If you are using the Homegroup, sharing libraries, folders and devices is dead-easy. But, even if you are not, you can still do it relatively fast, with the help of the sharing wizard. Here's how it works, both in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
How to Enable the Sharing Wizard in Windows 7 & Windows 8
The sharing wizard is enabled by default, both in Windows 7 and Windows 8. However, if the sharing menus & options don't look similar to the ones shown in the sections below, it means that it is disabled on your computer. To enable it back, you need to start Windows Explorer (in Windows 7) or File Explorer (in Windows 8) and go to Folder Options.
In the Folder Options window, go to the View tab and check the box that says "Use Sharing Wizard".
Then, click or tap OK. The sharing wizard is now enabled and you will be able to successfully follow the steps below.
How to Share Libraries and Folders with the HomeGroup
If you have set up your own Homegroup and you want to share only with the computers and devices that are part of it, the procedure is simple:
First, open Windows Explorer (in Windows 7) or File Explorer (in Windows 8) and navigate to the library or folder you want to share. Right click or press and hold on it. In the contextual menu select "Share with"'. There you will find at least four options:
- Nobody (in Windows 7) or Stop Sharing (in Windows 8) - this will unshare the selected item. It can be useful when you share a whole library or collection of folders and files, but you want to keep a specific item unshared. For example, you might share your whole Pictures library, but you want some private pictures to remain private. By using this option you can quickly filter out what you don't want to have shared from your Pictures collection.
- Homegroup (Read) (in Windows 7) or Homegroup (view) (in Windows 8) - it will share the selected item the Homegroup, with read only permissions. The item is shared only when you are connected to the Homegroup. Other computers and devices will be able to view and read the shared item, but they won't be able to modify it, delete it or change it in any way. If you disconnect from the Homegroup, the item will no longer be shared.
- Homegroup (Read/Write) (in Windows 7) or Homegroup (view and edit) (in Windows 8) - the item is shared with the Homegroup. Everybody that is part of the Homegroup has full permissions to it. They can modify its contents, delete it, etc. The item will no longer be shared when you disconnect from the Homegroup.
- Specific people - it allows you to share the selected item both with the Homegroup but also with computers and users that are not part of it. This option is explored in more detail in the section below.
Here you can see a screenshot of the "Share with"' menu in Windows 7.
And now, a screenshot of the "Share with"' menu in Windows 8.
You will notice that Windows 8 shares more options in this menu. Next to the four options mentioned above, it displays all the user accounts defined on your computer and those found on the Homegroup. This makes it easier to share with specific people, in Windows 8.
Last but not least, in Windows 8, you can use the Share tab on the ribbon. There you will find the "Share with"' section which includes the same options as the right click menu with the same name.
To share a library or folder with the Homegroup, first select it. Then, go to the Share tab and, in the "Share with"' section, click or tap the sharing option you prefer.
Depending on what you have shared, you might receive a prompt, asking you to confirm that you want to start sharing. Make the appropriate confirmation and you are done. The same applies when you want to unshare. You might see a prompt asking you to confirm that you want to stop sharing the selected item.
How to Share Libraries or Folders with Specific People in Windows 7 & Windows 8
You can also share content with people and computers which are not part of the Homegroup. To do this, you need to use the 4th option mentioned above - "Specific people".
NOTE: Again, Windows 8 makes it simpler to share with specific people, by listing them directly in the "Share with" menu. The people you share with from the "Share with" menu will receive read-only permissions. If you want to set the permission level assigned, in detail, use the sharing wizard.
The File Sharing wizard is displayed. At first, you see a list with the people who have access to the selected item and their assigned permission level.
To give access to somebody else, click or tap the drop-down list. You see a list with all the user accounts available. It includes the user accounts created on your PC, the Homegroup and a user named Everyone. The Homegroup will share the item with all computers and devices that are part of the Homegroup. Everyone will share the item with any user and computer that is part of the network you are connected to.
Select the user account you want to share with.
Then, click or tap the Add button.
The selected account will be added to the list below, together with the other user accounts that have access to the shared item.
By default, new user accounts are assigned read permissions. If you want to give write permissions, click or tap the arrow from the "Permission level" column and select Read/Write.
When you have added all the users you want to share with, click or tap Share.
After a while, a notification is shared, stating that the item was shared. Click or tap Done.
This procedure is the same for sharing both libraries and folders.
How to Stop Sharing a Library or Folder in Windows 7 & Windows 8
If you want to stop sharing something, you can stop sharing it with everybody, stop sharing it with the Homegroup or stop sharing it with a specific user. We will explore each of these options in detail.
To stop sharing a folder or library with everybody, right click or press and hold on it. Then, select "Share with" and then Nobody (in Windows 7) or Stop sharing (in Windows 8).
In Windows 8, you can also use the ribbon. First, select the item you want to stop sharing. Then, go to the Share tab and click or tap Stop sharing.
If you want to stop sharing an item with the Homegroup or with a specific user, right click or press and hold on it. Then, select "Share with" and then "Specific people".
The File Sharing wizard starts and you see a list with all the people who currently have access to the selected item and their assigned permission level.
Select Homegroup if you want to stop sharing with the Homegroup. If you want to remove access only for a specific account, select that account.
Then, click or tap the assigned permission level and select Remove from the contextual menu with sharing permissions.
Do this for all users you want to remove and, when ready, click or tap Share.
After a few seconds, the File Sharing confirms that the folder is "shared", but with new sharing permissions assigned. Click or tap Done.
NOTE: Depending on the library or folder you stopped sharing, you might not see the last window shown above. The selected item will stop being shared, without any confirmation being displayed.
As you can see from this tutorial, sharing libraries and folders with the sharing wizard is easy. Especially when sharing items with the Homegroup. It can be done only with a few clicks in a much faster way than it was possible in Windows XP or Windows Vista. If you have any questions on this subject, don't hesitate to leave a comment.