In this lesson you will learn several networking concepts: the workgroup, the computer name, the IP address, the network location and the Homegroup. Our objective is for you to understand what these concepts are and what their role in network sharing is.
Even though the workgroup is a very old concept that may not seem relevant in today’s operating systems, it is still important and it can negatively impact your networking experience. That’s why we will explain it in detail.
While you may already know what a computer name and IP address are, you may not fully understand the concept of network locations that was introduced in Windows 7. As you will see in this lesson, the location you assign to a network has a great impact on your network sharing experience. With only one setting you completely change the way you can or cannot do sharing.
The Homegroup is another subject that doesn’t seem to be easily understood by users. Even though it is simple to set up and, not that many people understand why they should use it and how. In this lesson we will explain the basics about the Homegroup while in future lessons we will share in detail how it works.
Without getting these basics right, you won’t be able to successfully share folders and devices, especially when you have multiple operating systems in your network. Let’s get started.
What is a Workgroup?
The workgroup is a collection of computers that are part of the same network. All the computers are peers and do not have control over another computer. The workgroup facilitates the detection of the computers that are part of it and the sharing of resources like folders or printers.
Workgroups are not protected by the use of a password and they can be created only for computers that are part of the same local network. They are designed for small networks like those found in your home or small businesses. According to Microsoft, there should not be more than 20 computers in the same workgroup, so that the management of the network doesn’t get too complicated.
The workgroup can be joined by computers with diverse operating systems. You don’t have to have the same operating system or the same version in order to use this feature.
How to Learn Whether Your PC is Part of a Workgroup
By default, all Windows computers are part of a workgroup named WORKGROUP. Therefore, when setting up your network, you should not need to configure this setting.
However, you can double check that your Windows PC or device is part of a workgroup by going to “Control Panel > System and Security > System”. There you will find a section named “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings”.
Look for the entry named “Workgroup”.
What is the Computer Name?
Every operating system asks you to give a computer name when you install it on a PC or device. Windows is no exception to this rule. That’s because this name is important to identify the computer when it is part of a network.
Your computer’s name can be learned by going to “Control Panel > System and Security > System”. There you will find a section named “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings”. Look for the entry named “Computer name”.
In order to successfully join a workgroup and use all the available network sharing features, your computer must have a unique computer name. This name should have a maximum of 15 characters and should not include spaces or special characters like : \ * , . ” or @.
What is the IP Address?
When you connect to a network, you will always receive an IP address. IP address means “Internet Protocol” address and it is a numerical label for your computer. This concept is similar to the computer name in the sense that it is used to identify your PC or device on the network and provide a unique address where other computers or devices can find it.
IP addresses are binary numbers but they are displayed in human-readable notations, such as 192.168.0.2. In a home network, the IP addresses are automatically given to every device or PC by the router, when the network connection is established.
There are several ways to learn the IP address of your computer. The simplest way that works in all versions of Windows is to open the “Command Prompt”. Open a Run window by pressing “WIN + R” on your keyboard, type “cmd” and press “Enter”.
Then, type the “ipconfig” command and press Enter. A list is displayed with all your network adapters and their properties. For each network adapter, there is a field named IPv4 Address, displaying its IP address.
If you are using multiple network cards or virtualization software, make sure that you look at the network device that’s connected to your home network. There you will see the IP address you have for your active network connection.
While browsing the network, you can find computers by using both their IP address and their computer name. For example, you can open the “Run” window in Windows by pressing “WIN + R” on your keyboard. Then, type \\ followed by the name of a computer in your network or its IP address.
After pressing “Enter”, you will see the same thing: that computer’s shared folders and devices.
What is the Network Location?
A network profile or network location is a collection of network and sharing settings that are applied to your active network connection.
Each time you connect to a new network in Windows 7, you are asked to select a location for it. The available choices are home, work and public.
Depending on the location you assign, features such as file and printer sharing, network discovery, and others might be turned on or off. When creating your own home network, you should always choose “Home network”.
In Windows 8.x, you have only two profiles: private and public. When connecting to a new network, you are asked to decide whether you want to find PCs, devices, and content on your network.
If you are connecting to your home network or a network you trust, select “Yes” and the private network profile is activated for that connection.
Network locations are very useful on laptops and tablets. If you travel a lot, you will connect to a lot of different networks. With one simple setting, Windows will automatically adjust the location assigned to each network connection and all the relevant network sharing settings.
How to Learn the Active Network Location
If you would like to learn what location is assigned to your active network connection, open the “Control Panel”, and go to “Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center”.
In the middle of the window, there is a section named “View your active networks” where you will see the name of the network and the location assigned to it.
Remember, in Windows 8.x you will see only one of two values for the network location (“private network” or “public network”) while in Windows 7, you will see only one of three values (“home network”, “work network” or “public network”).
What is the Homegroup?
The Homegroup is a networking feature introduced in Windows 7 and continued in Windows 8.x.
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. This means that you can create or join a Homegroup only if the profile for your active network connection is set as “home” in Windows 7 or “private” in Windows 8.x.
In order for a computer to join a Homegroup, it must first be a member of the same “workgroup” as the other computers in the Homegroup. The Homegroup is protected with a password but you need to type it only when first joining it.
As you will see in lesson 4, setting up sharing with the Homegroup is much faster than traditional network sharing in Windows Vista or Windows XP.
How to Learn Whether Your Computer is Part of a Homegroup
If you would like to learn whether your PC or device is part of a Homegroup, open the “Control Panel” and go to “Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center”.
In the middle of the window, there is a section named “View your active networks”.
There you will find a line named HomeGroup. If it says “Joined” near it, then your computer is part of a Homegroup.
If it says anything else, than your computer is not part of the Homegroup.
Coming up Next …
We hope that you have enjoyed today’s lesson and that you understood the networking concepts we have shared.
In Lesson 3 we will discuss the default network sharing settings that are found in Windows and how to customize them when required.