Windows

Video: Create and configure Windows 7 HomeGroup

Bill Detwiler provides a brief tutorial on setting up a Windows 7 homegroup and using it to share files.

Windows 7 offers a new networking feature called HomeGroup that is designed to offer some features of a traditional domain, but be easier for the average user to configure. Whether you actually support home clients or just your family and friends, it's a good idea for IT pros to familiarize themselves with this new feature, as you're likely to run across it in the future. In this TR Dojo episode, I provide a brief tutorial on setting up a Windows 7 homegroup and using it to share files.

For those who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or read the following articles from Greg Shultz:

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

17 comments
juaniotoo
juaniotoo

Creating a homegroup is OK for a lot of folks, but what about a stand alone computer like mine whereby I do not want to share anything and keep my personal stuff on my unit to myself.

PeterM42
PeterM42

Looks to be about as useful as a chocolate teapot!

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Tip: If not mentioned, Homegroups require IP v6. Even if you don't use it, IP v6 is required as the backbone. So don't disable in the network settings. Comment: If I'm right, you can only belong to 1 homegroup. So if you are in a workgroup setup at work and have a small workgroup at tome, a laptop user would need to decide which to join.

tweakerxp
tweakerxp

I agree with what was said here about XP being easier to use. I have W7 Ultimate on my desktop and Professional OS on a couple laptops. It works as long as I don't turn off the laptops. Turn off the laptops and I have to remove the desktop from the homegroup and the laptops from the home group and start over creating the homegroup in order to get it to work properly. Since then I just use it like XP just connect straight to the laptops or to the desktop system. I think "Homegroup" could use a little tweaking.

rhw0411
rhw0411

This should have a write only permission like the drop box on a mac.

3dBloke
3dBloke

I have WinXP computers at home with shared folders and, from your video, can't really see why I would use Home Networks instead (when Upgraded to Win7). I guess this may be explained further in the links you mentioned :) but it would have been nice to have some mention in the video.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In the above TR Dojo post, I provide a brief tutorial on setting up a Windows 7 homegroup and using it to share files. HomeGroup is designed to offer some features of a traditional domain, but be easier for the average user to configure. Does Windows 7's HomeGroup feature look like something you would use? Take the poll in the above post and let me know. Original post and poll: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1561

juaniotoo
juaniotoo

Hi Bill, I've been following your post for quite some time and think you are a right-on individual. However, you never discuss stand alone units like mine and I wish you would. In the future, would you mention stand alone units for the benefit of people like me? Thanks

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Most NAS don't run Windows. They widely support workgroups, thanks to their CIFS/Samba support, but NAS sill cannot join himegroups. But this should be solved rapidely by NAS forware updates. Let's hope that Microsoft will open its specifications, and soon, you'll also have third party addons for other versions of Windows, for Linux and for Macs... Microsoft should also open the sepcification for Windows Media Extenders (so that NAS can support it too...) These miussing specifications are also needed for HDTVs sold by various vendors including the most famous ones (Philips, Samsung, Sony...) Windows 7 also still lacks full compatibility with DLNA (which is supported now by most HDTV's and consoles) so you still need third party addons to convert Windows Media shares into compatible DLNA shares. iTunes shares (and the Bonjour discovery protocol) are supported on Windows 7 by installing Quicktime from Apple which integrates very well within the Windows Media Player built and Windows Media Center of Windows 7 within some other competing players if you prefer them. Let's hope that Homegroups will allow integrating the same ease of administration of shares (for competing player protocols like DLNA, iTunes and bonjour) directly from the Homegroup control panel so that it really becomes a "Shares center", similar to the "Security Center" (for competing antivirus, antispywares and firewalls or security suites), because DLNA is much more promissing and more open than Microsoft's proprietary Windows Media Sharing protocol (used by WM "Extenders" like the Microsoft XBox console). Users of PlayStations or smartphones will really like it. Then we'll need another open standard for infrared or Bluetooth remote controls to complete the integration of all media supports at home or in personal mobile devices (such as support for Philips Easylink, or the comparable system developed by Samsung). We also still need a beter integration of imaging devices (notably numeric cameras, and scanners, notably those from HP, Brother, Canon, Lexmark...) and not just printers (HP multifunctions printers with scanners are still a nightmare to configure and share with all their features in Windows 7). We still also lack an open standard for interoperating media formats and audio/video codecs and of streaming wrappers (with automatic negociation of efficient converters supported by each device)

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

It is very easy to share files/folders in XP at home, in Vista it was almost impossible to get sharing working in an environment without a Domain Controller. In fact I just about gave up with Vista at home. The Home Group looks to solve that, and makes it easy for home user to share without the steps of having to create shares.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

The Homegroup concept is just extending the concept of workgroups (which are made of localhost-only domains where local users on each host are perceivd as different from users from other hosts even if they have the sam name and password). It allows unifying them automatically within some sharing operations (but not all those that are alowed in the true localhost domains that continue to exist and are compatible with XP/Vista). This simplifies grouping these multiple localhost domains by avoidinf to provide credentials for each user. Instead you provide the credential once for each machine in the Homegroup, and then users of machines in that Homegroup will no longer have to authenticate to have a readonly access between their personal files, or a read-write access to public files and printers. Through the Homegroup, you cannot share in read(write mode the disks and most ressources. Another significant difference is that Homegroups are not routable by default (unless you use a secure conenction, which can be established by entering each machine and each user separately in a centrally managed server domain). Home groups are still managed locally. If a user logs on a domain, the domain will control the access rights for the shared ressources that belong to the server domain. You may think of it as if the homegroup was a superdomain grouping all local domains, but unable to include any server-managed domains. Homegroups do not have lists of users, even if the machines are joined: the users of machines connected on the same homegroup (with the same access password) are still perceived as distinct, just like with workgroups. However, homegroups are more secure than workgroups, because multiple workgroups implicitly share too many things on the same physical network as soon as there's a transport between machines. All workgroups are also visible. On the opposite, a user on a system can only access to a single homegroup. Suppose you have machines A1, A2, B1, B2, and that A1 and B2 created their own homegroup, and A2 joined to the homegroup created on A1, and B2 joined to the homegroup created on B1, all these machines are on the same physical network, it will be impossible to join A1 and B1 and get access to their mutual shares (including their public shares). One workgroup will have to be deleted: B2 will have to be disconnected from the homegroup controled by B1 before B2 users can access to shares in the homegroup connected via A1. Note that A1, A2, B1, B2 will still be visible in the local network of all machines, as if it was a one or several workgroups, but these machines will, by default have no accessible shares by default. The shares added by machines in the Homegroup are protected by a pssword (this is the unique password identifying the machines in the Homegroup). Users of machines that have been setup by the system administrator (that installed the host), also don't need to know the password when they logon (the homegroup password is stored at the machine level). When a remote user in a domain server will want to access to a homegroup, he will also not need to provide any credentials to grant to homegroup users some domain accesses. But the remote domain user will still need to provide the homegroup password in order to connect to all machines in the homegroup and to get access to their public shares (in addition the system admin in the domain will possibly get additional more seceured access to the homegroup machine, and will be able to suppress their respective local users). Homegroups are then a sort of supergroup of machines, strengthening the security more tightly than workgroups. But Homegroups are not as powerful as true domains: the shares cannot include the full system adminsitration. For this reason, a homegroup does not require a always on server: machines that are members of the same homegroup can be powered off, and they can also continue to use their shares, or add new shares to the homegroup even if the initial machine that created the homegroup becomes unavailable: there's no centralized logging, no centralized services, no remote administation of the contents in the local Homegroup. Homegroups also cannot span on the unsafe internet: the immediate consequence is that it will reject sharing medias on the Internet (because Internet would need to be managed so that all internet servers would know the homegroup domain), but medias will be easy to share on the local network. Homegroup just requires a one-time configuration, and never again, as long as the machine remains in the same homegroup. No credential will then be asked during the next reboot or when a local user will logoff and login with another user on any machine on the homegroup. You can think about homegroups as if they were workgroups protected by a per-machine password. They do not change the fact that each machine remain managed locally for almost everything. Homegrouos allow also a much more limited interaction between users, than within a workgroup. One bad thing about homegroups is that you cannot choose the password: Microsoft decides which strong password Homegoups must use. These passwords are impossible to guess, they are then supposed to be very strong. Homegroups, despite they are more limtied than workgroups, are much more secure for many home users than workgroups that are left completely unprotected. Workgroups should be deprecated. even if they persist (the default workgroup name used in windows 7 is just "WORKGROUP", but you may change it (or decide to join the machine to a domain), this won't affect your existing homegroup.

readydave
readydave

I liked this video. It explained the purpose and functionality of the Win7 Homegroups very nicely. I also liked the bloopers at the end. Lol... Com-put-ers. :)

theolog
theolog

My wife and I manage a home-based business. We have seven computers on our home net and share all resources between them. We must be able to share files, edit files, store files, share printer and scanner, and provide occasional backup across all seven computers. Since we use peer-to-peer workgroup, all this is possible, across Win7, WinXP and Win2K computers. Internet security is provided at the firewall and within each computer. Homegroups offer nothing we don't already have, with a lot less configuration mess.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

Thanks for the intro, but how does WHS fit into the Home Group feature? Perhaps an IT Dojo on WHS would be a good future topic ;)

juaniotoo
juaniotoo

Thanks for the tips for all the folks who put up post; however, I came to the conclusion that since I have a stand alone and am not on any network I'll just disable the homegroup through the action center. Thanks again to all who posted. J.M.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Becaus you don't need to create shares, and just have to use the default user holders, it is effectively simple to manage: just a password to enter, that you'll get from one of the machines you want to join in the homegroup. Creating shares was not really complicate, but making it securely was quite difficult (especially in Vista where UAC complicated things so much and was so nnoying, that many users had prevented it). Now in Windows 7, the system is effectively workable with UAC enabled. However I don't understand that Microsoft did not allow creating a Homegroup (i.e. initializing a password for each machine that can become the initiator of a new Homegroup that other machines can join) on all versions of Windows 7: it is not possible on the most basic version of Windows 7 (notably not those used in Asia). you need at least Home Premium, or Pro. Home Basic (and also Home Starter sold at lower prices in some locations of Asia and Africa) still only allows the deprecated (and very insecure) workgroups (however these lower versions of Windows 7 still allow JOINING a homegroup initiated on at least one Home Premium or Pro version of windows 7). Also I don't understand why owners of Vista (any versions, including Ultimate) still cannot benefit of an addon to support the initiation of a homegroup or even just joining an existing one: all hosts need to be upgraded to Windows 7. Those users that paid a lot for Vista Ultimate did not benefit from what Microsoft promissed (there has never been any useful Ultimate "advantages", except a couple of very basic games and a few decorative themes, which you can get for free and with more customizations on the web from lots of sources). Vista Ultimate enrly buyers were promissed the highest security level, which they would only get if they were also connected to an enterprise domain (but with many complications for the domain administrators caused mostly by lots of UAC problems in Vista, and by extreme subperformances compared to XP, due to extreme ressource usages). They also experienced with a low quality (and in fact not working...) disk storage security (encryption was bogous, and caused lots of data loss for those that tried it), and lots of problems in the system scheduler (for processes, threads and I/O requests). Note also that Windows 7 still has the same ugly interface for the control panels needed for its administrations: still no synthetic view. However, the automatic tuning wizards and troubleshooters are much more advanced in Windows 7 (including for tuning performance, so that home users will more easily solve some compatibility settings that remain after installing or uninstalling softwares: these troubleshooters can help solve many problems that were hidden in the registry and that could only be solved by trying various third-party tools, many of them very insecure or fake and dangerous, and long searches in various Internet forums). but the net benefit of Windows 7 is that it really increases the visible performance of the system (compared to Vista, as well as XP), and yes it's remarkably stable, as long as you don't use Internet Explorer but another Internet browser (notably within Chrome due to its process isolation model for each tab or plugin, and also because of the way it allows solving a stale tab or plugin rendering by just closing it and reopening it with all data and sessions preserved, and because all possible memory leak in some plugin will disappear immediately wheen you visit another page, thanks to the very fast downloader, cache and renderer of documents in tabs or plugin frames). If there's a reason to upgrade to Windows 7 (or buy a new machine with it and without needing to revert it to XP), this is for its visible performance and much better stability, as well as its faster IP networking stack, much faster boot and higher reactivity to user events with much less usage of swap to/from disk, or a more scalable use of multicore CPUs. I constantly needed third party tools on Vista administration (to try maintaining its performance at reasonnable levels), for now I don't even any stuch tool in Windows 7, using as many applications as before and managing much more documents (most of them now remote over a LAN, by using a NAS that I added some time just before the migration from Vista to Windows 7: Vista was even much slower when working with remote disk shares, now I cannot even see any noticeable difference between files on remote shares and files stored locally, and in fact remote files seem also seem now to be even a bit faster, thanks to increased parallelism for performing I/O requests). The graphic model used in display drivers is also much more stable in Windows 7, and uses much less memory (in XP or Vista, each window needed several buffers, even if they were reduced, now Windows 7 uses a single buffer mist of the time, and the kernel is better reusing the shared code segments between code found in the kernel, or in drivers and common application libraries. Homegroups in Windows 7 also unify other things than just documents and printers shares: Media Center shares are also included and require now no separate configuration at all (other competing media players, like Real, QuickTime/iTunes, DivX, XVid, OggVorbis, or VNC can also benefit from the Homegroup simplified and accelerated setup, without also the technical dificulties that were experimented with Vista's UAC and its too agressive filesystem/registry virtualization). But the bas thing in Windows 7 is that Microsoft has stopped its support for Virtual PC and replaced it instead with "XP mode" which no longer works with many Intel and AMD processors. The "XP mode" which was announced since long by Microsoft to convince companies to upgrade from XP will finally not work. Companies in that case need to consider other competing virtualization software. Microsoft has lied and still refuses to support at least the level that was in Virtual PC. This will affect a LOT of users of notebooks and netbooks which are not eligible to the "XP mode": consider going with other softwares (like Sun VirtualBox which works like a charm on all Windows 7 installations, and that can reuse the past virtual machines created with Virtual PC, and that also supports document sharing between virtual machines or with the Windows 7 host). Unfortunately, the licence of XP provided with Windows 7 for its "XP mode" is not accessible to you if your machine is not eligible to this "XP mode" and your past system prior to the upgrade was only Vista: why does a hardware limitation implies a licence limitation is unbelievable, even on machines runing certified genuine Windows 7? Here again the buyers of Windows 7 Ultimate will be abused exactly like buyers of Vista Ultimate.

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