Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Windows networking is difficult, to put it mildly. I'll walk through setting up a share and connecting to it, and explain why it's not terribly secure.

I have just purchased a laptop that has Windows 7 (Home Premium) installed and I want to share files with my desktop computer that has XP installed. My question is, how do I set up a 'sharing' folder on my laptop so that I can transfer files and folder to it, from my desktop PC.

For the record, networking sucks.

Sorry to put it that bluntly, but when it comes to making things easy, safe, and secure ... it's just not easy and often not secure.

It's one of the reasons why I actually don't deal with networking issues here on Ask Leo! very often.

However, this comes up often enough that I'll show you exactly what I do, discuss why it's not really secure, and throw out at least one alternative approach that is both easy and secure.

Turn off the sharing wizard

Particularly in situations where you're running different versions of Windows, I find that the so-called "sharing wizard" gets in the way more than it actually helps.

In Windows Explorer, press the ALT key to get the menu bar to appear if it's not visible and click Tools, Folder options..., click the View tab, and scroll down to the "Use Sharing Wizard (Recommended)" option:

Sharing Wizard Option

Make sure that it's unchecked and click OK.

Creating a share

The primary concept behind Windows file sharing is called a "share". A share is nothing more than a folder on a computer's hard drive that you "share out" to the network. Other machines on your network can then connect to that share and, depending on the permissions you set up, read and write all the files and folders within that shared folder.

The easiest way to create a share in Windows 7 is to right-click on the folder in Windows Explorer, click Share with and then Advanced sharing...:

Sharing menu items

If Advanced sharing is not present and things like "Homegroup" are mentioned instead, then the Sharing Wizard hasn't been turned off, as I recommended above.

In the resulting dialog box, click the Advanced Sharing... button.

In the next dialog box, make sure that Share this folder is checked:

Advanced Sharing dialog box

As you can see, you can set a share name that is different than the folder name if you like. I find it easier to leave the name the same as the folder name. You can also add comments to describe the purpose of this particular file share.

Now, click the Permissions button.

Shared folder permissions

By default, "Everyone" can only read the contents of the folder that you're about to share. Users on other computers who connect to this share cannot alter or add any files or folders. If that's all you need, click OK on all the dialog boxes that got you here - you're done setting up your share.

If you want other computers to be able to write to this shared folder, then click the Allow checkbox for Full Control. Once again, OK your way back out - you've set up your share.

Note that any machine on your local network will be able to access the contents of this folder. As you can surmise from some of the options that I've skipped over, there are techniques to restrict access, but those techniques are where things get complicated and quickly break. At home in what we can assume is a network of essentially trusted users, I strongly recommend keeping things simple.

Connecting to a share

On the remote computer, there are naturally a couple of ways to connect to the share that you've just created. I'll use Windows XP as my remote, but the fundamentals are the same in Vista and 7 as well.

In Windows Explorer, expand My Network Places, Entire Network, Microsoft Windows Network, your machine's workgroup name, the name of the machine on which you created the share, and you should see a list of shares:

Our example share in Network Places

Right-click the share and click Map Network Drive...:

Map Network Drive dialog

Select the drive letter that you want that shared folder on the other machine to appear as and click Finish. In this example, Drive "Y:" on our Windows XP machine is connected to the ExampleSharedFolder that we created on the Windows 7 machine.

I've found "Network Places" to be problematic at times, so instead of navigating through all of that, you can also just click on Windows Explorer's Tools menu, and the Map Network Drive... item there:

Map Network Drive dialog

In this case, the second field, which was filled in for us before, is now empty. Type in "\\" followed by the name of the machine that has the shared folder followed by "\" and the name of the share that we created. In our example here, that would be \\Notenquad\ExampleSharedFolder. Select a drive letter, click Finish, and once again, the local drive letter on this machine now refers to the shared folder on the other.

Finally, I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't tell you what I really do. Smile

In a Windows Command Prompt, I'd type in the following:

NET USE Y: \\Notenquad\ExampleSharedFolder

Like the prettier UI above, that connects the drive letter Y: to the remote shared folder.

Easy(ish) but not very secure

What I just described is exactly what I do on my home network, but there are risks.

Any machine that successfully connects to my home network has access to all of the shares that I've created that way. You might even have noticed a drive "C" in an example above, which should send security concious readers running away screaming, because they'd correctly assume that I've shared out my entire C drive (with full control, no less).

That would be a security nightmare if I didn't explicitly trust every other machine on my network.

The problem is, as I alluded to at the very begining, networking correctly and securely - particularly in a small home network - is extremely difficult and error prone. The net result is that I've taken the lazy way out, because I can get it to work.

I'm both ashamed that I would do so and frustrated that I would have to.

So my caveat to you is simply this: be careful. Understand the security ramifications of opening up a share to "Everyone", particularly if they're also given "Full Control". Be selective of what you share; for example, do as I say, not as I do, and don't share out your entire system drive.

One safer alternative

If all that you want to do is move files between machines, consider using a service like Dropbox or some of its competitors. Dropbox is both simple to install and configure and makes moving files around quite easy.

Article C4985 - November 15, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

25 Comments
Ron West
November 15, 2011 2:20 PM

Thanks Leo, for a very detailed article. However, you have made the share folder on the Windows 7 computer and for me that is in 'reverse'. How would you set it up the other way round, i.e. set up the share on XP?
I have noted your suggestion to use 'Dropbox' to share files and folders and this is interesting - jusy how does that work?

Without creating a duplicate article, the best I can offer is that it's very, very similar to what I just described above, just do the sharing operations on XP. As for dropbox I have several articles here - just use the search in the upper right for "dropbox".

Leo
17-Nov-2011
Mark J
November 15, 2011 10:35 PM

@Ron
Just download and install DropBox from their website, and follow their instructions.
Dropbox

Bob
November 16, 2011 3:38 AM

Dropbox to transfer files between two machines you physically own is all well and good, if you have infinate internet allowance. For some of us that still pay by the Mb it's not an option.
I go the other way - I have a 1Tb portable USB2.0 drive, and store all my data there. Need it on the other machine? Simply unplug it and carry it over there.
Once in a while I get permission glitches (presumably because the 'other' machine took ownership at some point), but it's a simple matter to take ownership back.

Ken B
November 16, 2011 9:10 AM

I have the opposite problem. My Vista and Win7 boxes can access shares on some of the XP boxes, but not on others. (And it's the same set, regardless of whether it's Vista or Win7 trying to access them.) I haven't found any common properties between those that "work" and those that "don't work". I even created new accounts on the XP boxes that are only 7 characters long and without any spaces or punctuation in the name or password, just in case it was some weird compatibility thing. Yet, the XP boxes that can't be accessed from Vista/Win7 remain. Note that the other XP boxes have no problem accessing them, and that they can access the Vista/Win7 shares w/o problem. (Since I can transfer files by initiating them from the XP box on the rare occasion I need to do so, I haven't looked any further into the problem that what I described above. However, it's still nagging me as to what's the actual problem.)

Yep, this is the kind of thing I was referring to when I mention how hard networking is.
Leo
17-Nov-2011
Stephen Mann
November 22, 2011 8:58 AM

Leo - in Article C4985 - November 15, 2011, you only answered the EASY question. Sharing a Win 7 folder for XP access. The other way around is the hard part - sharing an XP folder for a Win 7 user to gain access. I've been doing networking ever since Novell was king, but Win 7 has made network folder sharing on mixed system networks almost impossible.

Michael
November 22, 2011 12:47 PM

I too have the scars to show for fighting with networking between Windows XP and 7. On my LAN I will, at times, use Remote Desktop rather than fight this fight.

To me this says A LOT about Microsoft. Each new version of Windows is, in so many ways, a step back. How many years did it take them to release Vista and yet, it was poorly done. They are company in decline.

In this case, instead of making networking between older versions of Windows and Win7 simple and easy, they added new Win7 only features that just complicates things.

Tony Kightley
November 23, 2011 12:57 AM

Yes, a Dropbox is the obvious solution to this problem of sending files from one computer to another but, for relatively small files, I send them as an attachment to an e-mail addressed to myself. It works fine.

Steve Jones
November 23, 2011 6:59 AM

I don't know what all the fuss is about. I have 4 XP machines, 1 Win 7 Starter netbook and 1 Win 7 pro desktop. I did get all to share easily except, the Win 7 Starter netbook which was the trickiest. I used Classic Shell on it which reverts some of the menu structure to XP style. It allowed me to enter my Workgroup name and then BAM I was on the network.

I also have a Unbuntu Linux installation dual boot (on the Win 7 pro desktop). It also sees the shares. The scary part is Unbuntu let me on the workgroup without entering the Workgroup name (kinda scary)

Steve Jones
November 23, 2011 7:01 AM

I also had a Win 2000 machine on the network until the motherboard died. It was tricky to share with XP the first time.

Doug Fordham
November 23, 2011 9:36 AM

I've followed every step as you've listed them here, but I still can't access my laptop (Win 7) from my desktop (Win XP Pro). I keep getting the message "\\Laptop052010 is not accessible. You might not have permission to use this network resource. Contact the administrator... [I am the only user]. The network path was not found." However, I can access my desktop from my laptop just fine.

TomB
November 23, 2011 2:49 PM

I have an external drive for back-ups from my Win7 laptop, and my and my wife's XP desktops. I have to manually drag files from one of the computers to the external drive, and then go to the computer on which I want the file, and drag it from the external drive. It's kludgy, but it works. I made the mistake of buying an external drive that didn't come with it's own auto-b/u software. I learned my lesson and bought my mother an external drive with it's own b/u software pre-loaded.

Steve
November 23, 2011 3:48 PM

Leo,
Your opening statement, " . . . networking s----," is crude, vulgar, and very unprofessional, and it detracted from what followed. Do you even know what that expression implies and suggests? If you don't, then you should have found out before you used it. And just because one hears women and children using it, and the dimwits in the media have adopted it and throw it about as freely as, "Have a nice day," that doesn't excuse your using this patois of the provincial or make it right. Among a host of reasons, it is disrespectful to that segment of your audience that still has the intelligence and ability to communicate without lowering themselves to the level of illiterates who seem to feel a need to salt their sentences with the "f" word and similar such words and expressions in their attempts to make their pixilated points. Additionally, as a writer, one should hope, one would expect, that you have a better vocabulary from which to draw something more appropriate to use. What would your opinion be of a minister, an educator, or a dignitary if you heard them using it? And just because politicians and the President and First Lady have used it too, that still doesn't make it right or acceptable. Please, keep it clean.

Glenn P.
November 24, 2011 2:43 PM

For Steve:

I am as against gratuitous expletives as anyone, but there are some situations for which an expletive is legitimately called for, an for which no euphemism is appropriate.

From all that I have read, Windows networking is most definitely one of these.

And the word you complain of isn't even an "expletive" in my book!

Please don't be a pain in the you-know-where.

Smile

Leo
26-Nov-2011
Ray Foster
November 26, 2011 4:22 PM

Leo, I for one agree with you, (you do an outstanding professional job). You can tell (from me), Steve, he is truely a pain in you know what!

Ralph Kuhn
November 30, 2011 9:07 AM

Leo, just bought a new lap top w/ windows 7 and could not get the files transferred per Windows instructions. Tried "dropbox" and can't believe how fast, and easy it is. Thanks for recommending it.
Ralph Kuhn

Bill F
December 1, 2011 3:46 AM

For Steve: You can't be serious. Lighten up, my man ... Life's too short.

For Leo: Networking does as you suggest, and thanks for telling it like it is in a way virtually everyone of every age understands.

Hey, use of lingo and euphemisms common in writing is perfectly acceptable if also commony used in society-at-large.

Note that "cuss words" are neither lingo nor euphemism, and are therefore not acceptable for use by any self-respecting writer, dammit ...

Lee B
December 1, 2011 5:53 AM

Leo: Thanks for your newsletter and advice. Have enjoyed and learned much from you over the years.

{namecalling removed}

Schnazola
December 1, 2011 8:09 PM

For some reason I get prompted for a Username and Password when I try to connect to the shared folder from the remoter machine. (The remote's running XP Home, and the folder I just "shared" is running Windows 7 Home Premium.)

This may be relevant, too: When Exploring the XP machine, I see two different network names under My Network Places: Mshome and Workgroup. The new shared folder is under the latter. Would changing Workgroup to Mshome resolve the issue?

Networking is too complex for that to be a simple yes/no answer. I will say that making sure that all of your computers are on the same Workgroup is one thing that can help.
Leo
02-Dec-2011
Schnazola
December 3, 2011 3:47 PM

Changing the workgroup name on my new Windows 7-based laptop from WORKGROUP to MSHOME did the trick. That and the fact I found a setting under Advanced Sharing for passwords, which I turned off, so I am no longer prompted for a username and password. Mapping a drive letter to the share was no problem then.

Sam77
December 17, 2011 9:48 PM

Two poducts that I have had nothing but "JUST WORKS" experiences with:
1) "Targus High-speed File Transfer Cable" - about $30 - USB to USB - I have NEVER had this not work. Google it.
2) Cisco's "Network Magic" (software). Try the trial version. I paid $24 for one-year (for I believe up to eight computers) and will pay it again next year. It just FIXES your network connections...it just DOES! (I have had ALL the frustrations expressed in this article and reader's comments). In fact, after uninstalling it from my laptop, whatever it fixed...stayed fixed (I won't go into why I uninstalled it - not important here).

JeffInTampa
December 21, 2011 7:41 AM

I've had a mix of Windows XP, Windows 2000, Vista and (now) Windows 7 computers on my home network (as members of WORKGROUP), and never had a problem until I replaced a failed WRT54G with an E3000. Forget shares - most of the time dissimilar computers can't even see each other. When they finally appear (as much as a day after being rebooted) the shares don't work, even where the same account credentials exist on both machines. Clearly, there's an issue with discovery; if everything stays up long enough all the shares work eventually, but I can't depend on having them available. Curiously, all the machines can see the Z: share on the thumb drive connected to the HP C309g-m printer/scanner, but that's too slow and will fail eventually. My long term solution was to attach and old 500G USB drive to the E3000, and add a BlackArmor NAS (which I highly recommend) on one of the E3000's gigabit connections.

Sam77
February 27, 2012 7:42 AM

I found this article very helpful, entitled:
"HOW TO MAKE WINDOWS 7 WORK WITH OLDER VERSIONS FOR NETWORKING AND FILE SHARING" at:
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itpronetworking/thread/033c418b-1096-4df7-bfad-fd3d431f3cd5

See ESPECIALLY Step 4.

Paul Hutchison
March 2, 2012 8:15 PM

Hi Leo

Love your site - has got me out of trouble quite a few times.

I agree that Windows Networking is a mess! Why do they have to make it so difficult, and make the error messages so uninformative?

I have a new Win 7 Pro 64 bit laptop which I am trying to network with my XP Pro SP3 desktop - specifically, to share the drives of each machine with the other.

This mostly works OK, but when I try to use the XP machine to delete or create a directory on the Win 7 machine I get the old "Access is denied" message.

When I try to save a test .txt (Wordpad) file from the XP machine into a pre-existing folder on the Win 7 D drive, I get a message saying something like "You do not have permission to do that. See an Administrator".

The networking is set up to require password access to the Win 7 D drive, and the account (user name and pwd) I enter is configured as an Administrator on Win 7. In fact, turning off the need for user name and pwd doesn't seem to make any difference - it still doesn't work.

I've followed all the instructions in your article, to no avail.

Doing a Google search on this issue brings up hundreds (if not thousands) of results. Some people advocate using the Registry editor to make adjustments, others say use the Security Policy utility to make changes (probaly also edits teh Registry).

Have (nervously) tried a cpl of those things, with not improvement (and the put the Security Policy parameters back to defaults).

There must surely be a way of getting Win 7 and XP machines to network properly... I thought MS had learned from the disaster that was Vista and that Win 7 would work properly in a basic, basic function such as this... apparently not.

Is there any solution you know of? Or is there a low cost alternative to Windows Networking (maybe from Novell?). MS rather unhelpfully state "There is no alternative to Windows Networking" - see http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-networking/alternative-to-windows-networking/22987407-9e7d-4500-9e37-63b906f85de2 Could this be a coercive tool to get people to upgrade from XP to Win 7? (which is itself a tortuous process if you haven't already 'upgraded' to Vista, I believe).

All help welcome! Thanks.

Paul Hutchison
March 2, 2012 8:38 PM

One more thing:

I've read the article at:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itpronetworking/thread/033c418b-1096-4df7-bfad-fd3d431f3cd5

and followed all the instructions. I changed the Security Permissions to Full Control for everyone, even users of the Win 7 machine itself (NB I was working with the Permissions for the D drive, not a folder on it - and there was a lot of drive activity as it went through and change the Permissions for all the folders on the drive, I assume).

I was hopeful...but my hopes were dashed. Still no ability to create/delete folders on the Win 7 D drive, still unable to write a file to an existing folder on the Win 7 D from the XP machine.

Aaarrrrrrrrhhhh!!! I've wasted HOURS on this!

Don't really want to have to put specific files into a public folder to move them across, I just want to be able to use the Win 7 laptop as a file server from the XP desktop so I have all my files there when I go out and about.

I guess I could use an external USB HDD plugged into the XP machine (which I think would be accessible from both of them), but it seems ridiculous to have to do this, run down the battery on the laptop with an external HDD etc.

In desperation, I considered calling Microsoft. After entering the product I/D of my copy copy of Win 7 I was told that it is an OEM copy and that the computer manufacturer would be the ones to help.

Called Lenovo tech support. Initially they didn't want to know ("Hardware support only"), then agreed to take a look using remote access.

Half an hour later, no solution found, give up...

I guess that MS will talk to me about it for a fee, but that just seems wrong as the machine (and therefore the copy of Win 7) is very new.

I've been loyal to MS and Windows all these years (and I love all my Thinkpads) but it makes me think about Apple... (or would this basic requirement be just as difficult and convoluted to implement there?)

Please, someone, tell me there's some easy way of fixing this.

Frustrated rant over :-)

PS Could I put the entire Win 7 D drive into the public folder? Seems crazy, but might that work? Reluctant to do it just on a whim as there is over 100GB of data involved.

Abhaysingh Narpatsingh Rajpurohit
February 26, 2013 4:59 AM

My Shared folder have all permission , so i want to know the user name () who deleted or modified some files from My Share folder

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