Windows

How do I make Windows 7 HomeGroup content accessible to Vista and XP?

Greg Shultz shows you how to grant Windows XP and Windows Vista systems access to the folder and printers shared in a Windows 7 HomeGroup.

As I explained in "How Do I Create and Configure a Network with Windows 7 HomeGroup?" the HomeGroup feature in Microsoft Windows 7 is an enhanced version of a peer-to-peer workgroup designed to make sharing files and folder easier on a home or small business network. I then showed you how to create and join a HomeGroup with Windows 7.

In "Extend Default Folder Sharing Capabilities in Windows 7 HomeGroup," I explained how Libraries are used to share folders and files and also described other built-in features that you can use to extend folder sharing capabilities in a Windows 7 HomeGroup.

In those blog posts, I explained that only computers running Windows 7 can actually participate in a HomeGroup. I then went on to explain that in addition to supporting HomeGroups, Windows 7 can participate in a standard workgroup network configuration with XP and Vista systems and can be configured to share folders and access shared folders just like XP and Vista systems can.

However, there is another possible scenario -- Windows XP and Vista systems that can access content shared in HomeGroup. Of course, this type of configuration requires a bit of tweaking, but it is possible.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll show you how to make it possible for Windows XP and Windows Vista systems to access the folder and printers shared in a Windows 7 HomeGroup. As I do, I'll also describe how to share and access resources on Windows XP and Windows Vista systems from a Windows 7 HomeGroup system.

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

Configuring a Windows 7 HomeGroup system

In order to configure a Windows 7 system that is part of a HomeGroup so that Windows XP and Windows Vista computers can access the shared folders and printers, you will create a special password-protected account specifically for sharing with Windows XP and Windows Vista systems. To limit this sharing account to the task at hand, you will set it up as a Standard user.

To begin, access the Control Panel, type User in the search box, and then select Create Standard User Account from the search results. When the Create New Account window appears, as shown in Figure A, type a name for the new account, such as HG-Share, and click Create Account.

Figure A

You'll create a Standard user account and assign it a generic name.
When the new account appears in the Manage Accounts window, select it to open the Change an Account window. Then, select Create a Password and assign a generic, yet memorable password, as shown in Figure B. Now, click the Create Password button.

Figure B

You'll then assign a password to the account.

To complete this part of the operation, you'll log on to the new account and then immediately log off. You need to do this so that the user account is created with the correct credentials.

Concealing the special sharing account

Once the special sharing account is created and the correct credentials are established, chances are that you'll never need to log on to this account again. As such, you probably do not want it to appear on the logon screen. Fortunately, you can conceal the special sharing account using the Net command-line tool, which you must launch from an elevated Command Prompt window.

To begin, right-click on the Command Prompt shortcut and select the Run as Administrator command. When you encounter the UAC, you will need to respond appropriately. When the Command prompt window appears, type the following command

net localgroup users /delete accountname

Where accountname is the special sharing account.

You'll need to repeat all the steps in this section on each of the Windows 7 systems in the HomeGroup to which you want to allow access. As you do, you'll use the exact same sharing account name and password. That way access to all the computers in the HomeGroup will be the same, which will make everything easier.

Connecting a Windows Vista system

With the special sharing account in place, accessing the folders shared in a Windows 7 HomeGroup is a snap from within a Windows Vista system. Click the Start button and select Network. When the Network window appears, locate the Windows 7 system that you want to access and click on it. When you do, you'll be prompted to enter the credentials you created for the special sharing account. Just enter the account name and password, as shown in Figure C. Be sure and select the Remember My Password check box. Then, click OK.

Figure C

Once you enter the special sharing account name and password, be sure and select the Remember My Password check box.
Once you access the Windows 7 computer, open the Users share and you will be able to access all the files and folders that are shared with the HomeGroup, as shown in Figure D. When you do, the same access rights established by the HomeGroup will be in effect -- the My Documents folder will be read-only and the Public folder will be read/write.

Figure D

When you open the Users share, you will have access to all the files and folders that are shared by that computer with the HomeGroup.

Connecting a Windows XP system

The special sharing account also makes accessing the folders shared in a Windows 7 HomeGroup an easy task from within a Windows XP system. To do so, click the Start button and select My Network Places. When the My Network Places window appears, select the View Workgroup Computers command in the Network Tasks panel.

Now, if the Windows 7 system you are looking for is a member of the same workgroup as the Windows XP system, you'll see it and you can double-click the Windows 7 computer you want to access right from the View Workgroup Computers window, as shown in Figure E. However, if the Windows 7 system is a member of a different workgroup, you'll need to select the Microsoft Windows Network command from the Other Places panel and then open the workgroup that contains the Windows 7 system.

Figure E

If the Windows 7 system you are looking for is a member of the same workgroup as the Windows XP system, you can see and double-click the Windows 7 computer you want to access right from the View Workgroup Computers window.
Once you access the Windows 7 computer, open the Users share and you will be able to access all the files and folders that are shared with the HomeGroup, as shown in Figure F. When you do, the same access rights established by the HomeGroup will be in effect -- the My Documents folder will be read-only and the Public folder will be read/write.

Figure F

When you open the Users share, you will have access to all the files and folders that are shared by that computer with the HomeGroup.

Accessing HomeGroup shared printers

When it comes to accessing printers that are shared on a Windows 7 HomeGroup, the procedure is similar to connecting to the shared folders. As soon as you gain access to the Windows 7 computer from either Windows XP or Windows Vista, you'll be able to see and connect to a shared printer, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Printers shared in a HomeGroup will appear and can be accessed when you connect to a Windows 7 system.

Connecting to the shared printer will be a very familiar procedure where the drivers will be downloaded from the sharing computer and installed in Windows XP/Vista. As soon as the drivers are installed, you'll be able to print to a printer in the HomeGroup just like you can in a standard peer-to-peer workgroup.

Sharing from Windows XP\Vista

Of course, when you participate with a HomeGroup using this technique, in addition to being able to access resources shared to the HomeGroup from Windows 7 systems, you'll want to be able to share resources from Windows XP and Windows Vista with the HomeGroup. Fortunately, doing so is again a very familiar procedure.

Windows XP

In Windows XP, with the Simple File Sharing feature enabled (the default setting), you right-click on the folder that you want to share and select the Sharing and Security command. In the Network Sharing and Security, select the Share This Folder on the Network check box, as shown in Figure H. You can then either select or clear the Allow Network Users to Change My Files check box, depending on whether you want to share the folder with read/write access or read-only access respectively.

Figure H

Sharing folders from Windows XP to a HomeGroup is identical to sharing in a workgroup.

Windows Vista

In Windows Vista, there is no Simple File Sharing feature, and by default folder sharing works like it does in Windows 7. However, depending on your needs, there are several ways that you can set up sharing in Windows Vista.

For example, you could create a special sharing account like I described earlier and then use it from the Windows XP and Windows 7 systems to access the shares on the Windows Vista system. Or you could disable password-protected sharing and use the Public folder, which can be configured for either read/write access or read-only access, to share files to the HomeGroup.

You can learn more about configuring shares in Window Vista in the File and Printer Sharing in Windows Vista document, which is available on the Microsoft TechNet site.

What's your take?

More than likely, you will be adding Windows 7 systems to a mixed network and may want to allow Windows XP and Windows Vista systems to work within a HomeGroup. Using the technique I've explained in this article you can do that. Will you be adding Windows 7 systems to a mixed network? Will you configure the Windows XP and Windows Vista systems to work within a HomeGroup? 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.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

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.

5 comments
Rbolz2
Rbolz2

I followed the instructions to the letter, but when I got to the part about going to my Vista PC, clicking on Start/Network and then clicking on the Windows 7 machine, instead of opening a dialog box allowing me to enter my User Name and Password, it gave me the following error message: "\\[Windows 7 Server] is not accessible. You might not have permission to use this network resource. Contact the administrator of this server to find out if you have access permission. Logon failure: user account registration. Possible reasons are blank passwords not allowed, logon hour restrictions, or a policy restriction has been enforced." Any suggestions on what to do next? Thanks.

rizon300
rizon300

Followed everything just like the step by step instructions instructed me.... and VUALA!!! Freaking works like a charm, that was really easy! (especially from a non-techno geek like me). Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!!

Graphics-Guy
Graphics-Guy

Hi, I have tried many times to conceal the account but keep getting the error message: There is no such global user or group: XXXXXX. Can anyone possibly tell me what I am doing wrong? Respectfully, Graphics-Guy

Queentorrent
Queentorrent

This is an awesome demonstration of Social SEO. SEO in itself is often a difficult concept to grasp and you've made it easier for a bunch of folks. Additionally, people often limit themselves to social networks in regards to social media. Implementing SEO gives you the full package. I just wrote a post similar to this about prepping your blog for SEO but without the diagrams.

nevyoung
nevyoung

I don't how many instructions I too have followed to the letter, how many settings I have verified, I continue to get the XP message that the Win7 pc is not accessible (even though I can see it), I do not have permissions, that I have duplicate names (checked and double checked this), that the network path was not found. What an incredible waste of an afternoon!

Editor's Picks