Windows 7 : Sharing Resources on a Network - Using Public Folders, Identifying Shared Folders, Sharing a Printer

11/8/2012 2:27:34 AM

1. Using Public Folders

Windows 7 (and Windows Vista) includes a Public folder from which files are shared automatically. This feature is similar to the Shared Documents folder in Windows XP. You can simply move any files that you intend to share across all user accounts or computers in a private network to that folder. To get to that folder:

  1. Open any folder (for example, click the Start button and choose Computer or your user name).

  2. Expand a library in the left pane until you see the library's Public folder, as in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Public folders in various libraries.

The Public folders you see in the Navigation pane are actually all contained in a single folder named Public in the Users folder. (The default path is C:\Users\Public.) The Public folder is organized much like your Documents folders. It contains subfolders for storing Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos. If you have the Premium or Ultimate Edition of Windows 7, it also contains a Recorded TV folder, in which Media Center–recorded TV files are stored.

Clicking the leftmost button in the address bar of any folder also provides a quick link to the Public folder.

Perhaps the easiest way to move files into a Public folder would be to open one of its subfolders, like Public Documents or Public Pictures. Then open the folder that contains the files you want to share. Size and position the two windows so you can see both. Then drag files from one folder to the other. 

The Public folder is shared in a way where every user on the computer (and in the network) has free reign over its contents. In other words, every user has equal rights to the Public folder.

2. Advanced Sharing

Advanced Sharing allows a user with administrative privileges to set custom permissions for multiple users, control the number of simultaneous connections and caching for offline files, and set other advanced properties. Some of these topics require training in or knowledge of network administration. The Public folder and selective sharing methods described in the preceding sections should be adequate for a home network, and much easier to work with.

For people who understand the concepts (and potential problems) involved, I'll just quickly run through the process. Locate the folder you want to share, right-click that folder's icon, and choose Properties. Click the Sharing tab and click Advanced Sharing. Elevate your privileges (if prompted) and choose Share This Folder. Then click the Apply button. Set the number of simultaneous users up to a maximum of 20 and (optionally) add a comment.

To configure sharing permissions, click the Permissions button to open the Permissions dialog box for the shared folder. Here you can view existing sharing permissions and also add and remove users and groups. You'll notice that you are limited to specifying Full Control, Change, or Read permission sharing levels.

If the disk where the shared folder resides is on an NTFS volume, you can also set NTFS permissions, which are more flexible than sharing permissions. To set NTFS permissions, open the properties for the folder and click the Security tab (Figure 2).

On the Security tab you can add or remove users and groups and specify the permission levels for each one. The available permissions are more granular than the sharing permissions described previously, giving you finer control over what each user or group can do in the folder. As you assign permissions, keep in mind that the most restrictive permissions apply. For example, if you share a folder and apply Full Control for all users, but then set NTFS permissions so that all users have only Read access, then the more restrictive NTFS permissions will apply and users will only be able to read items in the folder, not modify them.

Figure 2. Security tab for NTFS permissions.

3. Identifying Shared Folders

In Windows 7 you have a few methods for identifying which folders are shared. First, in Windows Explorer, click a folder. If the folder is shared, you'll see the words "State: Shared" in the status bar at the bottom of the window.

You can also use the Shared Folders snap-in with the Computer Management console to see which folders are shared. To open Shared Folders, click Start, right-click Computer, and choose Manage. When the Computer Management console opens, expand the Shared Folders branch and click Shares. The folders that are shared, whether visible or hidden, appear in the right pane.

You can also use the NET command in a command console to see what is shared. Open a command console and type the command NET SHARE to see a listing of shared resources.

4. Sharing a Printer

Printers in a local area network will usually be connected to one of the computers in that network. To ensure that the printer is shared, so everybody in the network can use it, follow these steps:

With the right hardware, you can connect a printer directly to a LAN without going through a computer. With that type of arrangement, you need only to make sure that the printer is turned on and connected to the network, and configured with network settings appropriate for your network.

Figure 3. Sharing a printer.

  1. Go to the computer to which the printer is connected by cable. If either is turned off, turn on the printer first and the computer second.

  2. Click Start => Devices and Printers.

  3. Double-click the icon of the printer that you want to share.

  4. Double-click Customize Your Printer to open the Properties dialog box for the printer.

  5. Click the Sharing tab, then select Share This Printer, type a name in the Share Name text box, and choose to render print jobs on the client as in Figure 3.


    The Render Print Jobs on Client Computers option lets each user control print jobs from his or her own computer. In earlier versions of Windows, most print jobs had to be managed from the printer to which the computer was physically attached.

  6. Click OK.

When you click the printer's icon in Devices and Printers, the status bar will indicate that the printer is shared. The printer should show up automatically in all network computers' Print dialog boxes

What About Sharing Programs?

Though you can share folders and documents freely on a LAN, there's no way to share programs. You can only run programs currently installed on your computer and accessible from your All Programs menu. If you try to open a document on another computer, but don't have the appropriate program for that document type, you can't open the document.

Don't bother trying to copy an installed program from one computer to another — except in rare cases it won't work. Only programs that you specifically install on your own computer will run on your computer.

The only solution will be to install the necessary program on your own computer. If the program you need is free, like Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download and install the program in the usual manner.

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