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This month we will be featuring a new series of Windows 7 How To videos in our IT Pro At Home section on the Springboard Series. The first in this series is HomeGroups.
Have you ever tried to share files on your home network but found that dealing with folder permissions and user accounts was just too frustrating? You aren’t alone; the process can aggravate experienced IT pros and home enthusiasts alike. Just imagine how your parents feel when they try to share files across their home computers.
HomeGroup helps simplify file and printer sharing among computers that run Windows® 7 on your home network. Domain-joined computers can also join your homegroup, so you can bring your work laptop home and access your music collection. You can set up HomeGroup as easily as you log on to most password-protected Web sites. HomeGroup is a feature of Windows 7 Home Premium or better.
Setting up a Homegroup
Setting up a homegroup is easy. Each time you connect a computer running the Windows 7 operating system to a new network, it prompts you to identify the location: home, work, or public. If you choose home network, the computer isn’t joined to a domain, and a homegroup doesn’t already exist on the network, Windows 7 starts the Create a HomeGroup wizard so you can create a new homegroup. After specifying which libraries you want to share on the homegroup, the wizard displays a password that you’ll use to connect other computers to the homegroup, as shown in Figure 1. You can share this password with other family members so they can connect to the homegroup, or choose to change the password.
Figure 1. HomeGroup sharing options
When you connect another computer running Windows 7 to the same network and choose home as the network’s location, Windows 7 will prompt you to join the homegroup. Click Join now, and Windows 7 will start the Join a HomeGroup wizard. Just as when you created the homegroup, the Join a HomeGroup wizard asks you what you want to share. Then, after typing the homegroup password, the computer joins the homegroup. It’s that simple.
Browsing and Searching the Homegroup
Once you’ve connected computers to the homegroup, you can access shared Libraries in Windows Explorer. In the Windows Explorer navigation pane, click Homegroup to see the computers sharing content in the Details pane. From there, you can explore the shared Libraries on any computer joined to the homegroup (assuming it’s powered on and connected to the network). Figure 2 shows Windows Explorer with a computer sharing via HomeGroup. Of course, you can use the Arrange By control to browse files in remote Libraries by using metadata. Imagine browsing your children’s Music Library and arranging songs by artist.
Figure 2. Browsing homegroup computers in Windows Explorer
Searching the homegroup is transparent. On each computer, Windows Search indexes the contents of the folders included in the Libraries. When you search the homegroup, Windows Search uses these indexes to find files on each homegroup computer. Searching a homegroup is no more difficult than using Windows Search to find files on your local computer. You can use the Search Builder to more narrow down your results, and Windows Explorer helps you browse the search results with the ability to display a preview of each document and highlighting hits.
Both features, Libraries and Windows Search, work with HomeGroup to greatly simplify home networking. To learn more about these features, please see the following resources:
· Libraries screencast and related resources
· Windows Search screencast and related resources
Changing Homegroup Settings
After you’ve created or joined a homegroup, you might want to change some of the settings that you configured when you created or joined the homegroup. Click Start, type homegroup, and then press Enter to display the HomeGroup Control Panel shown in Figure 3. Here, you can choose the Libraries you want to share from this computer with other computers on the network. You can choose whether or not you want to stream your media with other devices on the network. You can also perform a number of other actions, including:
· Retrieving your homegroup password
· Changing your homegroup password
· Leaving the homegroup
· Configuring advanced network settings
· Starting the HomeGroup troubleshooter
Figure 3. Configuring homegroup settings
Securing the Homegroup
Microsoft modeled HomeGroup security after the way most people secure their homes. They tend to secure the outer perimeter (doors, windows, and so on) but leave interior doors unlocked. They also tend to allow free access to the documents and media within the household. As a result, HomeGroup secures the perimeter with the homegroup password. Joining a homegroup by using the password gives you full access to the interior, including all of the documents and media in the homegroup that are in shared libraries.
In some cases, you might want to prevent access to certain files or folders or share folders that outside of your Libraries. To do that, right-click a file or folder, and then do one of the following:
· To share the file or folder with nobody, click Share with, and then click Nobody.
· To share the file or folder with specific people, click Share with in the toolbar, click Specific people, select each person with whom you want to share with the file or folder and click Add. Click Share to close the File Sharing dialog box. Sharing with specific people only works if they’ve linked their profiles to an online ID.
· To share the file or folder with the entire homegroup, click Share with in the toolbar, and then click either HomeGroup (Read) or HomeGroup (Read/Write).
HomeGroup helps make sharing on home networks easy for everyone. With HomeGroup, your family can share files and printers as easily as using most password-protected Web sites. Additionally, Windows Search enables them to easily find and browse files across all of their homegroup computers. HomeGroup will help your family have a far better experience with their computers, since they can use capabilities that were previously frustrating for them to learn. For more information about HomeGroup and other great Windows 7 features for your home, see the Springboard Series IT Pro at Home series on TechNet.
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