac desktop, instead it has the generic "document" icon.

The solution is to encode all the extra resource and kind information into a format that the PC can deal with. Ways of doing this are described below.

Use Stuffit from Aladdin

Stuffit will encode and compress Macintosh files into a single file that can be safely copied to a PC. Stuffit is available as "DropStuff" from Aladdin.

To compress and encode a file, simply drop it onto the "DropStuff" icon.

To decompress a file that has been compressed using Stuffit, drop it on the "Stuffit Expander" icon.

Using "Create Archive" built into MacOS 10.3 and higher

Mac OS X 10.3 and higher have a built-in compression system. To compress a file or folder, select it in the Finder and choose "Create Archive" from the "File" menu. An archive file will be created with an extension of ".zip".

To extract files from the "zip" archive, double-click it in the Finder.

Note: Extracting "zip" files using Stuffit Expander or WinZip will cause the Mac information to be lost - it is essential to extract the file using the Finder in Mac OS X 10.3 or later.