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How to Access Shared Windows Folders and Stream Videos Over Wi-Fi on Android

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Want to play videos from your computer on your Android, without the hassle of copying them to your device’s internal storage? Share a folder over the network with Windows. You can copy files back and forth over Wi-Fi, too.

Android doesn’t include built-in functionality for connecting to Windows shared folders or HomeGroups, but it’s pretty easy to set up. We’ve also covered using Plex, a dedicated streaming solution, but this is even simpler.

Sharing Folders on Windows 7

To share a folder and make it accessible from Android, you’ll need to share it with “Everyone.”

To do this, navigate to the folder you want to share, click the Share with menu, and select Specific people.

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Enter “Everyone” in the box and click the Add button.

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By default, Everyone will only have Read permissions – if you also want to copy files from your Android to the shared folder, you can change the permission level to Read/Write.

Click the Share button after configuring your permissions.

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Next, go to the Network and Sharing Center. Click Start, type “Network and Sharing” and press Enter to quickly open it.

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In the Advanced sharing settings, you may want to disable password-protected sharing. If you disable password-protected sharing, only folders you share with “Everyone” will be accessible without a password.

You can also try leaving password-protected sharing enabled, in which case you’ll need to enter user account credentials before connecting to your shared folder on Android. This may work, although I couldn’t get it to work, myself.

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Accessing Shared Folders on Android

To access the shared folder on Android, we’ll use ES File Explorer. It’s high-quality, free, and supports Windows shared folders with the SMB protocol.

From ES File Explorer’s main screen, swipe from the right to the left to access the LAN section. You can also tap the Local option at the top left corner of the screen and select LAN in the list.

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Tap the New button on the toolbar in the LAN Shares section and select Scan to scan your network for PCs sharing files. You can also tap New and select Server to enter your computer’s IP address manually.

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After the scan is complete, tap a computer to view its shared files. If ES File Explorer finds your computer but continues scanning for more computers, tap the screen to stop the scan process.

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Log in as Anonymous if you disabled password-protected sharing earlier. If you didn’t, try to log in with your Windows username and password – this never worked for me, however.

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Browse to the folder you shared in your computer’s file system. I shared my user account’s Videos folder, so I’d tap Users, tap my user account’s name, and tap Videos.

While we can see other shares like C$ here, they aren’t accessible. We’d see an error message if we tried to access them anonymously.

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Tap a video, music file, image, text file, or any other type of file to view it. You can also long-press a file to view a menu and optionally copy it to your device.

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If you tap a file type Android supports – such as an MP4 video file – it will open immediately and start streaming to your device.

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Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 08/4/12

Comments (10)

  1. Moby

    Hi. Never knew you could do that, brilliant. However, my Samsung Galaxy S Advance won’t stream video properly. I get no picture and stuttering sound. Any ideas?

  2. Tasaduq

    How to view these same files on my laptop with windows 7??

  3. Allan

    this is nice tip i didn’t know this is possible in android. Now i like to find out how to access music files when Media sharing is enable in Windows 7. Chris do you know how to do that?

  4. Dave

    I use the same steps to share files to my WD TV Live, to make the share much neater, on the computer navigate to your User folder and in the settings select ‘Don’t share’ (or untick the box in properties) this will preserve the shared folders you have specifically selected but the ‘User’ files will then not display on the Android phone.

    @Allen, you can do it this way, share the folder that contains your music files, then you can navigate and play them through this App.

  5. Dave

    Actually I don’t use the exact same way I right click on the folder I want to share select Properties, in the sharing tab select ‘Advanced Sharing’ tick the ‘Share this folder’ click ok, then again on the sharing tab select ‘Share’ in that add ‘Everyone’.

    everytime you share a new folder it will also share your User folder like above, if you navigate to the User folder and select share with Nobody that will remove it, but keep the folder you have just shared, shared.

    in My Computer select your computer in the ‘Network’ section to see the folders you are sharing also to check if the User folder was removed.

  6. Dark Reality

    I’ve been doing this for about six months. I also use ES File Explorer. I own a license to Astro, but it had issues with something — root access perhaps? — and I jumped ship. ES is nice; it can also read all your cloud drives. Amazon, Box, SugarSync, Google Drive, SkyDrive, and even Dropbox. I have about 70GB of cloud, all accessible through that one app. Pretty sweet deal.

    Shame about the dummy directories. I had that problem too, it’s a real drag. For everything else it works pretty good.

  7. hank

    Funny, I see two IP addresses but just get “Logon failure” and then it asks for username and password – I really wish I could make this work – it seems so cool!

  8. Michael Harrolle

    I used basically the same steps on Linux Mint. Works there also. Gonna save me a ton of storage on my device.

  9. Doc

    I use File Expert on my Cruz T301 tablet (Android 2.2).

    Also, Android doesn’t obey the rules for SMB (Samba, or Server Message Block) shares…any share name ending in $ (C$, G$, IPC$) is supposed to be hidden.

  10. Scott

    (ATRIX2) I have been looking for something like this! Works great on my phone. Really like the ability to copy files and paste to my SD card.
    Would never have known about this if not for HTG.

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