Windows

Extend default folder sharing capabilities in Windows 7 HomeGroup

Greg Shultz shows you how to extend folder sharing across the Microsoft Windows 7 HomeGroup network beyond the default settings.

In the last edition on the Windows Vista and Windows 7 report, "How Do I Create and Configure a Network with Windows 7 HomeGroup?" I showed you how to create, configure, and take advantage of a HomeGroup. As I did so, I explained that after you have two or more Windows 7 systems joined to a HomeGroup, you can launch Computer and expand the HomeGroup section in the Navigation pane in order to see other systems in the HomeGroup. When you do, you can access the shared Libraries on any system in the HomeGroup.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll explain how Libraries are used to share folders and files and also describe other built-in features that you can use to extend folder-sharing capabilities in a Windows 7 HomeGroup.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Libraries

As you'll discover, the new Libraries feature in Windows 7 really comes into its own with HomeGroup. As you'll remember, when you set up a HomeGroup, you are given the choice of what Libraries you want to share with the HomeGroup, as shown in Figure A. Once you do this, all files in those libraries are accessible to other users in the HomeGroup. However, there are some restrictions.

Figure A

When you create or join a HomeGroup, you'll be prompted to choose what you want to share with other computers.

Read-only

When you share a Library to the HomeGroup, files in your personal folders (such as My Documents or My Pictures) are shared with read-only access, which will allow anyone in the HomeGroup only to be able to open and read a document file or view a picture. Keep in mind that once the file is open, the user can indeed make changes to the file, but they will not be able to save those changes to the shared library; however, they can save the file and the changes to their own hard disk, thus making an edited copy of the file.

Full access

Files in the public folder on your computer (Public Documents or Public Pictures) are shared with read/write rights, which will allow anyone in the HomeGroup full access to those files. In other words, in addition to being able to open and view documents or other file types, HomeGroups users are also able to edit or delete files that exist in the public folders.

Adding to the Library

If you want to share files that aren't currently in the Library, you can add the folder containing those files to the Library. Just right-click the folder, access the Include in Library submenu, and select an existing Library to which you want to add that folder or create a new Library in which to share the folder, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

To share files that aren't currently in the Library, you can add the folder containing those files to a Library.
Once the Folder is a part of the Library, the files in that folder are accessible on the HomeGroup, as shown in Figure C. When you add a folder to the Library, it is automatically shared with read-only access.

Figure C

Any folder that you add to the Library will be shared to the HomeGroup with read-only access.

Sharing folders

While Libraries are the main way to share and access files in a HomeGroup, they aren't the only way -- especially if you want to provide full access to those files. Fortunately, you can directly share folders with the HomeGroup without adding them to the Library.

Sharing a folder directly gives you much more control over who you share files with. It lets you select certain people as well as customize the level of sharing permissions for each person.

Right-click the folder that you want to share, access the Share With submenu, and select one of the available options, as shown in Figure D. While there are four options on the Share With submenu, only three of them apply to a HomeGroup. (When you select the Specific People option, you can choose to share the folder with users who have an account on your computer.)

Figure D

The Share With feature is available as a right-click submenu and as an option on the toolbar.

HomeGroup (Read)

You can select HomeGroup (Read) to share the files in the folder with read-only access. This will allow anyone in the HomeGroup to be able to read a document file or play a multimedia file.

HomeGroup (Read/Write)

You can select HomeGroup (Read/Write) to share the files in the folder with full access. This will allow anyone in the HomeGroup to edit or delete files.

The HomeGroup (Read/Write) option can also be used inside a Library. For example, suppose that inside the My Documents folder, you have a file or another folder that you want everyone in the HomeGroup to have full access to. If so, just right-click on the file or folder and select Share With | HomeGroup (Read/Write). When you do, everyone in the HomeGroup will have full access to the file or folder.

Nobody

If after you share a folder, you decide that you no longer wish to share it, you can select the Nobody option. When you do, the folder is marked as private and is available only to you.

The Nobody option can also be used inside a Library. For example, suppose that inside the My Documents folder, you have a file or another folder that contains files you don't want to share but want to keep in the My Documents folder for convenience. If so, just right-click on the file or folder and select Share With | Nobody. The file or folder will no longer appear or be available to the HomeGroup.

What's your take?

Are you using Windows 7's HomeGroup feature? What do you think about using a HomeGroup for a small to medium-sized business network? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

22 comments
skv761
skv761

How can I share specific folder to specific users only on network in Windows 7 and Mac? I have shared a Folder and everybody on network can open that folder. I want that only sepecific people on network can open shared folder. Please suggest

toyotadyna
toyotadyna

I want to share all drives from the root up. Is this possible?

dhs13
dhs13

How do you add Vista and XP machines to it?

TuneUp Utilities
TuneUp Utilities

Great description of Windows 7 HomeGroup feature- it is good to know that you can also directly share folders with HomeGroup members without having to add them to the library. This tool seems like it would be good for small businesses. Do you see any pitfalls for that use?

MaineHiker
MaineHiker

Can I create a Home Group with 3 pcs running Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP respectively or must I still have Windows 7 on two of the pcs?

deICERAY
deICERAY

I ran XP on my PC ever since it first came out; now it's WIN7 - 2 other PCs in the house are still XP, and I must tell you, I MUCH prefer the old HOME network from XP; it just seems more intuitive. In WIN7 the control panel will NOT show you the other PCs; you can see them in your Windows Explorer only - why? Control panel gives you the impression nothing works when you make settings (in terms of seeing the XP OS machines) so you waste time rumaging around trying to figure out why; then you navigate to Explorer and there they are. Plus I liked the idea of simply right-clicking and sharing, not multiple windows to get to setting share. 7 is just as quirky as XP was when first encountered and I'm sure we'll get comfortable with it, even with waking up to: "Windows encountered a problem and has rebooted. We'll get back to you when we figure out what screwed up this time." messages.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Set up a 4-PC homegroup for a charity. First try and I couldn't get a Win 7 system to connect to the group. Killed the homegroup and tried from the other. Sure enough, I connected them. Seems to be an easier way for a small group to work together. Tip: Even though you may not be using IPv6 in your little network, don't disable or remove it. It is required for homegroups to function.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you using Windows 7's HomeGroup feature? What do you think about using a HomeGroup for a small to medium sized business network?

deICERAY
deICERAY

If you share a root over a network, that may open vulnerabilities that you may not want. If someone can get into your network (and believe me, if they want to they can) they will complete access to everything on the root drive, including any personal info/data on there, if they know what they are doing. I would be hesitant to open a root dir to a network if it had any outside connectivity at all, including wireless. You might consider sharing only with a strong password protecting it.

deICERAY
deICERAY

I can see no way - other than sharing the folders on the other machines and using the WIN7 Windows Explorer to 'see' them. They won't show up anywhere else as far as I can see. You can still have a HOME network for the 'lesser' machines, but the WIN7 is 'too good' for their older network.

deICERAY
deICERAY

The pitfall is that ONLY WIN7 machines will have these capabilities. The old machines are relegated to their own, old network. You can still peek at them in Windows Explorer though... wave hello!

jpom22
jpom22

when an OS kills your LAN because you try to use a file sharing program, SOMETHING IS WRONG with the picture! it's the same old proprietary crud Gates always comes out with. remember "Fatal Error" messages? the guys is a megalomaniac. i love his philanthropy (gives away close to $2 billion/yr) but his business ethics stink.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

Hello, Do you have the Network icon on your desktop along with My Computer, etc? I have my machine set to show desk top icons from the personalization category in control panel. I see my other machines when they are turned on. The HomeGroup only shows other Windows 7 machines, you need to be sure the Network icon shows on your desk top. I can also right click a file and see "share with" in the context menu. You may need to review your settings to be sure you have set your machine to do those things.

rfolden
rfolden

I would assume (and hope) that some versions of Win7 will allow me to set sharing, etc. as I would in XP Pro? (In other words, right click on the resource...sharing...permissions, etc?) I find that if you come from an environment (AD or Lan Manager/SAM) in which "conventional" permissions and sharing is done, these "wizards" and home group things to make file sharing work are simply ridiculous...

janly
janly

I have a hard drive connected to the network. I created a homegroup for my other PC and my laptop. However, when I try to add the network drive to the shared Library it doesn't allow it. Is it because the NAS is formatted in FAT32 and not NTFS? I don't understand the reasoning for this. Other than this. I do like the convenience of the Libraries.

HBE
HBE

Unfortunately, for some reason i can only get it functional partly. I had to delete and recreate the homegroup several times - now it's available and it stays available (which was the primairy issue). I cannot change the shared folders though: The Share With feature, supposedly available as a right-click submenu and as an option on the toolbar is not available to me, neither way. So there i have my homegroup - other pc's can share folders and designate rights, and i can only see their shared folders/files without being able to share my own files with them. sigh

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

HomeGroup is awesome! It is great to see that file sharing has gotten a simple to use interface on the computer. Back in the days of Win 98; it wasn't hard, just not done with the current paradigm. I was so ready to move forward with Operating Systems; Windows 7 scratched the itch that was conceptualized with Vista.

deICERAY
deICERAY

Yes I have the icons on my desktop; you confirm my point/criticism, "The HomeGroup only shows other Windows 7 machines, you need to be sure the Network icon shows on your desk top" This confirms my assertion that WIN7 creates its own little elitist network that doesn't bother with machines with older OSs. That's just snobbery, IMHO. If it wants to have the ability to create some 'superior' network with only WIN7, fine, but hello, there's a whole world of older OSs outthere that work fine together on HOME network, and WIN7 should just fit in! I can only use WinExplorer to 'see' the shares.

deICERAY
deICERAY

No quick read there! I bookmarked it and will return when I had a hearty meal and a good rest! Thanks for the great link! Happy Holidays.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

Hello, I hope you see a bit and it is my pleasure if it helps. I ran into a blog by Greg Shultz that explains in detail how to do what you want from W7 HG URL: http://tiny.cc/HomeGroup I really like the way Greg does things in his blogs.

deICERAY
deICERAY

I think I understand the difference between the WIN7 and regular network; I guess I just wish they weren't split and could work together more easily. Thanks for the clarification.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

Hello, I think you missed my point here. HomeGroup is only windows 7, but the regular network icon shows all the non-windows 7 machines. Windows 7 automatically finds all machines that are operating. You can browse any of the shared folders on the non-win 7 machines.