The objective for this lesson is for you to gain a complete understanding of the Homegroup concept and how it works for network sharing.
Update: Microsoft removed HomeGroups in Windows 10’s April 2018 Update. They still function on Windows 7, Windows 8, and earlier versions of Windows 10. However, even if you host a HomeGroup on Windows 7, you can’t connect to it from a Windows 10 PC. You have to set up traditional file 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.
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”.
The “System Properties” window now opens.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Windows automatically generates a secure password for your Homegroup. If you want to keep using it, write it down and click “Finish”.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
You can type a new password or press the button to generate a new random password.
When done, press “Next”.
The new Homegroup password is shown.
Press “Finish” and join other computers and devices using this new password, using the instructions shared in the next section.
How to View the Homegroup Password
If you need to learn the password for the Homegroup, you can learn it from any PC or device that is part of it. In Windows 7 or on a Windows 8.x desktop PC, open the HomeGroup control panel. In the “Other homegroup actions” section, click the link that says “View or print the homegroup password”.
The password is now displayed and you can also print it, using the “Print this page” button. When done learning the password, click “Cancel”.
In Windows 8.x you can also go to “PC Settings > Network > HomeGroup”. Below the list of switches for sharing with the Homegroup, you will find the “Password” section, displaying the password.
How to Join a Homegroup in Windows 7
To join a Homegroup, open the HomeGroup control panel. You are notified that another user on another Windows computer or device has created a Homegroup on the network. Make sure that you know the password for this Homegroup and click “Join now”.
You are asked to select what you would like to share with the Homegroup. If you don’t want to share anything yet, uncheck all the options that are displayed. Otherwise, feel free to select the libraries you want to share.
When done, click “Next”.
Type the password for the Homegroup and then click “Next”.
Windows takes several seconds to connect your computer to the Homegroup. When done, you are welcomed to the Homegroup.
To close this wizard, click “Finish”.
Your computer is now part of the Homegroup and can share content and devices with others that are part of it.
How to Join a Homegroup in Windows 8.x
If you are a desktop PC user, you can use the same procedure for joining the Homegroup, as in Windows 7. All you have to do is go to the Control Panel, find the HomeGroup control panel and follow the instructions shared in the previous section. However, both PC and tablet users can use “PC Settings” and join the Homegroup faster than when using the Control Panel.
Open “PC Settings” and go to “Network > HomeGroup”. You are informed that a Homegroup is available for joining. Enter the password in the appropriate field and click or tap “Join”.
Windows 8.x takes a couple of seconds to join the Homegroup. When done, you can select the libraries and devices that are shared with the Homegroup.
We’ll talk more about sharing with the Homegroup in the next section.How to Share Libraries & Printers with the Homegroup
To make things simple, the “HomeGroup” “Control Panel” displays all the standard libraries that exist in Windows, plus printers.
Checking any of them will share the respective items with all other computers and devices that are part of the Homegroup. Unchecking an item means that you do not want to share it with the Homegroup. When selecting “Printers”, you will share all the printers that are attached to your Windows PC or device. If you have two printers, both of them are shared.
In order to apply your changes, don’t forget to press the “Save changes” button.
In Windows 8.x, if you go to the “HomeGroup” sub-section in “PC Settings”, you will see switches for each of the standard libraries, for your printers and for letting devices on your network to stream your music and videos.
All the switches are initially set to “Off”, meaning that nothing is shared with the Homegroup. If you want to share a library with the Homegroup, set its switch to “On” and wait a couple of seconds until the sharing is performed.
The “Printers” switch is for sharing all the printers that are attached to your PC or device.
Note, starting with Windows 8.1, Update 1, Microsoft has added a new switch that says “Let devices on this network (like TVs and game consoles) stream my music and videos.” If you set this to “On”, your “Music” and “Videos” libraries are made available for streaming. You can then stream their contents from your Xbox One console or from another Windows device, using Windows Media Player.
To turn off the sharing of a library or of your printers, set the appropriate switch to “Off”.
One thing you should remember is that sharing with the Homegroup is done on a per-user basis. Even if one user account can join a computer to the Homegroup, it will be able to set only what that user account is sharing with the Homegroup. Other user accounts can log in and share their own different resources with the Homegroup.
What if You Want to Share More than the Standard Libraries with the Homegroup?
This is a very legitimate problem that many users will have. As you can see from this lesson, the Homegroup’s control panel offers options only for sharing standard libraries and your printers.
If you want to share some specific folders or additional libraries that you have created, you cannot share them from these panels. But, you can share them with the Homegroup by using the Sharing Wizard or the Advanced Sharing wizard that are available in Windows. These sharing wizards will be covered in lessons 6 and 7.
How to Leave a Homegroup in Windows 7
Leaving a Homegroup is as easy as joining it. Go to the “HomeGroup” control panel. In the “Other homegroup actions” section, click the link that says “Leave the homegroup”.
A new window is displayed informing you that if you leave the homegroup, you cannot access or share its files and printers.
Confirm your choice by pressing “Leave the homegroup”.
Windows then takes a while to leave the Homegroup.
When done, you are informed about the success of this procedure. Click “Finish”.
How to Leave the Homegroup in Windows 8.x
Windows 8.x includes also a faster way of leaving the Homegroup. Even though the procedure shared in the previous section works also in Windows 8.x, you may want to use this method instead.
Go to “PC Settings > Network > HomeGroup”. At the bottom of the list with switches for sharing with the Homegroup, you will find the “Leave button”. Click or tap on it and wait for a couple of seconds.
Once finished, your Windows 8.x PC or device is no longer part of the Homegroup.
A Homegroup stops existing when all computers that are part of it leave. If there’s one Windows computer or devices on your network that is still part of it, then it will continue to exist.
Coming up Next …
In the next lesson we will share how to use the Sharing Wizard to share everything you want with others on the network. You will also learn how to share with other operating systems that are not created by Microsoft.