Vista Networking Tips: Sharing on a Wi-Fi Network Using Windows Vista

A look at how sharing network resources differs from Windows XP, as well as step-by-step directions for performing common network sharing tasks in Vista.
Posted October 26, 2007

Eric Geier

Eric Geier

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Although setting up shared resources in Vista is similar to what you may be used to in Windows XP, it can be a bit confusing at first. Therefore, we'll take you step-by-step through performing common network sharing tasks and configurations.

Sharing Files Using the Public Folder

Windows Vista doesn't have the Shared Documents folder that Windows XP offered; however, the Public folder is included, offering a very easy way to share files and documents with others on the same network in addition to other user accounts on the PC.

As Figure 1 shows, you can access the Public folder from Windows Explorer or Computer.

Figure 1

You can simply drag and drop (or copy and paste) files and folders into the Public folder (or one of its subfolders) to share them with users on the same PC and others on the same network.

Although Vista automatically shares the Public folder with other network users, there is a security measure in place to help prevent unintended sharing of your Public folder when on public and other un-trusted networks, such as Wi-Fi Hotspots. As mentioned in Intro to Wi-Fi Networking Using Windows Vista, there's a new network classification scheme where you're prompted to classify the networks you connect to: Home, Work, or Public.

For example, if you choose Public for your network location, Vista will automatically disable all network discovery and sharing (the Public folder and any manually shared folders) to protect your documents and privacy while on the unsecured network. Then if you go back home and connect to your network (which you most likely classified as Home), sharing will be re-enabled.

You can also easily disable the sharing of the Public folder at any time via the Network and Sharing Center, which can be accessed by right-clicking on network status icon in the system tray. Then just scroll down to the green and/or gray status lights, click the arrow to the right of the Public folder sharing light, select your desired setting, and click Apply.

Sharing a Specific Folder

In addition to dragging files over to the Public folder, you can also enable the sharing of just about any folder on your PC, just like you could in Windows XP. Setting up sharing for folders in Vista isn't much more difficult than in XP, although it is a bit more confusing at first. Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click on the folder you want to share and select the Share… option. The File Share window pops-up. Figure 2 shows an example.
Figure 2
The list box with the Name and Permission Level fields are those who can access the shared folder (we'll call it the Access List). The Windows account you're currently logged on is automatically added to the Access List.
2. Using the drop down list (just above the Access List), select who you want to add to the Access List and click Add. To share the folder among network users (and consequently all other user accounts on the PC), select and add the Everyone entry from the drop down list.
3. After adding an entry to the Access List, you can modify the Permission Level by clicking its arrow.
Here are the attributes of the levels:
  • Reader: Can view shared files, but not add, alter, or delete them.
  • Contributor: Can view or add shared files, but can only alter or delete files he or she has contributed.
  • Co-owner: Can view, add, alter or delete any shared file.
4. Once you're done click the Share button to apply the changes. Then you'll see a window letting you know the folder is now shared and its path.
5. Click Done to exit.

Sharing a Printer

Just like in Windows XP, you can easily set up a printer that's connected to a PC to be shared among users on the network; here's how:

1. Open the Printers folder from the Control Panel.
2. Right-click on the printer you want to share and select the Share… option. The printer properties window pops up with the Sharing tab selected.
3. Click Change Sharing Options. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
4. Check the Share this printer option.
5. Enter the name in the Share name field that you would like to show in the network resources.
6. Click OK.

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