Sharing Between Windows Vista and Windows 7 Computers

Home networks are more and more popular these days and making your home computers work together can be a challenge. While having only computers with Windows 7 installed can make your home networking life extremely easy, I'm sure many have older computers with older operating systems installed. In this article, I will continue our networking series and show how to share files and folders between Windows Vista and Windows 7 based computers. As you'll see, it's not that hard to make them work together.

Step 1: Workgroup Must be the Same

Since the HomeGroup feature works only on Windows 7 based PCs, you need to make sure that your Windows Vista and Windows 7 PCs are in the same workgroup. To check this, go to 'Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> System' on the Windows Vista PCs and 'Control Panel -> System and Security -> System' on the Windows 7 PCs. Check if the workgroup is set the same on all computers.

If the workgroup is different, then you must change it so that it is the same on all computers. For details on how to change it, check out our tutorial called How to Change the Workgroup in Windows 7.

Step 2: Location Type & Network Profile must be Compatible

First, your Windows 7 computers must use the home or work network locations. If you want to learn what these network locations are and how to change them, check out our guide called Network Locations Explained.

The Windows Vista computers must use the private network location type. You can verify if this is the case from Windows Vista's network and sharing center. If it is not, click on the Customize link highlighted below.

Change the network location type to private and click on Next.

You will get a confirmation message that the location type has changed. Click on Close and you will be back to the network and sharing center.

You will see that the 'Sharing and Discovery' settings have changed. In order for sharing to work with your Windows 7 computers, there are two settings which must be turned on: network discovery and file sharing. Others are optional.

If you want to ease the experience of sharing, you might want to turn off password protected sharing. When enabled, you'll have to enter a user name and password each time you want to access a shared folder on the Windows Vista computer. Also, that user must be defined on the Windows Vista computer. You won't be able to access the shared folders with a password defined on your Windows 7 computer.

Step 3: Share Files and Folders

The next step is to share files and folders on your network computers. You can do this using the sharing wizard or advanced sharing settings. Both procedures are very similar between Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Therefore, you can check out our guides on how to do this: Share Libraries or Folders Using the Sharing Wizard and Share Libraries or Folders Using Advanced Sharing.

Step 4: Access Shared Files and Folders

Accessing shared files and folders should be very straightforward: open a Windows Explorer window and go to Network. There you will see all computers which are turned on at that moment and part of the same workgroup.

When you double click on any computer, you will be able to access its shared files and folders.

If password protected sharing is enabled on the computer you are trying to access, you will be asked to enter a valid user name and password. One thing to watch out for is to first type the name of the computer you are accessing in the username field. This will change the domain to that computer instead of your local one. Then type '\' and a user name defined on the computer you are accessing. Afterwards, type the password, click on OK and you will be able to access all that is shared by that computer.


Making computers with Windows 7 and Windows Vista play nice in the same network is not very difficult. They must be in the same workgroup and have compatible network sharing settings. If you have some useful networking tips don't hesitate to leave a comment. Also, for more useful information on networking, check out the articles listed below.