The purpose of this lesson is to explain all the network sharing settings available in Windows and their actions. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, unfortunately, this is not the case.
As you will see, there are many exchange settings. Some of them are easy to understand and others not so much. In addition, Windows 8.x introduces a new setting that is not documented anywhere. To understand this and what it does, we had to do a lot of experiments. But we understood it and can explain it to you so that you can set everything up correctly.
Another topic we’ll cover in this tutorial is how to change the location assigned to an active network connection. As you will see, with one simple change, Windows reconfigures all available network sharing settings. Therefore, it is important to understand when you should change the location of the network and how.
At the end of this lesson, you’ll learn how to configure your network profile and network sharing settings to enable only the features you want to use on your network.
Let’s get to work!
Where to Find Network Sharing Settings in Windows
Windows 7 and Windows 8.x have the same network sharing settings. They are in the same place, but their order is different, as is their grouping.
To find them, go to «Control Panel > Network and Internet» and then to «Network and Sharing Center». This window is very important for configuring network connections and network sharing. Here you will find options to change network adapter settings, a link to all network sharing settings, and wizards to set up new connections or troubleshoot.
To access your network sharing settings, click or tap the «Change advanced sharing settings» link in the left column.
You will now see a list of all available network sharing settings found in Windows, grouped by network location.
Change the default sharing settings
As we mentioned earlier, these settings appear in a different order depending on the version of Windows you are using.
In Windows 7, all settings are grouped into two categories: «Home or Work» and «Public». However, all network sharing settings are divided into groups according to the three network locations available in Windows 7 (to learn more about network locations, read Lesson 2).
You will see a line labeled «current profile» telling you which network location is assigned to the active network connection. The settings found in this profile will apply to your active network connection and not to others.
If you click the arrow next to each profile type, you can expand each of these groups and you’ll see that they include the same network sharing settings, except for «HomeGroup Connections» , available only for Home or Work network locations.
You will also see that each setting has different values for different locations. This is great because it allows Windows to quickly adjust your network sharing settings based on the network you’re connected to. However, for your home network, you can customize the defaults.
Windows 8.x is somewhat confusing because they bundle all network sharing settings into three sections: Personal, Guest or Public, and All Networks.
The Personal group includes three options: Network Discovery, File and Printer Sharing, and Homegroup Connections. These settings apply only to network connections that are set to private.
The «Guest and Public» group includes only two settings: «network discovery» and «file and printer sharing». They only apply to network connections that are set to «Public».
The All Networks group includes four options: Shared Folder Sharing, Media Streaming, File Sharing Connections, and Password Protected Sharing. The problem with these settings is that they apply to all network connections (both «private» and «public»).
Why is this a problem? Because if you enable «folder sharing» you will also enable it for «Public» network connections that may pose a security risk. Also imagine the problems that can arise when disabling password-protected access for all network connections.
That’s why it’s very important that you pay attention and adjust these settings while keeping security in the first place.
Windows network sharing settings
Before you start configuring all the network sharing settings, it’s best to understand what each setting does. Let’s look at each of them, one by one, depending on their order in Windows 8.x:
This setting makes Windows look for other computers and devices on the network and broadcasts your computer on the network so that others can see it. «Network discovery» must be enabled in order for your computer to be able to access and communicate with other computers on the network.
In Windows 8.x, you’ll also find a subset that says «Turn on automatic configuration of devices connected to the network.» Unfortunately, this setting is not documented anywhere by Microsoft, and figuring out what it does took us a lot of time and experimentation. It seems that when this is enabled, Windows can detect network connected devices such as external hard drives connected to your router or another PC and then use them to provide all sorts of services, including creating «File History» backups to those devices .
If this setting is disabled, Windows will not detect these devices and will not be able to use them to back up File History or provide other services.
Sharing files and printers
This setting allows Windows to share files and printers, and access files and printers shared with other computers on the network.
This setting must be enabled for any network sharing.
HomeGroup Connections — To enable or disable the homegroup feature in Windows. If you have multiple computers running Windows 7 or Windows 8.x, you should leave this feature enabled and use it to facilitate network sharing. To learn more about Homegroup and what it does, go back to Lesson 2. If you want to learn how to share using this feature, read Lesson 5.
When you disable this setting, Windows will only allow network sharing through the use of accounts and passwords. People on other computers must authenticate themselves using the user account with which you shared folders and devices.
«Sharing folders» is an old school concept for sharing folders with others on the same computer and network.
We will explain this in more detail in the next lesson. Until you read it, keep in mind that when you enable such sharing, anything you add to the «C:\Users\Public» folder will be publicly available to other devices and computers on the network.
This setting lets you specify where you want people and devices on your network to access pictures, music, and videos on your computer.
Basically, your standard libraries (images, videos, etc.) are available for media streaming and you can access them using Windows Media Player. If you have an Xbox console on your network, you can easily stream your libraries to it.
There is one important difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8.x: in Windows 7 this setting is disabled by default, but in Windows 8.x it is enabled and you must configure it to work.
File sharing connections
Not many people know that file sharing connections are encrypted by Windows. By default, Windows uses 128-bit encryption, so other users cannot easily intercept your data.