File and printer sharing: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about file and printer sharing in Windows 7.

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What are the different file sharing options in Windows?

Windows provides three main ways to share files directly from your computer: Public folder sharing, individual folder sharing, and homegroups.

The advantage of the Public folder is simplicity. All computers running Windows have Public folders. Anybody with a user account and password on a computer can access the public folders. The downside? Precisely that. Everybody has access to them.

If you'd like more control over who can access a particular file or folder, you can share just that file or folder. This type of sharing requires slightly more effort to set up, but you can control specifically who can see or modify your files or folders. With this method, there's no need to spend time copying or moving files; you can share them from wherever they are on your computer.

The easiest way to share files on a home network is to create or join a homegroup. A homegroup is a group of computers that share pictures, music, videos, documents, and even printers. The computers must be running Windows 7 to participate in a homegroup.

For more information about each option, see File sharing essentials.

How do I share files stored in individual folders?

You can share individual files and folders—and even entire libraries—with other people using the new Share with menu. The options you'll see depend on the file you're sharing and the type of network your computer is connected to—homegroup, workgroup, or domain. For an overview, see Share files with someone.)

(For more information about types of networks, see What is the difference between a domain, a workgroup, and a homegroup?)

How do I share files stored in the Public folder?

The Public folders are a convenient way to share files on your computer. You can share files in the Public folders with other people using the same computer and with people using other computers on your network. Any file or folder you put in a Public folder is automatically shared with the people who have access to your Public folders.

Picture of Public folders
The Public folders in the Windows libraries

For more information, see Share files using the Public folders.

How do I share files using a homegroup?

When you set up a computer with this version of Windows, a homegroup is created automatically if one doesn't already exist on your home network.

If a homegroup already exists, you can join it. After you create or join a homegroup, you can select the libraries that you want to share. You can prevent specific files or folders from being shared, and you can share additional libraries later. You can help protect your homegroup with a password, which you can change at any time.

For more information about using a homegroup, see HomeGroup: recommended links.

What is printer sharing and how do I do it?

With printer sharing, multiple computers on a network can use a single printer.

Sharing a printer requires a few steps. First, you'll need to turn on file and printer sharing, and then you'll need to share your printer. When other people want to use your printer, they can follow a few steps to add your printer to their computers.

For more information, see Share a printer.


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