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How to Make Sharing Possible in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

Before you try to share files and devices across your network workgroup, you must ensure that Windows has a favorable attitude toward offering up the computer’s precious resources. The place to look is the Network and Sharing Center window.

Network and Sharing Center window in Windows 7.
Network and Sharing Center window in Windows 7.

To open the Network and Sharing Center window, open the Control Panel and beneath the Network and Internet heading, choose View Network Status and Tasks.

To set sharing options in Windows 7, you need to click the link Change Advanced Sharing Settings on the left side of the window.

In Windows Vista, the sharing options are shown at the bottom of the window. Click the Show More arrow next to each of the six sharing categories. Each item has two settings: one to turn the item on and another to turn the item off. An Apply button confirms your choice, also displaying a User Account Control (UAC) dialog box for you to confirm administrator permission to make the change.

Network and Sharing Center window in Windows Vista.
Network and Sharing Center window in Windows Vista.

Here's how to set the items to allow your computer to share its resources on the network:

Network Discovery: Choose the option Turn On Network Discovery. This option ensures that your computer will find other PCs on the network, as well as find printers and shared folders. It also lets other computers on the network find your PC.

File and Printer Sharing: In Windows 7, this option provides for the sharing of both folders and printers on the network. Choose the setting Turn On File and Printer Sharing.

File Sharing: In Windows Vista, choose the option Turn On File Sharing if you plan to share folders on your PC with other computers on the network.

Public Folder Sharing: In Windows 7 there is only one “on” option; choose it. Windows Vista has three options: The first option allows read-only access and is the most secure. The second option allows full access. The third option (and this item is the only one with three options) disables Public folder sharing.

Printer Sharing: In Windows Vista only, choose the option Turn On Printer Sharing if you have a printer directly connected to your PC and you want to share it on the network.

Password Protected Sharing: Choose the option turn On Password Protected Sharing to ensure that only those with an account on your computer can access files. Use this setting for security reasons.

File Sharing Connections: Unless your local network uses all Windows 7 computers, choose the option Enable File Sharing for Devices That Use 40- or 56-Bit Encryption.

HomeGroup Connections: If you’re choosing to ignore the Windows 7 HomeGroup thing, choose the option Use User Accounts and Passwords to Connect to Other Computers.

Media Sharing: In Windows Vista, click the Change button to control media sharing with Windows Media Player.

Media Streaming: This Windows 7 option allows other computers (and even an Xbox) to access your Windows Media Player songs, pictures, and videos. Click the link Choose Media Streaming Options to mess with the settings, though you can just leave everything as is.

Setting the options as described merely confirms that you have sharing set up. Additional steps include joining a workgroup and ensuring that the network hardware and software are all connected and good to go.

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