Configuring Your Network for Sharing

If you plan to share folders and files with other users on your network, you need to take a few preparatory steps . (If you plan to share only with others who use your computer by logging on locally, you can skip these steps .)

1. Be sure that all computers use the same workgroup name. If all computers on your network use Windows 7 or Windows Vista, this step isn't absolutely necessary, although it does improve network discovery performance. However, if you have a mixed network that includes some computers running Windows XP or other earlier versions of Windows, it's essential for enabling computers on the network to see each other. For details, see "Renaming Your Workgroup" on page 688.

2. Be sure that your network's location is set to Home Network or Work Network. This setting provides appropriate security for a network in a home or office . For details, see "Understanding Network Locations" on page 589.

3. Be sure that Network Discovery is turned on. This should happen automatically when you set the location to Home Network or Work Network, but you can confirm the setting—and change it if necessary—in Advanced Sharing Settings, which is shown in Figure 18-5. To open Advanced Sharing Settings, in Network And Sharing Center, click Change Advanced Sharing Settings . Alternatively, in the Start menu search box, type sharing and then click Manage Advanced Sharing Settings .

4. Select your sharing options, as described below. You set network sharing options in Advanced Sharing Settings, which is shown in Figure 18-5 .

• File And Printer Sharing Turn on this option if you want to share specific files or folders, the Public folder, or printers; it must be turned on if you plan to share any files (other than media streaming) over your network .

The mere act of turning on file and printer sharing does not expose any of your computer's files or printers to other network users; that occurs only after you make additional sharing settings

• Public Folder Sharing If you want to share items in your Public folder with all network users (or, if you enable password-protected sharing, all users who have a user account and password on your computer), turn on Public folder sharing. If you do so, network users will have read/write access to Public folders . With Public folder sharing turned off, anyone who logs on to your computer locally has access to Public folders, but network users do not.

• Media Streaming Turning on media streaming provides access to pictures, music, and video through streaming protocols that can send media to computers or to other media playback devices. For more information, see "Sharing Digital Media over a Network" on page 442.

• File Sharing Connections Unless you have very old computers on your network, leave this option set to 128-bit encryption, which has been the standard for most of this century

Figure 18-5 Be sure to set options in the Home Or Work profile, not the Public profile . Settings for each profile are in an expandable group in Advanced Sharing Settings.

• Password Protected Sharing When password-protected sharing is turned on, network users cannot access your shared folders (including Public folders, if shared) or printers unless they can provide the user name and password of a user account on your computer. With this setting enabled, when another user attempts to access a shared resource, Windows sends the user name and password that the person used to log on to his or her own computer. If that matches the credentials for an account on your computer, the user gets immediate access to the shared resource (assuming permissions to use the particular resource have been granted to that user account). If either the user name or the password does not match, the user will be asked to provide credentials in a dialog box like the one shown next.

With password-protected sharing turned off, Windows does not require a user name and password of network visitors . Instead, network access is provided using the Guest account. This is essentially the same as Simple File Sharing in Windows XP.

• HomeGroup Connections If you use a homegroup for sharing, it's generally best to use the default setting, Allow Windows To Manage Homegroup Connections (Recommended). With this setting, when a user at a computer that is also a homegroup member attempts to use a shared resource on your computer, Windows connects using the HomeGroupUser$ account.

When a user connects from a computer that is not a homegroup member, Windows first tries to authenticate using that person's logon credentials; if that fails, Windows uses Guest (if password-protected sharing is off) or prompts for credentials (if password-protected sharing is on). If you select Use User Accounts And Passwords To Connect To Other Computers, homegroup computers also work like non-homegroup computers instead of using the Home-GroupUser$ account

5. Set up user accounts. If you use password-protected sharing, each person who accesses a shared resource on your computer must have a user account on your computer. They could, of course, use somebody else's existing account as long as they know the user name and password. However, they'll be required to enter that information each time they access the shared resource . Although it requires some extra preparation time up front, in the long run, you'll find it much easier to share resources over the network if, on each computer that will have shared resources, you create a user account for each user who will access those resources . Use the same user name as that person uses on his or her own computer, and the same password as well. If you do that, network users will be able to access shared resources without having to enter their credentials after they've logged on to their own computer.


Use the best and easiest method for sharing on a small network

If you're in a group of trusted users who have similar needs for access to shared resources on your computer, you can forego the considerable hassle of setting up identical accounts for each user on each computer. Instead, on the computer with shared resources, create a standard user account for accessing shared resources . (Call it Share, for example.) You must assign a password to this account.

If the sharing computer is in a homegroup, use HomeGroup in Control Panel to share the libraries you want to share. These folders are automatically available to the user named Share, because that account is a member of the HomeUsers group . If the computer is not in a homegroup (or if you want to share folders or files that are not in a library), you must share each object with the Share account; for details, see "Sharing Files and Folders from Any Folder" on page 634. In Advanced Sharing Settings, be sure that File And Printer Sharing and Password Protected Sharing are turned on.

You can then access the shared items from another computer on your network. (For details, see "Finding and Using Shared Resources on a Windows Network" on page 646.) When prompted, a user must enter the user name (Share, in our example) and its password. This method works well for any type of client that needs access to your computer's shares, including computers running OS X, Linux, and earlier versions of Windows

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