Sharing files with the Public folder

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

Where is the Public folder?

There is only one Public folder in Windows. Every person with a user account on the computer shares this folder. To open the Public folder:

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

  2. In the Navigation pane, under Favorite Links, click Public. If you have configured the Navigation pane so that the Public folder is not visible under Favorite Links, click More , and then click Public.

Picture of the Public folder
The Public folder

Who can access the Public folder?

Everyone with a user account and password on your computer can access the Public folder, but you decide whether anyone on the network can access the Public folder. You cannot choose which individuals can access the Public folder from the network. You must either grant access to everyone on the network, or to no one. You can, however, set the permission level by choosing whether those who have access to the Public folder from the network can just open files, or also change and create them.

If you are not on a domain, you can also turn on password-protected sharing. This limits network access to the Public folder to only those people with a user account and password on your computer.

By default, network access to the Public folder is turned off unless you enable it.

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To control who can access the Public folder

If you are not on a domain, you can limit network access to the Public folder to only those people with a user account and password for this computer. To do this, turn on password-protected sharing.

  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. Click the arrow button Picture of the arrow button next to Password protected sharing, and then click one of the following options:
    • Turn on password protected sharing

    • Turn off password protected sharing

  3. Click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

To control the level of access to the Public folder

  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. Click the arrow button Picture of the arrow button next to Public folder sharing, and then click one of the following options:
    • Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open files

    • Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open, change, and create files

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

  3. Click Apply. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Note

  • 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 grant them permission to change files, any changes they make will change the files on your computer.

Is the Public folder the only way to share files in Windows?

No. You can also share files by sharing them directly from any folder on your computer without copying or moving them to the Public folder. This method gives you more control over who you share files with on your network. It allows you to select people on an individual basis and set the level of sharing permissions for each person.

For information about when to share from the Public folder and when to share directly from other folders on your computer, see File sharing essentials.

What's in the Public folder?

The Public folder contains no files until you or other people using your computer add files to it. The Public folder contains several subfolders to help you organize the files you are sharing. Most of these folders are organized by content type, and include:

  • Public Documents

  • Public Downloads

  • Public Music

  • Public Pictures

  • Public Videos

What should I put in the Public folder?

This is up to you, but in general, you should put any files or folders you want to share into the Public folder. Copy or move songs you want to share into the Public Music folder, photos into the Public Pictures folder, and so on. The Public folder is a good place for any files you want to share with the people you have given access to your Public folder.

You should not put files into the Public folder that you don't want anyone else to see, or that you only want certain people to access. Consider sharing them from a non-public folder. For information about how to share this way, see Share files with someone.