D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

Sunday, January 25, 2009 11:01 AM


Remember how annoying it was to get two computers on a network to share files between each other? I don’t mean on a domain or anything, but on a typical home network where you don’t have a domain controller or anything at that level, and at most you had a workgroup value assigned to each machine.

With Windows 7, getting your computers to talk to each other is SO SIMPLE. In fact, the least amount of work you have to do to get it working is entering a password. Here’s how it works.

Homegroup

When you install Win 7 and get to the network selection (Home, Work, or Public), if you select Home you’ll be asked if you want to create a Homegroup. A Homegroup allows you to join computers to an ad-hoc grouping on a network. If you opt to create one, you’ll be given a system generated password. This password needs to be entered for any other Win 7 computer that you’d like to share with.

Sharing Files and Folders

You’re also able to select what types of documents you want to share with the other computers on the Homegroup and implement enhanced security if you require it.

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(Note: Pictures, Music, Videos, Documents represent My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos of your profile)

But what if you want to share another folder not part of your profile, like say a VPC folder on an external hard drive? Opening it up to the Homegroup is dead simple. Simply right click on the directory, go to ‘Share with', and select Homegroup with whatever permissions you’d like (Read or Read/Write).

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You can also select specific people instead of granting Homegroup-wide permissions, although this seems to be limited to only users on the same computer as the directory being shared. Which makes sense: the whole idea of Homegroup is that you *don’t* need to fool around with setting permissions at such a low level for a simple home network.

Who Needs a Media Extender?

Sharing your media with other devices on your network (such as an XBox 360 for instance) has become incredibly simplified. I never really tried with Vista because I couldn’t be bothered fooling around with Media Extenders and the clunky way it seemed Vista interacted with my 360. So let’s see how to hook up our 360 to view pictures from our Windows 7 machine.

First I’m going to put a pic in my Pictures library…

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Next I’m going to go into the Homegroup admin screen and select that I want to share media with devices. This will mean that pictures, music, and videos can be accessed by devices that are *not* part of my Homegroup but that are connected to my network.

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Now I’m going to move to the living room and start up my XBox 360, navigating to view pictures.

Notice that my two Windows 7 boxes, DLC-Dev and DLC-Dev2 are both listed, as is myself as the user since its *my* pictures, videos, and music that will be shared (remember, those libraries are linked to a profile). I didn’t have to do anything special on my Win 7 machines, the 360 just found them.

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So now we’re in the available shared pics for DLC-Dev:D’Arcy and I can see the folders with image media available to me.

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Going into the Pictures directory, there’s my image…

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And there it is on my TV…

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All of that setup with no Media Extender or anything else required to share with my XBox 360. Now let’s go back and look at the new options we have in the Homegroup admin.

By clicking the “Choose Devices” link on the main Homegroup admin screen, we see this…

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Now that my Xbox 360 connected to my Win7 box, it’s now listed as a device. The default settings are to ‘Allow All’ to connect as long as they reside on the local network. If I wanted to, I could choose to Block All, and assign allowance based on which devices I wanted to have access. I can also do it at the device level by toggling the drop lists.

Summary

With Windows 7, not only is it really easy to set up a home network, its really easy to *share* files between computers and devices on a home network…which is the whole purpose of networking up your machines in the first place. Good stuff Microsoft!

D




Feedback

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

D, the Media Center in Win7 has support for streaming DivX and XVid right out of the box so you can use the Media Center interface in your 360 as well which is cool too 1/25/2009 11:09 AM | William

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

Yeah I dunno... I like the idea of streaming to my TV, but I don't want that scary picture there. It's going to frighten the kids! 1/25/2009 4:31 PM | Laurent

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

Sounds great.. if all pcs have windows 7. But for my reality, I have one PC on Win XP sp3, and 2x pcs on Vista SP2. Amazingly, all of those other OS PC's can see/interact with shared files amongst each other - but lo and behold, the Windows 7 PC is in the dark; cant share anything with anyone, cant reach anything (even with shared files setup on the win7 system).

So - like how do you setup the Win 7 PC to be a normal part of a real mixed OS home network? 8/25/2009 2:08 PM | Ken

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

Ken,

I loaded Windows 7 on my media box and was a bit disgruntled at this new "home group" thing. I wasn't able to share out my video and music files to my Vista laptop right off the bat, even though they could see each other on the network.

Now, first off, I just noticed this last night, so I haven't had time to do much fine tuning, but I will. What I got to work quickly, was to open the properties of the "My Documents" folder of my media box. In the security tab, I gave full control to "Everyone".

Obviously, this is probably not going to be a permanent setup, but it was quick and easy, and as long as you're on an encrypted network, you should be okay.

Overall, I like Windows 7 so far. 10/26/2009 4:57 PM | The Dude

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

This is all good if you have only Windows 7 machines, but if you happen to have a Win XP machine, or a friend that drop by and what to give him access to your stuff... It's a pain in the... 11/23/2009 12:07 AM | Forest

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

It's a complete disaster when you want to connect Windows 7 to your windows mobile device via the network. I have also Windows XP and Windows Vista in the network and they connect without problems to my Windows Mobile device. No matter what I try, it is impossible to connect my Windows Mobile 6.1 to Windows 7. Frustrating!! 1/3/2010 8:03 AM | Mark1

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

Some extra information: Windows XP and Vista can network connect to Windows 7. Windows Mobile 6.1 (HTC) can't network connect to Windows 7. Who knows a solution? Thanks! 1/3/2010 8:08 AM | Mark1

# re: Windows 7 – Home Networking Done Right

Windows XP and Vista connect to Windows 7 via the shared maps (old fashioned way) but not via the new Home networking thing. I think this new Home networking thing is messing up a lot because Windows mobile 6.1 is not connecting anymore to Windows 7. 1/3/2010 8:21 AM | Mark1

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