Share files using the Public folders

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

Where are the Public folders?

The Public folders are in the Documents library.

To open the Public folders

  1. Open the Documents library by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Documents.

  2. In the left pane, under Libraries, click the arrow next to one of the libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures, or Videos).

    You will see the Public folder for each library.

Are the Public folders the only way to share files in Windows?

No. You can also share files directly from any folder on your computer without copying or moving them to the Public folders. Sharing directly from a folder gives you more control over who you share files with. It lets you select people on an individual basis and set the level of sharing permissions for each person. For information about when to share from a Public folder and when to share directly from other folders on your computer, see File sharing essentials and Share files with someone.

Note

  • Using a homegroup is a new way to share. A homegroup is a group of computers that shares pictures, music, videos, documents, and even printers. The computers must be running Windows 7 to participate in a homegroup. To learn more, see What is a homegroup? and HomeGroup: frequently asked questions.

What's in the Public folders?

The Public folders contain subfolders to help you get organized, but they don't contain any files until you or other people using your computer add files to them. The folders are organized by content type, and include:

  • Public Documents

  • Public Music

  • Public Pictures

  • Public Videos

What should I put in the Public folders?

It's up to you. You can put files or folders you want to share into the Public folders. Copy or move songs you want to share into the Public Music folder, photos into the Public Pictures folder, and so on. The Public folders are a good place for any files you want to share with the people who have access to your Public folders.

Note

  • Don't put files into the Public folder unless you're sure you want others to see them. If you want only certain people to access a file, consider sharing it from a non-public folder. For information about how to share this way, see Share files with someone.

Who can access the Public folders?

Public folder sharing is turned off by default (except on a homegroup). When Public folder sharing is turned on, anyone on your computer or network can access these folders. When it's off, only people with a user account and password on your computer can access them.

Watch this video to learn how to turn Public folder sharing on or off (1:13)

To turn Public folder sharing on or off

  1. Open Advanced sharing settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

  2. Click the chevron Picture of the chevron to expand your current network profile.
  3. Under Public folder sharing, select one of the following options:

    • Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can read and write files in the Public folders

    • Turn off Public folder sharing (people logged on to this computer can still access these folders)

  4. Click Save changes. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Notes

  • When you share the Public folder on your computer with other people, they can open and view the files stored there just as if they were stored on their own computers. If you give them permission to change files, any changes they make will change the files on your computer.

  • If you click a Public folder or its contents, you'll see Advanced sharing settings in the Share with menu. This option takes you to Control Panel, where you can turn Public folder sharing on or off.

By turning on password-protect sharing in Control Panel, you can limit Public folder access to people with a user account and password on your computer. This option isn't available on a domain.

To turn password-protected sharing on or off

  1. Open Advanced sharing settings by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type network, click Network and Sharing Center, and then, in the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

  2. Click the chevron Picture of the chevron to expand your current network profile.
  3. Under Password protected sharing, select one of the following options:

    • Turn on password protected sharing

    • Turn off password protected sharing

  4. Click Save changes. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.