Connect to and Share Files with Other PCs on Your Network
How to Designate Your Default Internet Connection in Windows Vista
How to Connect a PC to a Wired Ethernet Network in Windows Vista

How to Create a Small Wireless Network in Windows Vista

If you have two or more computers in your office or in your home, they should be networked. As long as one of your computers uses Vista and the others run Windows 98 or later, creating a wireless network in is fast, cheap, and easy — and almost always painless.

Whether you want to share a printer or a single Internet connection or if you just need to transfer a few files every once in a while, a small peer-to-peer network — what Microsoft calls a workgroup — fits the bill.

  1. Turn off every piece of equipment in the network.

  2. Turn on whatever you have that’s connected to the Internet and wait a minute.

    Whether it’s a modem with a power switch, a residential gateway, a hardware firewall, or a miniature paisley homing pigeon, turn it on first. Give it a good minute. Something called a DHCP server (the box that assigns network addresses) may need to get itself started.

    If you have an internal modem — one without a power switch — skip this step. It gets turned on when you turn the PC on.

  3. If you have a hub/switch/router and it has a power switch (not all of them do), turn it on. Wait another minute.

    If you have two DHCP servers in your network, you have to give them time to resolve their differences.

  4. Turn on all the PCs in the network. Turn on their peripherals, too — especially printers.

    If you have anything that you don’t normally use, leave it off. In particular, if you have a portable computer with an internal modem that you don’t intend to share with the network.

  5. Pick a Vista PC at random.

    If you have a network with a mixture of Vista PCs and earlier-generation-Windows PCs, start with the Vista PCs. They’re much easier to set up.

  6. Click the network activity icon.

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    The network activity icon can be found in the system tray, next to the clock — it's the one that looks like two monitors with a blue beach ball.

  7. Click the Network and Sharing Center link.

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    Depending on how you set up your PC (or how the folks who sold you the PC set it up for you), your Network and Sharing Center may or may not have the same settings.

  8. On the right, click the Customize link.

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    Vista brings up the Set Network Location dialog box.

  9. If you already have a network, type the network’s name in the indicated box.

    If you’re setting up a brand-new network, pick a name (something simple, please) and type it into the box.

  10. Choose the Location Type that best describes your network and click Next.

    If you're setting up a home or home-office network, you probably want Private.

    “Public” and “Private” are just shorthand for a bunch of security settings that Vista applies. Don’t get too hung up on the definition: You fine-tune the security settings later.

    You may have to click to continue through a User Account Control security dialog box. When Vista comes back, it confirms that it has successfully made the changes.

  11. Click Close.

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    Vista returns to the Network and Sharing Center, updating your Sharing and Discovery settings to conform to the Public or Private choice that you made.

  12. One by one, click the down arrows to the right of Network Discovery, File Sharing, Public Folder Sharing, Printer Sharing, Password Protected Sharing, and Media Sharing and adjust the settings.

    Refer to the handy list in the following table. If you don’t agree with any of the settings that have been made based on Vista’s predefined settings for your Location Type, change them.

Sharing and Discovery Settings
What It Says What It Means Timesaving Tip
Network Discovery You can see other computers on the network, and they can see you. That’s why you set up the network, isn’t it?
File Sharing Files in shared folders can be seen by other people on the network. That’s why you set up the network, isn't it?
Public Folder Sharing This is the place where you tell Vista whether people on the network can see (read-only) or change (read/write/delete) files in the Public folders. But no matter what you do, other people on this computer can get to the Public folders. Full read/write/delete access is usually what you want, but beware: If someone on the network deletes a file in your shared folder, it doesn’t go into the Recycle Bin. It disappears.
Printer Sharing If for some reason you told Vista to share a printer but you turn this off, you didn’t share the printer. Leave it on.
Password Protected Sharing An ultra-confusing setting. If it’s set to On, people who try to get into your Public or shared folders or to use your shared hardware have to provide a logon ID and password that’s valid on this computer. Overrides all the previous settings. In a home or home-office environment, leave it off. Password-protect individual files if you need to. In a home or home-office environment, leave it off. Password-protect individual files if you need to.
Media Sharing Allow other people on the network to get at the music, pictures, and videos in the Public folders. Why on earth would you set it to Off?
  1. When you’re happy with your settings, click the red X to exit the Network and Sharing Center.

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  2. Proceed to each computer in the network and give them each the same settings.

    You can provide custom sharing options for each computer, if necessary.

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