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Share Folders & Files Between Vista and XP Machines

Since Microsoft has three operating systems in use, chances are you’ll find yourself needing to share files between XP, Vista, Windows 7, or some combination of the three. Here we take a look at sharing between a Vista and XP on your home network.

Share Without Password Protected Sharing

If you’re not worried about who’s accessing the files and folders, the easiest method is to disable Password Protected Sharing. So on the Vista machine open Network and Sharing Center. Under Sharing and Discovery make sure Network Discovery, File Sharing, and, Public Folder Sharing are turned on.

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Also turn off Password Protected Sharing…

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Now go into the Vista Public folder, located in C:\Users\Public, and add what you want to share or create a new folder. In this example we created a new folder called XP_Share and added some files to it.

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On the XP machine go into My Network Places and under Network Tasks click on View Workgroup Computers.

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Now you’ll see all of the computers on your network which should be part of the same Workgroup. Here we need to double-click on the Vista computer.

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And there we go…no password to enter so we can access the XP_Share folder or anything else that is located in the Public folder.

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Share with Password Protected Sharing

If you want to keep Password Protected Sharing turned on, then we need to do things a little different. When it’s turned on and you try to access the Vista machine from XP, you’re prompted for a password, and no matter what you think the credentials are, you can’t get access…very annoying.

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So what we need to do is add the XP Machine as a user. Right-click on Computer from the Start Menu or desktop icon and select Manage from the context menu.

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The Computer Management screen opens up and you want to expand Local Users and Groups, then the Users folder. Then right-click any open area an select New User.

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Now create a new user name and password, you can also fill in the other fields if you want. Then make sure to uncheck User must change password at next logon and check the box next to Password never expires. Click the Create button and close out of the New User screen.

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You’ll then see the new user we created in the list and you can close out of the Computer Management window.

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Now back on the XP computer when you double-click on the Vista machine, your prompted to log in. Just type in the username and password you just created.

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Now you’ll have access to the Public folder contents.

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Set up Sharing on XP

If you want to access a shared folder from the Vista computer located on the XP machine, it’s the same process in reverse. On the XP computer in Shared Documents, right-click on the folder you want to share and select Sharing and Security.

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Then select the radio button next to Share this folder and click Ok.

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Go into Computer Management and create a new user…

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Now from the Vista machine double click on the XP machine icon, enter the password, then access the folders and files you need.

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If you have multiple versions of Windows on your home network, you’ll now be able to access files and folders from each of them.

If you want to share between Windows 7 and XP check out our article on how to share files and printers between Windows 7 and XP. You might also want to check out our article on how to share files and printers between Windows 7 and Vista.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/8/10

Comments (11)

  1. siddharth

    Nice info.Step by step pics are very charming .

  2. amozai

    Great information.
    Will try it out between my XP – desktop and vista – laptop.

    thank you so much.

  3. Pipo

    I seem to remember trying (… and failing) to share files and folders between XP and Vista after I bought a Vista laptop a year ago, it took me half a day searching the Internet, who would’ve thought it would be this easy?

    Thanks, Mysticgeek

  4. Yash

    Also check Opera Unite i think its better than this cause your not limited to Windows. http://unite.opera.com/

  5. nassir

    hi,
    I can’t share directly, without puttin in Public Forlder, in Vista. When I do it by XP it works, but in Vista, when i right-click and share any folder then it does not open in XP, though all files of Public folder of Vistan run in my xp windoes, can u help me plz
    by

  6. jaKob

    Thank you soooo much. Just wanna say MicroSoft sucks! Thanks

  7. Manu

    Checkout this app for easy folder sharing..

    http://easyshare.codeplex.com/

  8. zahra

    very nice information. Thank you so much.
    good luck.

  9. Ruth

    Thank you! This worked perfectly and I really appreciate all your screen shots and easy to follow and understand steps. I appreciate your help.

  10. Ray

    I thought this was going to be the fix until I when to computer management and found no ‘Local Users and Groups’ in the tree

  11. Ray

    It seems vista home premium can’t use the Local Users and Groups snap in

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