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How to Network Windows 7, Vista, and XP Computers

  • Article is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: Nov 13, 2009.


  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.

Check the Network Location in Vista and Windows 7

A network location feature, which debuted in Windows Vista, lets you specify the network type (Home, Work, and Public) after connecting, which automatically applies the appropriate sharing settings.

For example, if you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot and mark it as a Public network, Windows will automatically disable file sharing.

To verify that you have the right network location selected for your network, bring up the Network and Sharing Center.

Windows Vista lists this to the right of the network name, as Figure 2 shows.

If you need to change it, click the Customize link on the right side.

In Windows 7, the location is listed under the network name, as Figure 3 shows.

Then simply click the location to change it.

Review the Network Settings in Vista and Windows 7

Microsoft also added more networking and sharing settings to Windows, starting with Vista. If they aren't set right, they could prevent you from sharing; so you need to double-check them.

Start by bringing up the Network and Sharing Center.

In Vista, you'll see the Sharing and Discovery settings right under the connection details, as Figure 4 shows.

If you want to sharing files, make sure at least the first options are enabled.

In Windows 7, these settings have moved. On the Network and Sharing Center, click the Change advanced sharing settings link in the left pane.

Then for the Home or Work location (see Figure 5), make sure you at least have the first two options enabled.

Verify that Your Firewall Lets Traffic Through

Windows automatically edits the Windows Firewall settings to allow file and printer sharing traffic through when you enable sharing.

However, you can manually disable the firewall rule or stop all network traffic, both of which would prevent your computers from communicating. So you should double-check the settings.

In Windows XP, open Windows Firewall from the Control Panel. On the Windows Firewall dialog, make sure it's On, but do not check the Don't allow exceptions option.

Click the Exceptions tab, scroll down, find the File and Printer Sharing option, and make sure it's checked.

In Windows 7 and Vista, first open the Network and Sharing Center and click the Windows Firewall link on the bottom of the left pane.

Then in Vista, click the Change settings link on the first Windows Firewall window. On the settings dialog, make sure it's On, but do not check the Block all incoming connections option.

Click the Exceptions tab, scroll down, find the File and Printer Sharing option, and make sure it's checked.

In Windows 7, first click the Turn Windows Firewall on or off link to make sure it's on but not blocking all incoming connections, as Figure 6 shows.

Return to the first Windows Firewall window and click the Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall link in the upper left of the window.

Make sure that the File and Printer Sharing option is checked for Home/Work locations.

If you also have a third-party firewall utility installed, which may be a part of an Internet security suite, check that one, too. Sometimes they have their networking protect features. For example, some require you to mark the network as safe in order for sharing to work.

Check Out the New Networking Features

We've reviewed most of the networking settings to get Windows 7 talking to your old XP and Vista machines. If you haven't already, discover how the new Libraries feature can help you organize your files, which we already discussed in a previous article. Once you have more than one Windows 7 PC, check out HomeGroup. It can help you quickly and easily share among your new computers.

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