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Lesson 5: Sharing With the Homegroup

Networking 5

The objective for this lesson is for you to gain a complete understanding of the Homegroup concept and how it works for network sharing.

We will start with a few requirements that must be met in order for you to successfully use the Homegroup. Then, you will learn how to create a Homegroup in both Windows 7 and Windows 8.x operating systems.

Once you have created your Homegroup, you will learn how to set a custom password for it and join other Windows computers and devices.

Then you will learn how to view and even print the password for your Homegroup, in case you forget it, and how to share libraries and printers with other computers that are part of it.

Last but not least you will learn how to leave a Homegroup when you no longer need to use it.

How to Change the Workgroup and Computer Name

In order for your Homegroup to work well and be able to join and detect other Homegroup computers and devices, you should have the same workgroup set on all the computers in your network.

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As mentioned in Lesson 2, the workgroup facilitates the detection of the computers and the sharing of resources like folders or printers that are part of it

By default, all modern operating systems have the workgroup set to “WORKGROUP”. If you have fiddled with this setting on one of your network computers, you should change it so that it matches with other computers in your network.

The computer name is not as important as the workgroup. The only rule here is that your computers must have unique names in the network they are part of. If you have two or more computers using the same name, you will encounter conflicts and issues.

You can change the workgroup and the computer name using the same procedure. First open the Control Panel and go to “System and Security > System”.

In the “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings” section you will see the existing computer name and workgroup. Click or tap “Change settings”.

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The “System Properties” window now opens.

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On the “Computer Name” tab, click or tap the “Change” button and the Computer Name/Domain Changes window is opened. Here you can change both the computer name and the workgroup by typing new values in the appropriate fields.

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When choosing a new computer name, keep in mind that it should have a maximum of 15 characters and should not include spaces or special characters like : \ * , . ” or @. When done, press “OK”.

Windows takes some time to apply your changes and then informs you on the success of this change. If you changed the workgroup and everything went well, Windows welcomes you to the new workgroup. Click or tap “OK”.

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If you changed only the computer name, you won’t see this prompt. Then, you are informed that you need to restart your computer to apply your changes. Click or tap “OK”.

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Close the “System Properties” window and you are asked to restart your computer. Choose whether you would like to restart your computer now or later.

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After Windows is restarted the new workgroup and/or computer name is applied.

How to Leave a Workgroup

A computer can never be without a workgroup but you can “leave” one. To leave a workgroup, you can change it using the method described above. When you change to a different workgroup from that used by the computers in your network, your computer will still be discoverable but you will start having issues when sharing with others on the network. That’s why it is best to use the same workgroup on all your network computers.

Homegroups

A Homegroup’s purpose is to easily facilitate the sharing of files and printers with other people on a home network. This feature doesn’t work on public or business networks because it is designed specifically for home users.

How to Create a Homegroup in Windows 7

To create a Homegroup in Windows 7 you need to use the “Control Panel”. The procedure works the same in Windows 8.x, if you prefer to use the Desktop method.

However, there’s also a faster way of creating it from “PC Settings”. Therefore, if you use Windows 8.x, we recommend that you read the next section.

Before you go ahead, please remember that the location of the active network connection must be set to “Home”. Otherwise, you won’t see the options for creating a Homegroup. If you are unsure how to do this, please refer to Lesson 4.

In the “Control Panel”, go to “Network and Internet > Homegroup”. You are informed that there is currently no homegroup on the network.

Click “Create a homegroup” to start a new one.

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You are asked to select what you want to share with other computers in the Homegroup. You can select any of the default user libraries and your printers.

When done selecting what you want to share, click “Next”.

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Windows automatically generates a secure password for your Homegroup. If you want to keep using it, write it down and click “Finish”.

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The Homegroup is now created and you can join other Windows computers and devices to it. If you don’t want to use the password that was generated by Windows, read the “How to Change the Homegroup Password” section later in this lesson.

How to Create a Homegroup in Windows 8.x

Windows 8.x operating systems offer two ways for creating a Homegroup: using the Control Panel and one using “PC Settings”. If you create a Homegroup from the Control Panel, the procedure is the same as in Windows 7 and slightly longer than when using the new “PC Settings”.

To open “PC Settings”, go to the Start screen and bring up the charms by flicking from the right side of the screen or pressing “Windows + C” on your keyboard. Click or tap “Settings” and then “Change PC Settings”.

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Then, go to “Network” and then to “HomeGroup”. Windows shares information about the Homegroup and how you can use it to share with others on your network. Click or tap “Create”.

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Windows takes a while to create the Homegroup. When done, you are shown several switches for sharing libraries and printers. You will learn more about them in the next sections of this lesson.

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Also, after these switches, you will see the password that was generated for the newly created Homegroup. If you don’t want to use the password that was generated by Windows, read the upcoming “How to Change the Homegroup Password” section.

The Homegroup is now created and you can start joining other Windows computers to it, and share content and devices between them.

Can you Create More than One Homegroup?

You cannot create more than one Homegroup on the same network.

If Windows detects an existing Homegroup, it won’t give you the option to create another one. It will only allow you to join the existing Homegroup. But, your Windows computer or device can be part of more than one Homegroup, if it gets connected to multiple networks.

For example, you can have your own Homegroup at home, another one in the network that’s available in your vacation house, and another at your friend’s house. If you take your Windows laptop or tablet with you, you will connect to each of these networks and join the appropriate Homegroup attached to them.

How to Change the Homegroup Password

Changing the password used by the Homegroup can only be done from the Control Panel; even in Windows 8.x you cannot change it from “PC Settings”.

Any computer that is part of the Homegroup can change the password. However, this means that you have to rejoin all the computers that are part of that Homegroup, using the new password. We recommended that you change the Homegroup password as soon as you create the new Homegroup, but before joining other Windows computers and devices to it.

Go to the HomeGroup control panel and you are shown what is currently being shared with the Homegroup and you can change several settings, including the existing password.

Click or tap the “Change the password” link found in the “Other homegroup actions” section.

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The “Change Your Homegroup Password” wizard is appears and you are informed that changing the password will disconnect everyone and that you will have to reconnect all the devices and computers that are part of it.

Go ahead and click or tap “Change the password”.

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You can type a new password or press the button to generate a new random password.

When done, press “Next”.

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The new Homegroup password is shown.

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Press “Finish” and join other computers and devices using this new password, using the instructions shared in the next section.

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Ciprian Adrian Rusen is an experienced technology writer and author with several titles published internationally by Microsoft Press. You can connect with him on 7 Tutorials, Twitter, and Google+ or even buy his books on Amazon.

  • Published 04/11/14

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