Home Networking For Everyone (Using Windows Homegroup)

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Creating a homegroup in Windows 8.1

I remember trying to set up file and printer sharing between Windows 98 and XP PCs when I was younger. Windows home networking was very complicated back then. No matter what I did, it never seemed to work — even after spending hours tweaking workgroup and network adapter settings.

Microsoft fixed this problem in Windows 7 with Homegroup. It allows you to easily set up file and printer sharing between any Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 computers on your network. Don’t worry — Windows does basically everything on its own.

Setting Up Homegroup

To get started, open a folder (known as File Explorer on Windows 8 and Windows Explorer on Windows 7). Click the Homegroup option in the left panel.

If there’s no Homegroup on your home network, you’ll see a Create button that will let you create one. If one or more computers on your home network have already created a Homegroup, you’ll see a Join Now button instead. You don’t need to know whether a Homegroup already exists — just click the only button to walk through the process.

You’ll see the Homegroup wizard, which lets you choose exactly what folders, files and devices to share with other computers in the homegroup.

Choosing what to share with a homegroup in Windows 8.1

The wizard will give you a password and ask you to write it down. If you’re joining an existing Homegroup, type the Homegroup’s password instead. You don’t actually have to write this down just yet — you can quickly view the password from any computer that’s connected to the Homegroup. Visit the Control Panel, locate the Homegroup settings, and then click the “View password” button.

The password protects your Homegroup, so only computers with the password can join it and access your shared files.

Viewing homegroup password in Windows 8.1

Now perform the same process on your other PCs — it’s exactly the same, except you’ll need to click the “Join Now” button and type the password. Windows automatically scans your network for a Homegroup and configures it on its own, so you don’t have to mess with any other settings.

For more advanced settings, open the Windows Control Panel and click “Choose homegroup and sharing options” under Network and Internet.

Using Your Homegroup

The rest is simple. Just click the Homegroup icon in Explorer to see folders, printers and media devices shared with you. You can quickly share files and printers across your home network — for example, you can access your media library from all your devices or use a printer plugged into one PC on all your PCs.

Browsing files shared with a homegroup in Windows 8.1

To share a file or folder with your other computers, place it into one of the folders or libraries you’ve shared with the Homegroup. You can also share any folder on your PC with the Homegroup — just right-click it and use the Share with options.

That’s it — you’re now sharing files and printers between your Windows computers with very little setup. No need to grab a USB drive or email a document just to move it among your home computers. If only we had Homegroups back in 1998!

Image Credit: Microsoft

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