Once upon a time, home networking for the average user was a bit of a hassle to set up. Sharing files across a Local Access Network and configuring printers and other devices to work with multiple computers was often a tedious process. Fortunately, those days are long behind us thanks to an innovative and easy to use feature of Windows 7 known as the HomeGroup. If you’d like to transfer files between computers without using a thumb drive or watch a movie on one computer that’s saved on another without getting up, a Windows 7 HomeGroup is just the ticket.
What Is A HomeGroup?
A HomeGroup is a peer-to-peer home file sharing service that runs on Windows 7 computers. It allows you to access files on other computers, co-ordinate print jobs, and stream media seamlessly. HomeGroup is essentially the re-branded version of Windows XP’s work groups, with a few added features thrown in for good measure. Though only Windows 7 PCs can create HomeGroups, any computer running XP or above can access files shared with the HomeGroup feature. Setting up a HomeGroup behind your broadband router is incredibly easy to do, and it only takes a few minutes to get started.
Creating A HomeGroup
On any Windows 7 PC, go to the Control Panel in the Start Menu. In the Network and Internet area, select HomeGroup. Now click the “Create a homegroup” button. You’ll be asked whether or not you want to share any connected printers, which folders and libraries on your local PC you’d like to share, and whether or not you want file discovery turned on by default. Just select your preferred options, and at the end of the setup process you’ll be given a random password for logging into the HomeGroup. You can change the password to something easy to remember if you please. Click “Finish”, and you’re good to go.
Configuring Your Machines
Now that you’ve set up a HomeGroup, anyone can join it and make shares publicly available to other members of the group by signing in with the password. To log into the HomeGroup on another Windows 7 computer, simply click on your user name in the Start Menu. That’ll take you to the Windows Explorer pop-up screen. You’ll see “Home Group” on the lower left-hand side, as well as the name of your specific HomeGroup. Click on it, and it’ll ask if you want to join. Just enter the password, select your sharing options, and you’re all done. It’s really that easy.
Connecting Vista and XP
In order for computers running either Windows Vista or XP to access the HomeGroup, you’ll need to set up a special “share” on your Windows 7 PC that other non-Windows 7 machines can see. On the Windows 7 machine, create a new standard user in the User Accounts section of the Control Panel. Call it “XP-Vista-Share” or something along those lines. Make sure the new standard user you just created is signed into the HomeGroup. Now you can use the work group feature of XP or Vista to access the shared resources of the other Windows 7 computers through that account.
On a Vista or XP machine, go to “Network” in the Start panel and select the “XP-Vista-Share” account you just created. Sign in with the user account password you created for “XP-Vista-Share”. Once you’re logged in, go to the Users panel, and you’ll be able to see the shared folders and files within the HomeGroup that the other Windows 7 PCs have contributed. It’s a bit of a pain not being able to directly access those shared folders from the main Windows Explorer window of an XP or Vista computer. However, it’s not really that much extra effort to be able to access the HomeGroup files.
he HomeGroup is one of the best new features of Windows 7. It makes file and device sharing easy for non-technical users who just want to share resources and content across machines. Fast, stable, and secure, HomeGroups make networking on the Windows platform a breeze even for the inexperienced. Once you’ve got a HomeGroup for your home LAN set up, you can basically forget about it and enjoy the benefits of seamless sharing. Just remember that everything related to HomeGroups can be managed within the HomeGroup section of the Control Panel, and you should be fine.