The objective for this lesson is to explain all the network sharing settings that are available in Windows and what they do. It sounds simple, isn’t it? But unfortunately it is not.
As you will see, there are plenty of sharing settings available. Some are easy to figure out, while others not so much. Also, Windows 8.x introduces a new setting that’s not documented anywhere. In order to make sense of it and what it does, we had to perform plenty of experimentation. But we did get the hang of it and we can explain it to you, so that you can set things correctly.
Another topic we cover in this lesson is how to change the location assigned to the active network connection. As you will see, with one simple change Windows reconfigures all the available network sharing settings. Therefore it is important to understand when you should change the network location and how.
At the end of this lesson you will know how to configure the network profile and the network sharing settings so that you turn on only the features that you need to use on your network.
Let’s get to work!
Where to Find the Network Sharing Settings in Windows
Windows 7 and Windows 8.x have the same network sharing settings. They are found in the same place, but their order is different and so is their grouping.
To find them, go to the “Control Panel > Network and Internet” and then to “Network and Sharing Center”. This window is very important when it comes to setting up your network connections and network sharing. Here you will find the options for changing your network adapter settings, a link to all network sharing settings, and wizards for setting up new connections or troubleshooting problems.
To access your network sharing settings, click or tap the “Change advanced sharing settings” link on the left column.
Now you will see a list with all the available network sharing settings that are found in Windows, grouped by network location.
Changing the Default Sharing Settings
As we mentioned earlier, these settings are displayed in a different order, depending on the Windows version you are using.
In Windows 7, all the settings are grouped under two categories: “Home or Work” and “Public”. This splits all the network sharing settings in groups according to the three network locations available in Windows 7 (to learn more about network locations, read Lesson 2).
You will see a line that says “current profile”, telling you which network location is assigned to the active network connection. The settings found in that profile will apply to your active network connection and not the others.
If you click the arrow next to each profile type, you can expand each of these groups, you will see that they include the same network sharing settings except “HomeGroup connections”, which is available only for the “Home or Work” network locations.
You will also see that each setting has different values for different locations. That is great because it allows Windows to quickly adjust your network sharing settings based on the network you are connected to. However, for your home network, you may want to customize the defaults.
Windows 8.x makes things a bit confusing because they group all the network sharing settings in three sections: “Private”, “Guest or Public” and “All Networks”.
The “Private” group includes three settings: “network discovery”, “file and printer sharing” and “HomeGroup connections”. These settings are applied only for network connections that are set as Private.
The “Guest and Public” group includes only two settings: “network discovery” and “file and printer sharing”. They are applied only to network connections that are set as “Public”.
The All Networks group includes four settings: “public folder sharing”, “media streaming”, “file sharing connections” and “password protected sharing”. The trouble with these settings is that they are applied to all network connections (both “Private” and “Public”).
Why is this a problem? Because if you turn on “public folder sharing”, you turn it on also for “Public” network connections, which may be a security risk. Also, imagine the problems you may have when turning off password protected sharing for all network connections.
That’s why it is very important that you pay attention and customize these settings while keeping security foremost in your mind.
Windows Network Sharing Settings
Before you start configuring all the network sharing settings, it is best to understand what each setting does. Let’s take a look at each of them, one by one, based on their order in Windows 8.x:
This setting makes Windows search for other computers and devices on the network and broadcasts your computer on the network, so that others see it. “Network discovery” should be turned on in order for your computer to access other computers on the network and be able to share things with them.
In Windows 8.x you will find also a sub-setting that says “Turn on automatic setup of network connected devices”. Unfortunately, this setting is not documented anywhere by Microsoft and figuring out what it does took us a lot of time and experimentation. It seems that when this is enabled, Windows is able to detect network connected devices like external hard drives connected to your router or to another PC and then be able to use them to provide all kinds of services, including making “File History” backups on those devices.
When this setting is turned off, Windows won’t detect such devices and it won’t be able to use them to perform “File History” backups or provided other kinds of services.