HomeGroup is a networking feature, new in Windows 7, that is designed to provide easy sharing in a home environment without needing technical expertise. With HomeGroup, Microsoft has striven to strike a balance between security and convenience—a balance that has been somewhat elusive through the evolution of Windows. Although Simple File Sharing in Windows XP is convenient and relatively easy to set up, it's inflexible and its security is weak. Sharing in Windows Vista is considerably more secure and more flexible, but it's not easy to configure properly, and it requires sacrifices that some home users are reluctant to make, such as requiring the use of a logon password for all accounts .
Microsoft usability researchers found that many home users choose not to use logon passwords . Because everyone in the home is fully trusted and because the computer is in a physically secure location (a locked home) that precludes computer use by unknown or untrusted users, these users find the logon password to be nothing more than an unnecessary obstacle to computer use . This can be a real annoyance to family users who simply want to share media throughout the house, share a printer, and share documents . For this reason, HomeGroup is designed to work equally well with computers and users that do not use logon passwords and those that do . Even without password protection, it keeps your files safe from users outside the homegroup . (It does so through the use of a special password-protected user account—HomeGroupUser$—and a HomeUsers security group that have network access privileges . For more information about the inner workings of HomeGroup, see "HomeGroup: How It Works" on page 627.)
HomeGroup offers the following benefits:
• Easy sharing of libraries and other files throughout the homegroup in Windows Explorer
• Easy access to shared media libraries in Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center
• Ability to stream media to devices (other computers, media extenders and players, digital picture frames, and so on) using Play To
• Easy sharing of USB-connected printers among all homegroup members The requirements to implement and use HomeGroup are few:
• At least one computer running Windows 7 Home Premium or above, to create the homegroup
• All computers in the homegroup running Windows 7
• The network location for all computers set to Home Network
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