How to Enable Network Discovery and Configure Sharing Options in Windows 10

By Ciprian Adrian Rusen

Network discovery allows Windows 10 to find other computers and devices on a network. This feature is automatically turned on when you’re connected to private networks like the one in your home or workplace. Network discovery is turned off when you’re connected to public networks that shouldn’t be trusted and you don’t allow your PC to be discoverable on those networks.

Enable network discovery

If your Windows 10 computer or device can’t view other computers on the network, two things are probably at fault: You either assigned the incorrect network profile (public instead or private) or network discovery is turned off for some reason.

Here’s how to activate network discovery in Windows 10 for your active network profile:

  1. Open Settings.

    The Settings window appears.

  2. Click Network & Internet.

    Your network and Internet related settings are shown.

  3. In the panel on the left, click either Wi-Fi (if you’re connected to a wireless network) or Ethernet (if you’re connected to a network using a network cable).

    A window with settings for your network appears.

  4. Find the Related setting section on the right, then click Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

    The Advanced Sharing Settings window appears.

  5. Expand the network profile currently assigned to your network connection.

    It is marked with the words “current profile” on the right side of its name.

  6. In the Network discover section, select “Turn on network discovery”. Also, check the box that says “Turn on automatic setup of network connected devices.”

    Turning on network discovery.

    Turning on network discovery.
  7. Click Save changes.

  8. Close the Settings window.

You don’t ever want to enable network discovery when you’re connected to public networks. So, if you’re connected to a public network like those in airports and cafes, be sure to set the profile to Public.

Enable file and printer sharing

When you’re connected to private networks, Windows 10 automatically turns on the File and Printer Sharing setting. In this way, you can easily share folders, files, and printers with other computers and devices in your network. However, if your network administrator adjusts this setting, you may need to manually turn it on or off, depending on your needs.

Here’s how to activate the File and Printer Sharing setting in Windows 10 for your active network connection:

  1. Open Settings.

    The Settings window appears.

  2. Click Network & Internet.

    Your network and Internet related settings are shown.

  3. In the panel on the left, click either Wi-Fi (if you’re connected to a wireless network) or Ethernet (if you’re connected to a network using a network cable).

    A window with settings for your network appears.

  4. Find the Related setting section on the right, then click Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

    The Advanced Sharing Settings window appears.

    Accessing advanced sharing settings in Windows 10.

    Accessing advanced sharing settings in Windows 10.
  5. Expand the network profile currently assigned to your network connection.

    It’s identified as “current profile.”

  6. In the File and Printer Sharing section, select Turn On File and Printer Sharing.

  7. Click Save Changes.

  8. Close the Settings window.

If you’re connected to a public network like those in airports and cafes, be sure to assign Public as the profile for that connection. Also, don’t enable the File and Printer Sharing setting when you’re connected to public networks.

Enable Public folder sharing

The Public folder is located on your hard drive in C:UsersPublic. All user accounts registered in Windows have access to it. That’s why it’s named Public. Any file and folder found in C:UsersPublic is completely accessible to all users on the computer. Depending on your network sharing settings, this folder and its contents can also be accessed by all other computers and devices that are part of the same network.

To turn on Public Folder Sharing, follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

    The Settings window appears.

  2. Click Network & Internet.

    Your network and Internet related settings are shown.

  3. In the panel on the left, click either Wi-Fi (if you’re connected to a wireless network) or Ethernet (if you’re connected to a network using a network cable).

    A window with settings for your network appears.

  4. Find the Related setting section on the right and click Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

    The Advanced Sharing Settings window appears.

  5. Scroll down and expand the All Networks category of settings.

  6. In the Public Folder Sharing section, select Turn On Sharing So Anyone with Network Access Can Read and Write Files in the Public Folders.

    Turning on Public Folder Sharing.

    Turning on Public Folder Sharing.
  7. Click Save Changes.

  8. Close the Settings window.

Enable Password Protected Sharing

When Password Protected Sharing is turned on, only people who have a user account and password on your computer or network domain (in the case of business networks) can access shared files and printers attached to your Windows 10 computer or device, as well as your public folders. It’s a good idea to avoid disabling Password Protected Sharing, but you may need to do that in some situations, such as when you want to give other people access.

To turn on Password Protected Sharing, follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

    The Settings window appears.

  2. Click Network & Internet.

    Your network and Internet related settings are shown.

  3. In the panel on the left, click either Wi-Fi (if you’re connected to a wireless network) or Ethernet (if you’re connected to a network using a network cable).

    A window with settings for your network appears.

  4. Find the Related setting section on the right and click Change Advanced Sharing Settings.

    The Advanced Sharing Settings window appears.

  5. Scroll down and expand the All Networks category of settings.

  6. In the Password Protected Sharing section, select Turn On Password Protected Sharing.

    Turning On password protected sharing.

    Turning On password protected sharing.
  7. Click Save Changes.

  8. Close the Settings window.