How to put your personal Mac on your work’s network

NetworkIconXQuite often corporate networks will have restrictions that prevent you from using them with your personal system. Sometimes, only systems that have been imaged by an IT department are allowed on a domain, with others being restricted via MAC address filtering (among other methods) from even connecting. However, you may find yourself having worked on projects using your personal laptop, and then needing to either access a printer or copy files to network resources at work. While using USB drives is the preferred approach for this, depending on your network setup you may be able to get yourself onto the network.

While MAC address filtering will only allow hardware approved by network administrators to access the network, you can likely get around this by using your Mac’s Internet Sharing feature.

To do this, you will first need to have administrative access to your work computer, so if this is restricted then you may be out of luck, but if you can otherwise install programs and configure your system to your liking, then you should be good to go. Next, all you will need is a means of connecting your personal Mac to your work Mac, other than the active internet connection for your work Mac. For instance, if your work Mac uses Ethernet to connect to the Internet, then you can use its WiFi, Firewire, or Thunderbolt ports. If it uses Wi-Fi, then Ethernet will be available among the others.

The possible interfaces for connecting one Mac to another are the following:

  • Thunderbolt
  • Firewire
  • Ethernet
  • WiFi

Now you just need to enable Internet Sharing on one of these unused ports, which will require administrative access on your work Mac, but can be done in only a few short steps:

  1. Open the Sharing system preferences
  2. Select Internet Sharing (you cannot check it yet)
  3. Ensure your work’s internet port is selected in the drop-down menu
  4. Check the appropriate connection through which you would like to share the connection

In this step, if you select Wi-Fi, you can click the “Wi-Fi Options” button to set up a password and the channel to use.

Finally, check the Internet Sharing option, and after a brief delay you should see it turn on. You can now use your personal Mac to connect to the work one, either directly via an appropriate cable, or through Wi-Fi. Since your connection should be as direct as possible, you should have no problems with signal strength or needing to configure any routers or switches.

Internet Sharing preferences in OS X

Select your active internet connection from the drop-down menu, then check the connection you want to use for your second Mac. Then enable the Internet Sharing service once the ports have been configured.

At this point, you should have full Internet access on your personal laptop, and should be able to at least share files with your work computer (provided file sharing is enabled). While you may not be able to browse for printers and other PCs on the network, you should be able to connect to them directly using their IP addresses.

Printing to your work’s printer

If you are interested in accessing a printer on your work network, then because browsing for network resources may be restricted, you may find it easier to simply share the printer from your work Mac. Doing so will broadcast the shared service to all networks your Mac is connected to, including the one it is sharing with your personal Mac:

  1. Go back to the Sharing system preferences on your work Mac
  2. Select Printer Sharing
  3. Check your configured printer
  4. Optionally click the “plus” button to restrict printing to only your user account (by default anyone may access)
Shared printer list in OS X

Once shared, the printer should appear in the Nearby Printers list.

Now go to your personal Mac and try to print a document. When the print dialog opens, select your the shared printer from the Nearby Printers section in the “Printer” menu. Your Mac should then configure the printer and be able to use it.

Alternatively, use iCloud

If adjusting your work Mac’s network configuration is something you would prefer to avoid, you can alternatively try using Apple’s “Back To My Mac” service as part of iCloud. To do this, log into iCloud on your Work Mac, but then turn off all unwanted features or those you might wish to keep off your work Mac (ie, everything except Back to My Mac). With this enabled, then logging into iCloud on your personal Mac should have your work Mac available through file sharing, screen sharing, and printer sharing. This has the benefit of giving you remote access, but may not be the fastest approach and because it requires iCloud, may not always be as reliable as direct sharing.