For the last lesson in this Geek School series, we will talk about accessing everything that’s shared on the network.
We will start by showing how to view and access what’s shared by others on the Homegroup, both in Windows 7 and Windows 8.x. Even though the steps involved are a little bit different, the basic principles are the same in both operating systems.
Then, we will explain how to access everything that’s shared on the network, even from computers that do not have Windows installed or that are not part of the Homegroup.
In the second half of this lesson you will learn how to monitor what you are sharing with the network and who is accessing what you are sharing.
Last but not least, we will close with a nice tip just for Windows 7 users. This operating system includes a small but nice networking feature which is not available in Windows 8.x.
How to View What is Shared With the Homegroup in Windows 8.x
To view everything that is shared with the Homegroup in your network, open File Explorer. Then, expand the “Homegroup” section. Here you will see all the user accounts sharing something with the Homegroup from computers that are part of the Homegroup.
One user account may exist on multiple computers so don’t worry if the number of users is not the same as the number of computers that are part of your Homegroup.
If you double-click or double-tap a user account, you see a list with all the Windows computers and devices where this user exists and it shares something with others. For example, we use the same Microsoft account on three of the computers that are found in my home network. For each computer, we see what we are sharing with others in the Homegroup.
The list of shared folders and resources differs from computer to computer. To access something that is being shared, double-click or tap on it.
How to View What is Shared With the Homegroup in Windows 7
Windows 7 displays what is being shared with the Homegroup in a slightly different way. First, open Windows Explorer and go to the “Homegroup” section.
There you will see all the user accounts and the computers that are sharing something with the Homegroup. Unlike Windows 8.x operating systems, here you will see each user account with an entry for each PC or device where it is used. For example, in the screenshot below you can see three entries for Ciprian Rusen, one for each computer using that account.
To access what is shared with the Homegroup by one user on a specific computer, double-click the appropriate entry. You can now view and work with what is being shared, depending on the permissions that were set when sharing with the Homegroup.
How to View What is Shared With the Network
Accessing what is shared with the network works the same in both Windows 7 and Windows 8.x. Open Windows Explorer in Windows 7 or File Explorer in Windows 8.x and go to the Network section.
Here you will see a network with all the computers and devices that are part of your network, which are turned on at that time. While the “Homegroup” section explained earlier only displays computers that are part of the Homegroup, the “Network” section displays all the computers that are part of your network and use the same Workgroup setting.
If you need a refresher about the Workgroup, please read Lesson 2. If you have Macs or Linux computers on your network, you will see them listed only in the “Network” section.
Below the list of network computers, most probably you will see a list of media devices you can access.
If you double-click or double tap a computer from your network, you will see what that computer is sharing with the network. To access any of its shared resources, double-click or double-tap on it.
If a network computer is not sharing resources with your user account, then the “Windows Security” prompt will be shown. You will be asked to enter the details of a user account that has access to the shared resources on that computer, before you can see what it is sharing with the network.
In the “User name” field, type the name of the network computer you are trying to access, followed by “\” and then the user account.
For example, “Computer1\HowToGeek” translates to: the computer named “Computer1” and the user name “HowToGeek”.
If you are using a Microsoft account, type the e-mail address of that user account. Then, type the password in the appropriate field and check whether you would like Windows to remember your credentials. When done, press “OK” and your will be able to access that computer’s shared resources.
If you double-click or double-tap a media device in the “Networks” section, Windows Media Player is opened. You will be able to use it for streaming the media libraries of the computers that are sharing them with the network and have made them available for streaming. Windows Media Player will be able to play their music, videos, pictures and recorded TV.
How to Monitor Your Shares, Active Sessions and Open Files with Computer Management
If you are not using Windows 7 Home Premium or earlier, the core edition of Windows 8.x or Windows RT, then you can use the “Computer Management” tool to monitor what you are sharing with others on the network, the users that have connected to your computer through the network and the files they have opened. Even though this tool exists in these Windows versions, it doesn’t include the management tools mentioned in this lesson.
For those of you that do have the required versions of Windows, go to Control Panel and then to “System and Security > Administrative Tools”. Here you will find several shortcuts including one named “Computer Management”. Double-click or double-tap on it.
Below you can see how the Computer Management tool looks like. As you will see, it includes many useful features.