If you’ve previously set up a home network using computers running Windows XP, you’ll find that setting up a network with a mix of computers running Windows XP and Windows Vista will be similar. There are a few important differences though, and understanding what's different will help you avoid some common problems.

This article also covers the settings needed to set up file and printer sharing on your network.

What's changed since Windows XP

These are the main networking-related differences between Windows XP and Windows Vista:

Feature Windows XP Windows Vista
Feature

Default workgroup name

Windows XP

MSHOME in Windows XP Home Edition; WORKGROUP in all other versions

Windows Vista

WORKGROUP

Feature

Shared folder name

Windows XP

Shared Documents

Windows Vista

Public

Feature

Simple file sharing

Windows XP

Allowed by default

Windows Vista

Not allowed by default—access to shared folders, including the Public folder (if shared), requires a user name and password

Feature

Detection and access to computers on the network

Windows XP

Only detects and accesses computers in the same workgroup

Windows Vista

Detects and accesses all computers on the network, no matter which operating system they're running or which workgroup they belong to

Feature

Place to change settings and preferences

Windows XP

My Network Places

Windows Vista

Network folder

Feature

Network controls

Windows XP

In various places throughout the operating system

Windows Vista

Mostly in Network and Sharing Center

But take heart. If you aren’t ready to upgrade all your computers to Windows Vista, you can overcome these differences to get your network running smoothly. We’ll address the differences listed above and tell you how to handle them. And we’ll tell you where to find the settings that you need to change.

Let's assume that you've already set up the physical network itself. If you haven’t, these two topics will help with that:

Make sure all computers are in the same workgroup

When your network is set up, the next step is to fine-tune it so that all the computers can "see" each other—something you'll need if you want to share files and printers.

It’s important to use the same workgroup name for all of the computers on your network. This makes it possible for computers running different versions of Windows to detect and access each other. Remember that the default workgroup name is not the same in all versions of Windows.

To find or change the workgroup name on a computer running Windows XP:

  1. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.

  2. In System Properties, click the Computer Name tab to see the workgroup name. To change the name, click Change, type the new name in Computer name, and then click OK.

To find the workgroup name on a computer running Windows Vista:

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking System.

  2. The workgroup name is displayed under Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings.

To change the workgroup name on a computer running Windows Vista:

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking System.

  2. Under Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings, click Change settings.

  3. In System Properties, on the Computer Name tab, click Change.

  4. In Computer Name/Domain Changes, in Workgroup, type the name of the workgroup you want to use, and then click OK. You will be prompted to restart your computer.

Picture of the System window
The workgroup name is displayed in the System window

Set the network location type to Private

Next, check the network location type on all computers running Windows Vista. The network location type is a setting that allows Windows Vista to automatically adjust security and other settings based on the type of network that the computer is connected to. For more information, see Choosing a network location.

There are three network location types:

  • Public. The computer is connected to a network that is available for public use. Examples of public network types are public Internet access networks such as those found in airports, libraries, and coffee shops. (This location type corresponds to the “Public place” network type.)

  • Private. The computer is connected to a network that has some level of protection from the Internet (for example, a router and a firewall) and contains known or trusted computers. Most home networks fall into this category. (This location type corresponds to the “Home” or "Work" network type.)

  • Domain. The computer is connected to a network that contains an Active Directory domain controller. An example of a domain network type is a network at a workplace.

For your home network, make sure that the network location type is set to Private. Here's how to check:

  • Open Network and Sharing Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Network and Internet, and then clicking Network and Sharing Center.

The network location type is displayed in parentheses next to the network name.

Picture of Network and Sharing Center
The network location type is displayed in Network and Sharing Center

If your network type is Public, here’s how to change it to Private:

  1. To the right of the network name and location type, click Customize.

  2. In Set Network Location, next to Location type, click Private, click Next, and then click Close.

Warning

  • You should only change a network to Private if it is a known and trusted network such as your home network. Changing a network in a public place to Private can be a security risk.

Open ports in your firewall to allow file and printer sharing

If you're using Windows Firewall, you can skip this section, because Windows Firewall automatically opens the correct ports for file and printer sharing when you turn on network discovery. If you're using another firewall, you must open these ports yourself so that your computer can find other computers and devices that have files or printers that you want to share.

To find other computers running Windows Vista, open these ports:

  • UDP 3702

  • TCP 5357

  • TCP 5358

To find other computers running earlier versions of Windows, and to use file and printer sharing on any version of Windows, open these ports:

  • UDP 137

  • UDP 138

  • TCP 139

To find network devices, open these ports:

  • UDP 1900

  • TCP 2869

Turn on additional file and printer sharing options

By changing your network location type to Private, network discovery is automatically turned on in the Sharing and Discovery section of Network and Sharing Center. (For more information about network discovery, see What is network discovery?) You should also turn on these sharing and discovery options:

  • File sharing

  • Public folder sharing

  • Printer sharing

When you turn on these options, your computer can:

  • Find other computers and devices on your home network and have other computers find your computer.

  • Share its folders.

  • Share its Public folder.

  • Share its printers.

Note

  • Password protected sharing is a special option that we'll cover below.

To turn on file sharing, public folder sharing, and printer sharing, follow these steps:

  1. Open Network and Sharing Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Network and Internet, and then clicking Network and Sharing Center.

  2. Under Sharing and Discovery, click the arrow button Picture of the arrow button next to File sharing to expand the section, click Turn on file sharing, and then click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. Click the arrow button Picture of the arrow button next to Public folder sharing to expand the section, and then do one of the following:
    • To share the Public folder so that people on other computers on the network can open files in it but can't create or change files, click Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open files, and then click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. This is the default setting.

    • To share the Public folder so that people on other computers on the network can open files in it and also create or change files, click Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open, change, and create files, and then click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  4. Click the arrow button Picture of the arrow button next to Printer sharing to expand the section, click Turn on printer sharing, and then click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Consider using password protected sharing

With password protected sharing enabled, people using other computers on your network can't access your shared folders, including the Public folder, without a user name or password that corresponds to a user account on your computer. (So if you use password protected sharing, you should have matching user accounts on all your computers.)

To turn on password protected sharing, follow these steps:

  1. Open Network and Sharing Center by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Network and Internet, and then clicking Network and Sharing Center.

  2. Under Sharing and Discovery, click the arrow button Picture of the arrow button next to Password protected sharing to expand the section, click Turn on password protected sharing, and then click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Having password protected sharing disabled is equivalent to the simple file sharing used in Windows XP.

Using the network map

The network map in Network and Sharing Center is a graphical view of the computers and devices on your network, showing how they are connected and including any problem areas. This can be helpful for troubleshooting. Before a computer running Windows XP can be detected and appear on the network map, you might need to install the Link-Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol on that computer. For more information, go to Network Map Does Not Display Computers Running Windows XP on the Microsoft website.

If the LLTD protocol is installed but computers running Windows XP still do not appear on the network map, firewall settings could be preventing Windows from detecting it. Check the firewall settings and make sure that file and printer sharing are enabled. To learn how to do this, if you are using Windows Firewall, open Help and Support and search for "Enable file and printer sharing." Open the Help topic, and then scroll to the end. If you are using another firewall, check the information that came with your firewall. For more information, see Troubleshoot problems with computers not appearing on the network map.