How-To Geek

Complete Guide to Networking Windows 7 with XP and Vista

Since there are three versions of Windows out in the field these days, chances are you need to share data between them. Today we show how to get each version to be share files and printers with one another.

In a perfect world, getting your computers with different Microsoft operating systems to network would be as easy as clicking a button. With the Windows 7 Homegroup feature, it’s almost that easy. However, getting all three of them to communicate with each other can be a bit of a challenge. Today we’ve put together a guide that will help you share files and printers in whatever scenario of the three versions you might encounter on your home network.

Sharing Between Windows 7 and XP

The most common scenario you’re probably going to run into is sharing between Windows 7 and XP.  Essentially you’ll want to make sure both machines are part of the same workgroup, set up the correct sharing settings, and making sure network discovery is enabled on Windows 7. The biggest problem you may run into is finding the correct printer drivers for both versions of Windows.


Share Files and Printers Between Windows 7 & XP 

Map a Network Drive

Another method of sharing data between XP and Windows 7 is mapping a network drive. If you don’t need to share a printer and only want to share a drive, then you can just map an XP drive to Windows 7. Although it might sound complicated, the process is not bad. The trickiest part is making sure you add the appropriate local user. This will allow you to share the contents of an XP drive to your Windows 7 computer.


Map a Network Drive from XP to Windows 7

Sharing between Vista and Windows 7

Another scenario you might run into is having to share files and printers between a Vista and Windows 7 machine. The process is a bit easier than sharing between XP and Windows 7, but takes a bit of work. The Homegroup feature isn’t compatible with Vista, so we need to go through a few different steps. Depending on what your printer is, sharing it should be easier as Vista and Windows 7 do a much better job of automatically locating the drivers.


How to Share Files and Printers Between Windows 7 and Vista

Sharing between Vista and XP

When Windows Vista came out, hardware requirements were intensive, drivers weren’t ready, and sharing between them was complicated due to the new Vista structure. The sharing process is pretty straight-forward if you’re not using password protection…as you just need to drop what you want to share into the Vista Public folder. On the other hand, sharing with password protection becomes a bit more difficult. Basically you need to add a user and set up sharing on the XP machine. But once again, we have a complete tutorial for that situation.


Share Files and Folders Between Vista and XP Machines

Sharing Between Windows 7 with Homegroup

If you have one or more Windows 7 machine, sharing files and devices becomes extremely easy with the Homegroup feature. It’s as simple as creating a Homegroup on on machine then joining the other to it. It allows you to stream media, control what data is shared, and can also be password protected. If you don’t want to make your Windows 7 machines part of the same Homegroup, you can still share files through the Public Folder, and setup a printer to be shared as well.


Use the Homegroup Feature in Windows 7 to Share Printers and Files

Create a Homegroup & Join a New Computer To It

Change which Files are Shared in a Homegroup

Windows Home Server

If you want an ultimate setup that creates a centralized location to share files between all systems on your home network, regardless of the operating system, then set up a Windows Home Server. It allows you to centralize your important documents and digital media files on one box and provides easy access to data and the ability to stream media to other machines on your network. Not only that, but it provides easy backup of all your machines to the server, in case disaster strikes.


How to Install and Setup Windows Home Server

How to Manage Shared Folders on Windows Home Server


The biggest annoyance is dealing with printers that have a different set of drivers for each OS. There is no real easy way to solve this problem. Our best advice is to try to connect it to one machine, and if the drivers won’t work, hook it up to the other computer and see if that works. Each printer manufacturer is different, and Windows doesn’t always automatically install the correct drivers for the device.

We hope this guide helps you share your data between whichever Microsoft OS scenario you might run into!

Here are some other articles that will help you accomplish your home networking needs:

Share a Printer on a Home Network from Vista or XP to Windows 7

How to Share a Folder the XP Way in Windows Vista

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 04/20/10

Comments (42)

  1. vikas

    Good work done :)

  2. Heidi Kuzma

    I am still mystified as to how to configure the XP machine?

  3. Cheryl

    I am so glad I found you. I just switched to Windows 7 and my other computer is XP and you helped me alot with sharing issues.

    You are bookmarked

  4. Jon

    You did not go into hardly anything about networking and printing between Vista and Windows 7. It is an ardious task. You must change every permission to everyone manyally for everything you wish to share. I had a Microsoft guy do it for me because I have a copy of 7 that has support 24/7 for life. I could not have done it withou his help and knowledge. I just know you must manually give permissions to everyone in the workgroup to make it work.

  5. Mysticgeek

    @Jon: We have covered sharing a printer between XP and Vista in the following article…

  6. Vinod

    I get problem with using win7 share drive in win xp its show me security error what i have to do.
    i can use only public folder not more than that help me out i have win7 64bit proffesonal and winxp 32 bit sp2 .

  7. carl Hammonds

    I have 3 systems in my network 2 windows 7 and an XP. The 2 windows 7 PC work fine as a homegroup. But the XP does not work to either. I can pick up to W7 boxes on the XP box, but not the Xp box on either of the W7 boxes. When I click on the W7 boxes from the XP box I get the the message “\\desktop_W7 is not accessible. You do not have permissonto use this network resource. Contact the administrator odf this server if you have the access permisions. The network path was not found.”

    Any clues to what is wrong?


  8. John

    I have 4 xp node machines with a window 7 machine as host. has been working fine until power outage, now I can ping the w7 machine from all xp machines but can not ping xp from w7 machine. All setting are same as before outage using cat 5 with a switch, I tried new switch same problem. Turned of fire wall, made sure all w7 setting are correct. Any ideas?


    John having a bad Monday.

  9. Peter Hobbs

    My new WIN 7 on my computer (Peter-Dell530) “sees” the files on my wife’s XP computer (Verity09) just fine, and on her XP computer I can see a folder from my WIN 7 computer (\\Peter-Dell530) in her Win Explorer. But I cannot access the folder, which the message says is not shared. On Peter-Dell530, in the “Local Disk: (C:) Properties” dialog box, it reads “C:\Shared” and shows a Network Path: \\Peter-Dell530\c, BUT the little outlined box below it that reads “Share” is greyed out. I cannot figure out how to activate this sharing on Peter-Dell530, including how to make the proper entries in the “Advanced Sharing” dialog box to enable sharing. Do you have any advice? I’m desperate!

  10. Pieter

    Carl, this is what solved it for me:

    This is what solved it for me:
    – In WinXP, go to control panel –> administrative tools
    – Computer Management –> System tools –> Shared Folders –> Shares
    – You should get a list of the folders you are currently sharing
    – Double click on the folder that is causing you problems
    – Go to the security tab and click add
    – Click on advanced
    – Click on find now
    – A list of Names should pop up at the bottom, click on Everyone and then OK
    – Click OK again
    – Make sure that Read&Execute/List Folder Contents/Read are tagged and click OK
    – On you Win7 computer try again and it should work

    Bonus tip: if you are sharing multiple folders (say 4 with photos and 2 with music), when sharing them add a proper comment (I think you might need to enable advanced sharing not sure though). In Win7 you can group shared folders by comment, which results in a nicer allignment of you folders.

  11. David

    I’m having a similar issue to John; all XP machines on my network can ping the Windows 7 machine, but the Windows 7 machine cannot ping or see any of the XP machines on the network.

  12. David

    This is unreal.
    What ever happened to naming a workgroup?
    What ever happened to joining a workgroup?

    I have a Windows 7 machine and a couple of Windows Xp & Vista machines.. Can get them to see each other, much less sharge

  13. piper

    No help at all

  14. bob

    carl has the closest problem to mine. All results are like his, but we have a unix box shared folder that all the xp machines can attach to just fine. My new win 7 home premium cannot. acts just like what carl describes.

  15. srj

    win7 is shar but dont shwoing other pc so whats this issue plz.reply me

  16. tholits

    hello, i want to share my win xp internet connection with windows7, I can’t make it work, pls help! anyone.. thnx

  17. Hemant

    I have a xp system another is window7.
    Whenever we share any folder from xp to window 7 than it ask for a password as i login it with administrator but the system do not logon.
    How can i share any documents of windows7 from windows xp?
    Please providre me the right information.

  18. Matt

    Ok, here’s a zinger. My desktop PC has 7. I have two laptops, both with XP. One of the laptops (the IBM) can see the 7 machine and vice-versa, share folders, printers, etc. The other laptop (a Dell) can see none of the others. What have I done to my Dell to keep it from being able to see the 7 machine?

  19. Quik

    Used to work just fine however now my laptop (win 7 32bit on wireless) can see my desktop (win 7 64) and transfer files etc…however my desktop cannot access or for that matter even see the laptop on homegroup…when looking at network it shows the laptop but says that Error code: 0x80070035 network path not found

  20. Rutu

    good job ye guyz…..i always use this website for tech problems i hv in ma computers….thnxx…for guiding me through ……… =D

  21. len

    new new new to win 7 like linux more i would like setup guide on how to install network printer (stand alone)

  22. billthedoc

    My grandson and I like to wargame over a hardwire LAN – favorite is Joint Ops – cannot network the games for cooperative play since I upgraded (HAH!) to Windows 7 from Vista, which had no problem with the connectivity. Any thoughts as to how I can get this to work again, short of uninstalling 7 and reloading Vista? I have tried the solutions in the article, no joy.

  23. Keith

    Hi, I have a problem with sharing a printer on windows 7. I go to the Control Panel and Advanced sharing, and network discovery is turned on, but printer and file sharing, when I click it on and save it, doesn’t stay saved. When I go back, it is off again. How do I handle this?

  24. Art

    Your complete guide to network windows 7 and xp is worthless. Your guide isnt even a good comment stop waisting peoples time with baloney

  25. Victor O

    Give your guide to someone, along with a windows xp and 7 and tell the person to network them using your guide. you will see how impossible it would be. please do give a step-by-step and COMPLETE guide.

  26. Tom

    Easiest way to access window 7 computers from Win Xp.I am assuming that no computers are password protected and you are not keen on security. I was having the same problem. I could access my xp computers from window 7 computers but I could not access window 7 from Xp : Hers is the solution I found out:
    1. Disable the Password protection on network sharing
    a. Click My computer
    b. Click NetWork – then click Network and Sharing Center
    c. browse down to Password Protected sharing – turn it off
    Now click ok and come out of it
    Now click on my computer select the drive or folder you want to share or access from XP
    2. Right click on it
    from the pop up menu select Share with then click on Advanced settings
    a. Click on security tab on top
    You will get a list of users.. You can remove the authenticated users (or something similar) by clicking on Edit tab (or box) If you do not have everyone in the list Click on Edit
    b. Now click on Add
    c. Click on Advanced (box or tab)
    d. Click on Find now – you will get the Names (RDN)
    e. browse down and select Everyone
    f. click Ok
    g. now set the permissions as you like
    h. click Ok, Ok and come out of the security and sharing
    3. Go to your Xp machine and you will be able to access the window 7 folders easily
    Hope this helped you all.

  27. Adrian

    This was totally f*#K@#g useless.

  28. Adrian

    Tom, I tried your advice and I still don’t see squat. Thank you for trying. I guess W7 is a piece of crap!

  29. diamonddave

    Thanks tom. By only disabling password protection on the win 7 machine, I could see the win 7shares from all xp machines. Not useles after all are you :)

  30. David West

    Windows 7 is strange, one day it works, next day – who knows! I’ve had a mixed Windows 7 + XP network running perfectly for months, then suddenly on Friday the whole thing falls apart.
    I’ve spent the better part of 3 days fighting the thing. Done the Work network change from Homegroup, checked the workgroup name on all machines, made sure network discovery + no passwords + lower security encyption were set correclty, sorted out the Windows 7 shares and permissions (in both places), enabled file and printer sharing on XP, replaced the router in case it blew, swapped out the network cards in case one of them was iffy. Net result is that all the computers can see the internet and they can ping each other, but not all the computers can see each other. Crazy! Did Microsoft come out with an update that put my setup back into the stoneage? Are the machines rebelling for more donuts?
    To those of you still struggling with getting Windows 7 and XP to talk to each other – you are not alone!

  31. Steve R.

    We have a 64bit Sony Vaio running Windows 7 that cannot connect to the other computers on the home network. The other computers –> one with WindowsXP and two with Ubuntu. At this time, I’m just searching the various forums. I hope this conversion keeps-up.

  32. Kent B

    I am having the same problem as David west. Except mine gets stranger. I have a work group of 12 computers and two servers. The computers are running XPSP3 and the severs are running 2003. I also have one laptop that is running Windows 7 ultimate. I made a big mistake by letting Microsoft run the updates on the servers now i have nothing but problems. This is where my problem gets stranger. The laptop running 7 still stayed connected and communicating with server A but it can no longer connect to server B. Also, none of the XP computer can connect to the Laptop but all of the XP computers can communicate with Servers A & B just fine. So the only commonality between the problem is windows 7. But I am stumped as to why only communication with server B is no longer working when com to sever A is just fine. Both servers have the same OP system and both have the same user name. Thank you Tardsoft for doing what you do best…. screw crap up! Can anybody help or give an answer to this issue. I think it is the same problem as David two posts above mine.

  33. Kent B

    I have figured out my own problem…. so much for this forum being a lot of help. Here is what I discovered.
    CHECK YOUR TIME AND DATES. I found that the server had a different time and date from the laptop on the same LAN. Once I changed the time and date… it worked. Amazing Microsoft, your campaign for anti-time traveling is working. I recommend that all the machines date and times be synced when dealing with windows 7 and XP/Sever 2003 issues.

  34. Bill G

    Reason for post: help getting my XP machines to allow the W7 machine access to drives/files.

    Problem: W7 cannot access files on XP. XP can access files on W7.

    The Facts:
    Workgroup = Workgroup for all machines
    PW is turned off on W7 machine.
    Username & PW is the same on all machines.
    Firewalls are off
    Time is synced to
    W7 can see the drives/files shared on the XP.
    When trying to access I get either a dialog box requiring input of username & pw which fails or I get the umbigious “Not enough storage is available yadda yadda”. I have tried editing the registry for IPStacks. This doesn’t fix the problem.

    I’ve read and tried the posts but so far it still blocks the W7 machine. It’s as if the credential check between the two is failing. This problem did not happen when W7 was first installed, it appeared today after migrating my settings using the Windows Transfer which leads me to believe it’s a setting that is either wrong or corrupt.

    Any help would be great

  35. GEBS

    nice tom thanks…your the best …

  36. 3rdnella

    HI, i have a problem between win 7 and xp sharing…..i ping boothside and also i activate the file sharing…..same workgroup…but if you go to the control panel and check the workgroup, i cannot see the workgroup that i create ( boothside )….do you have any idea for this matter? may be you can help me guys…thx!

  37. Raj

    Thanks a Lot it worked

  38. Robert G.

    Hi all. I just wanted to say after you do all the above steps, and you still can’t get your Windows 7 machine to see your XP machine, and vice versa, you’re definitely not alone. I have been working with computers for years, going all the way back to DOS, Windows for Workgroups, Novel Netware, etc, and I’ve never had something just plain “not work” like this. I don’t know if my Windows 7 being 64 bit has anything to do with it or not, but I do know that I have followed the steps here, as well as on several other sites, and cannot get my Win 7 machine to talk to my Vista, or XP machine, but my XP and Vista machine see each other fine. And yes, I disabled homegroup, and put all machines on the same workgroup. SO MY ONLY SOLUTION after trying everything was the following. On my XP machine, I went to “Network Connections”, and clicked “New Connection Wizard”. I selected the “Set up an advanced connection”, and “Accept incoming connections”, then “Allow virtual private network connections”. From there, I put a check box in the names of the XP users I wanted to allow access, and clicked finish. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to have to connect to this VPN when I need files, etc, but at least I can access my files and printers via the network. Hope that helps someone who can’t get workgroups to work.

  39. thx

    Many many thanks to Tom. I’ve been trying to find a windows7 folder sharing solution for a long time, and your solution is the best!

    It’s really hard to understand why microsoft would have different versions of their own windows to screw one another. The permission and security settings in windows7 is totally confusing. Why don’t they just use the Unix model, which is simple and effective. chmod 777 and you get everything.

  40. david

    I have windows 7 and have xp talons games. Is there a way to run them on windows 7?


  41. brent

    Its works great under normal start-up (under msconfig) but if selective start-up and disable all start-up and some of services (hide all microsoft programs) this does not work. How or what is needed to have this work for networking through windows 7 and XP?

  42. norm

    Trying to network WIN 7 64 with XP 32. I can see both boxes in Win 7 however when I try to ope XP I get a box requiring a user name and password. User name? I assume the pass is merely the usual login pass, but I have set up no username. How to do this?

    Win 7 sees both boxes, XP sees neither, nor the printer.

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