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How to Network Windows 7, Vista, and XP Computers


  1. Verify that You're Using NTFS on Your Hard Drives
  2. Check the Network Location in Vista and Windows 7

Article Description

Upgrading a PC on the network to Windows 7, but still have XP or Vista machines? No problem. Eric Geier, author of Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access, shows you how to network among all these Windows versions.

Back when Vista was the hot topic, we wrote an article on how to network Vista and XP computers together. Now we have another Windows version[md]Windows 7, coming to stores in Oct 2009[md]to add into the mix.

Like many of us, you'll likely have an older XP and/or Vista machine waiting when you bring home a new preloaded PC or an upgrade copy of Windows 7.

Although you might be able to just boot up Windows 7 and all computers automatically can see each other, sometimes you can run into problems.

So in this article we'll review a few things about each of the computers. Soon you'll have them all talking with each other, sharing files, printers, and media.

Verify that You're Using NTFS on Your Hard Drives

As discussed previously, your older PCs might be using a less-secure file system: FAT32. Thus you should make sure you're using NTFS (New Technology File System).

You can refer to the previous article (starting with the fourth full paragraph down) to discover the current file system and to convert it if necessary.

Ensure that File and Printer Sharing Is Enabled

Although Windows automatically installs and enables the protocol for file and printer sharing, it can be accidentally disabled. Thus you should double-check it, especially if you're currently having sharing problems.

On the network connection's properties dialog (see Figure 1) you want to make sure the File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks and Client for Microsoft Networks protocols are enabled.

To get to the Properties dialog of a network connection in XP, click Start > Connect to> Show all connections. Then right-click the network connection you're using and select Properties.

Here's how to get there in Vista: open the Network and Sharing Center and click the Manage network connections link on the left pane. Then right-click the network connection and select Properties.

In Windows 7, open the Network and Sharing Center, click the desired connection name link in the active networks area. On the connection status windows, click the Properties button.

Disable the Simple or Wizard File-Sharing Interface

Windows XP Professional and all editions of Vista and Windows 7 have advanced sharing settings. When you use the advanced method, you can better control sharing using Permissions.

You'll be using a similar approach among your computers, regardless of their Windows version.

Here's how to disable the simple or wizard-based sharing interface:

  1. Open Computer or My Computer.
  2. Click Tools and select Folder Options.
  3. If you don't see the file menu in Vista or Windows 7, press the Alt key.
  4. Click the View tab.
  5. Scroll down and uncheck Use Sharing Wizard (in Vista or Windows 7) or Use Simple File Sharing (in XP).
  6. Click OK to save the changes.

Verify that Everyone Is on the Same Workgroup

On home and small business networks, computers must be assigned to a Workgroup. You should have all the computers that you want to share with each other set to the same group.

Because some Windows versions have different default workgroup names, you should decide on a particular name and verify that each computer is set to the same.

To find the current Workgroup of a Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 machine, right-click the My Computer or Computer shortcut from the desktop or start menu and select Properties. You'll see the computer name, domain, and workgroup setting on the System window.

While you're at it, you can also verify that you have descriptive computer names, so you can tell which PC is which when you browse the network.

2. Check the Network Location in Vista and Windows 7 | Next Section