Updated: July 25, 2019

Windows File Sharing Basics

windows-netowrking-basics-iconAll windows computers since windows for workgroups have been capable of sharing resources like files and printers on the network, and also of accessing shared resources on a network.

Networking Models

Microsoft networks were originally designed as peer to peer networks back in the days of windows for workgroups 3.1.

In peer to peer networks all computers are equal and can function as both a client and server.

This means that workstation1 could share its files on the network and they could be accessed by workstation 2 and vice versa.

This is in contrast to client server networks used on the internet and corporate networks were a single computer shares files (the server) and all other computers can access these files (the clients).

networking-models

 

If you like a bit of nostalgia you can read about the
history of windows 3.11 at wikipedia.

In corporate networks workgroups were replaced very quickly by domains which is responsible for authentication (login) on a network.

However for home network the workgroup is the only sensible networking model.

What is a Workgroup?

In Windows networking a workgroup has the following properties:

  • It is a collection of computers on a network.
  • A workgroup has a name (workgroup name)
  • A computer can only belong to one workgroup at a time.
  • Computers maintain their own user database for logon.
  • The workgroup name can not be the same as any of the computer names.
  • There can be multiple workgroups on a network.
  • A workgroup has no security.(changed windows 10)
  • A computer can move from one workgroup to the next.
  • Applicable to windows for workgroups (3.11),95, 98, NT 4, 2000, XP, vista machines and above
The main purpose of a workgroup is to make finding computers easier on large networks.

This is because the windows computer browser service displays the network in workgroups.

Note: This depends on the windows version.

If you double click the workgroups it shows you the
computers that were/are part of that workgroup.

Here is my home network on Windows 10 :

windows-network-windows-10
On Earlier versions of windows the workgroups were displayed as shown below:

workgroups

Double clicking the workgroup named workgroup shows the computers that are part of that group. ( the ones that are switched on).

workgroup-computers

Creating A Workgroup

The default workgroup called workgroup is created by default when you install windows and by default when you install a new computer it will be added to this workgroup.

On large networks you might want to create multiple workgroups with different names, however on home networks this is seldom done.

Adding a Computer to a Workgroup

This is done at Install time when you are prompted to choose a computer name and Workgroup.

The default workgroup is called workgroup.

You can change the workgroup after installation by going to control panel>system and security>system. (windows 10)

In the computer name ,domain and workgroup settings you will find a change button that take you to this screen

windows-change-computer-name

This requires a reboot of the system to take effect.

Sharing Resources on a Home Network

Generally the two resources most commonly shared are folders(files) and printers.

To share a folder locate the folder in Windows File Explorer.

Right click on the folder and click on properties you should see a screen similar to that below.

windows-file-sharing

You should then see a screen similar to that below were you need to choose a user to share the resource with, and the level of access that user has.

windows-file-sharing-2

You need to select the account and then click add and then adjust the permissions using the drop down arrow.

windows-file-sharing-3

When finished click on the share button to complete the operation you should see a confirmation screen similar to below:

windows-file-sharing-4

User and Group Notes

If you want the user Fred to access a resource on your machine then you need to create a new use account called Fred on your machine with the same password as Fred uses on his machine for the access to be transparent.

If Fred changes his password then you will need to change the password on your machine.

The group Everyone is everyone connecting to your computer across the network.

Permissions you give to this group apply yo all users that connect across the network.

They will still need to logon using a valid username and password to access the resource.

Permission Notes

Share permissions are very basic they are

  • Read – users can only read files
  • Read/write -users can read,change,create and delete files

Advanced Sharing Options

There is also and Advanced sharing option that give more control over the file share and even lets you limit the number of users connected to the shared folder.

windows-advanced-file-sharing

You can use it to share the folder with different share names and to stop sharing by un-checking the share this folder box:

windows-advanced-file-sharing-1

Locating and Accessing Computers and Shared Resources

All versions of Windows since windows for Workgroups have included a network browser.

This allows you to located shared resources on a network similar to locating a file on the file system.

The name and location of this browser has changed over time.- wiki

network neighborhood>my network places>network node

windows-file-sharing-locate-resources

 

The service relies on a machine on the network to main a list of network resources that is then used by other machines on the network.

The machine that maintains this list is know ans the master browser and is determined by an election process. Generally all machines on the network are eligible.

If you find that the list isn’t been kept up to date then you may need to take steps to locate the mater browser and reassign the role. This Windows white paper covers the process in more detail

Using the search Box

Another and quicker way of locating resources if you know the name of the machine is to use the search box.

To display the resources available on a machine called raspberrypi type

\\raspberrypi

windows-network-resources

Have You Any Questions?

Windows networking is a very broad topic and it isn’t possible to cover everything in a single tutorial.

If you have any questions relating to windows networking that you like answering then I would be glad to help just use the ask-steve page.

Related tutorials and Resources:

 

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