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Sharing Your Data (part 1) - Enabling Sharing

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3/26/2011 9:09:42 PM
You’ll often find that you want to share your documents, pictures, videos, and other types of files with someone else. One of the most basic ways to share your files is to send a file to someone by attaching it to an email message. Most instant messaging programs will allow you to share files with other people while you are chatting with them as well. Other ways to share files include copying the files to a data disk or a device with removable storage, such as a USB flash device. Windows 7 offers other ways to share your data beyond these basic techniques, and these built-in sharing features are the subject of this section.

1. Enabling Sharing

Whether your computer is part of a domain, workgroup, or homegroup, Windows 7 supports two file-sharing models: standard folder sharing and public folder sharing. With standard folder sharing, you can share files from any folder on your computer. Because you don’t need to move files from their current location, standard folder sharing is also referred to as in-place folder sharing.

You can enable standard folder sharing only on disks formatted with NTFS. Two sets of permissions determine precisely who has access to shared files: NTFS permissions and share permissions. Together, these permissions enable you to control who has access to shared files and the level of access assigned. You do not need to move the files you are sharing.

With public folder sharing, you share files from a computer’s Public folder simply by copying or moving files to the Public folder. Public files are available to anyone who logs on to your computer locally regardless of whether he or she has a standard user account or an administrator user account on the computer. You can also grant network access to the Public folder. If you do this, however, there are no access restrictions. The Public folder and its contents are open to everyone who can access your computer over the local network.

Computers running Windows 7 can use both sharing models at the same time, and you also have several new sharing options. A key part of this is a home networking feature called the homegroup. Within homegroups, you can share your libraries automatically.

When you set up a computer running Windows 7 and are connected to a home network, the Setup program creates a homegroup automatically if one doesn’t already exist on your home network. Setup won’t create a homegroup if it detects an existing homegroup or if your computer is connected to a domain. Don’t worry: you can create a homegroup or join your computer to an existing homegroup at any time. To do so, however, the computer’s network location must be set to Home.

You can change the computer’s network location and configure basic homegroup options by completing the following steps:

  1. Click Start→Control Panel→Network and Internet →Network And Sharing Center.

  2. The Network and Sharing Center appears, showing the current network type (see Figure 1).

  3. If the current network type is Work or Public and you are actually connected to a home network, click the “Work network” or “Public network” link.

  4. When prompted to select a location for the network, click “Home network.”

  5. Windows will then start the Create a Homegroup or Join a Homegroup Wizard. (If you were a member of a homegroup in the past, Windows will rejoin that homegroup.)

  6. When you are creating a homegroup, you’ll be able to specify the libraries to share, as shown in Figure 2. After you specify the libraries to share, click Next. Windows will then generate a password for the homegroup. If you want to join other computers to the homegroup, enter this password when prompted. Click Finish.

  7. When you are joining an existing homegroup, you’ll need to specify the homegroup password. When you click Next, your computer will join the homegroup and you’ll be able to specify the libraries you want to share with other computers. Click Finish.

Figure 1. Changing the network location


Figure 2. Specifying the libraries to share


NOTE

Computers running the Starter or Home Basic edition of Windows 7 can join a homegroup but cannot be used to create one. 

When your computer is part of a homegroup, one of the easiest ways to share folders is simply to include a folder in a shared library (right-click the folder, select Include In Library and then select the appropriate library, such as Documents). In a homegroup, you also have the option to share a folder directly with anyone in the homegroup as read-only or read-write. In a workgroup or domain, you have the option of sharing with specific people.

Another type of sharing is printer sharing. Windows 7 allows you to share printers attached to your computer. Windows 7 also allows you to share media in your Windows Media Player library. When you share your media, you can play media from another computer or from an Xbox 360 or other networked digital media player, and let others who can log on to your computer over the network play media from your computer. Computers in a homegroup automatically share printers but do not automatically share media.

When your computer is member of a homegroup, keep in mind that what is and isn’t shared to members of the homegroup is controlled using homegroup settings. However, the overall control for whether sharing is permitted or not is still controlled using the advanced sharing settings.

You can manage the homegroup sharing settings by completing the following steps:

  1. Click Start→Control Panel→Network and Internet →Homegroup.

  2. On the “Change homegroup settings” page, shown in Figure 3, share libraries, printers, and media as appropriate and then click “Save changes.”

Figure 3. Configuring homegroup sharing options


When you use your computer in a homegroup, password-protected sharing is enabled automatically and any user that wants access to shared data must either be logged on to a computer that is a member of the homegroup or have a user account and password on your computer. You can enable password-protected sharing in workgroup and domain configurations as well. When you do, only users who have an account and password on your computer can access shared data.

You can manage the various file-sharing features by completing the following steps:

Figure 4. Viewing the sharing configuration


  1. Click Start→Control Panel→Network and Internet →Network and Sharing Center.

  2. In the Network and Sharing Center, click “Change advanced sharing settings” in the left pane.

  3. Windows creates a separate network profile for each network you use. Use the expand button to display the profile you want to work with, as shown in Figure 4.

  4. Network discovery affects whether a computer can find other computers and devices on the network and whether other computers on the network can find this computer. To enable network discovery, select “Turn on network discovery.” To disable network discovery, select “Turn off network discovery.”

  5. File and printer sharing controls whether a computer can share files and printers. To enable file sharing, select “Turn on file and printer sharing.” To disable file sharing, select “Turn off file and printer sharing.”

  6. Public folder sharing options control Public folder sharing on your computer. To enable public folder sharing, select “Turn on sharing.” To disable public folder sharing, select “Turn off public folder sharing.”

  1. Media streaming allows you to share your Windows Media Player library. You can configure media streaming as follows:

    • If media streaming is turned off and you want to enable it, click Choose Media Streaming Options, click Turn On Media Streaming and then click OK (see Figure 5). By default, Windows streams your Music, Pictures, Recorded TV, and Video libraries to all devices on the local network and to media programs on your computer and to remote connections to your computer.

    • To specify the media that is streamed, click Choose Media Streaming Options and then click Choose Default Settings. Under Choose Parental Ratings, select Only and then select or clear checkboxes for media types as appropriate. Under Star Ratings, select Only and then specify the star rating or set or clear the “Include unrated files” checkbox.

    • To turn off media streaming, click Choose Media Streaming Options and then click Block All.

Figure 5. Turning on media streaming


  1. Windows uses encryption to securely transfer your shared data. By default, the encryption level is set to 128-bit encryption. However, before you enable 128-bit encryption, you’ll want to ensure all computers and devices you are sharing with support this level of encryption.

NOTE

The procedure you use to determine the level of encryption supported depends on the type of device. Generally, all computers running Windows 7 will support 128-bit encryption.

  1. Password-protected sharing allows you to restrict access so that only people with a user account and password on your computer can access shared files, shared printers, and the Public folder. To enable password-protected sharing, select “Turn on password protected sharing.” To disable public folder sharing, select “Turn off password protected sharing.”

  2. In a homegroup, Windows manages connections to other homegroup computers automatically. Generally, this is the preferred configuration. If you want to revert to the standard workgroup behavior and require users to have accounts on each computer, select “Use user accounts and passwords to connect to other computers.”

  3. Click “Save changes” to save your settings.

NOTE

In a homegroup, you should not turn off password-protected sharing. Computers in a homegroup use the homegroup password for password-protected sharing. If you turn off password-protected sharing, anyone on the network can access your data.

For Public folder sharing, printer sharing, and media sharing, turning on sharing is all you need to do. For homegroup sharing, joining a homegroup is all you need to do. For folder sharing, however, you have more work to do. You must specify files and folders to share, and configure sharing permissions.

Other -----------------
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- Controlling Access to Your Data (part 1) - Basic Permissions
- Securing and Sharing Your Data : Securing Your Files
- Fixing and Tweaking Your Network : Managing Network Connections
- Fixing and Tweaking Your Network : Changing Network Settings
- Fixing and Tweaking Your Network : Maximizing Network Performance
- Troubleshooting Network Problems (part 2) - Troubleshooting TCP/IP Problems
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