How to share folders and libraries, with the network, in Windows

Many people have several computers in their homes and workplaces. If you do, then you may need to share folders and libraries with other users and computers on the same network. Unfortunately, few users know how to share something on their network, and use other, clunkier methods for sharing, like e-mail. Here is how to share any folder with the network, in all modern versions of Windows:

NOTE: This guide covers Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1. Some things work the same in all three versions of Windows, others just in one or two. For each method we share, we mention the Windows version in which it works. If you do not know the version of Windows that you have, read this tutorial: What version of Windows do I have installed?

First, learn with whom you can share and the permissions you can give to others who access your shared items

Before sharing a folder or library with others on the network, it is best that you first know what sharing options you have available. Open File Explorer, right-click on a folder or library, and then click or tap "Give access to" (if you are using Windows 10), or "Share with" (if you are using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1). Then look at the sharing options that are available to you:

  • Remove access (Windows 10) or Nobody (Windows 7) or Stop sharing (Windows 8.1) - these options are named differently, depending on the Windows version that you use. They all do the same thing: stop sharing the selected folder or library with other computers and devices on the network.
  • Homegroup (view) or Homegroup (Read) - the first option is used in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, while the second is used in Windows 7. It shares the selected item with other computers and devices on the Homegroup and allows them to view it and read it, without being 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 (view and edit) or Homegroup (Read/Write)- the first option is used in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, while the second is available in Windows 7. The selected item is shared with other computers and devices that are part of the Homegroup and allows them to view, read, change or delete its contents. The item is no longer shared when you disconnect from the Homegroup.
  • Names of other user accounts - if other user accounts exist on your Windows computer, you may see them listed as a sharing option. If you see and choose another user account, that user can view the item that you are sharing. That user may exist on more than one computer or device. The selected item is shared with that user account no matter what computer it is using. If you want to give that user more permissions, instead of reading and viewing, it is better to choose the next sharing option in this list.
  • Specific people - allows you to share the selected item with one or more users, groups (including the Homegroup), and set detailed sharing permissions for each. An interesting option is that it allows you to share an item with Everyone, meaning that any computer and user account gets access to the shared item, using your sharing permissions.

If you choose Specific people, you can set sharing permissions in more detail. You can add or remove any number of users and groups to the shared item. For each you can set the following types of sharing permissions:

  • Read - the user or the group can only view and read the item that is shared. It cannot change it or delete it.
  • Read/Write - the user or the group can view, read, change, or delete the item that is shared.
  • Remove - the user or the group no longer has access to the shared item.

Now that you know with whom you can share folders and libraries, and the permissions that you can give, let's see how to share with others on the network:

How to share a folder or library, using the right-click menu (all versions of Windows)

Open File Explorer, find the item that you want to share and right-click on it. In the contextual menu, click or tap "Give access to" (if you are using Windows 10), or "Share with" (if you are using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1). Choose the user or the group that you want to share with.

Depending on what you are sharing, and with whom, you may be asked to confirm that you want to share the selected item(s). If you are asked, press "Yes, share the items."

If you are not asked anything, then the item is automatically shared as you selected, with whom you chose.

How to share a folder or library, using the Share tab on the ribbon (Windows 10 and Windows 8.1)

If you are using Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, you can also share items by using the ribbon. First, navigate to the folder or library that you want to share and select it. Then, click or tap the Share tab on the ribbon and, in the "Share with" section, choose with whom you want to share it.

You may be asked to confirm that you want to share the selected item(s). If you are, choose "Yes, share the items." If you are not, then the item is already shared as specified by you.

How to share a folder or library, using the Share With menu on the toolbar (Windows 7 only)

If you are using Windows 7, open Windows Explorer, navigate to the item that you want to share and select it with the mouse. Then, in the toolbar on the top, click "Share with" and, in the menu that is displayed, choose how you want to share the item.

How to share a folder or library, with specific people (all versions of Windows)

In all the sharing methods shared earlier, there is an option that you can choose, named "Specific people." When you choose this option, a wizard is displayed for choosing the people you share with. This wizard is named "Network access" (in Windows 10) or "File Sharing" (in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1). First, click or tap the drop-down list where you can choose the user accounts and the groups you want to share with.

 

After you select one user or group, press Add.

The user (or group) is added to the list of people the selected item is shared with. For each user and group, click or tap the permission level on the right, and choose the level that you want to assign from the list.

You can add or remove as many users and groups as you wish. When you are happy with your sharing settings, press Share. Windows notifies you that the item is shared. Press Done.

How to stop sharing a library or folder, in Windows (all versions)

One way to stop sharing a library or folder is to right-click on it, click or tap "Give access to" (if you are using Windows 10), or "Share with" (if you are using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1), and then choose:

  • Remove access - if you use Windows 10
  • Nobody - if you have Windows 7
  • Stop sharing - if you use Windows 8.1

Another way is to use the ribbon in Windows 10 or Windows 8.1. Select the item that you want to stop sharing, then click or tap the Share tab on the ribbon, and press Remove access (if you are using Windows 10) or Stop Sharing (if you have Windows 8.1).

Depending on what you want to stop sharing, you may be asked to confirm your choice. When asked, choose "Stop sharing," and the item is no longer shared with anyone. Please note that for some shared items it is possible that you will not be asked for confirmation.

If you want to stop sharing a folder with just one group or one user and keep it shared with others, then you should read our section on how to share with specific people. Remove from the share list those you no longer wish to have access and keep those that should continue to have access to it.

What if I do not see the sharing options that you presented?

If you do not see the sharing options that we presented in this tutorial, and all you get are references to Advanced sharing, then it means that the Sharing Wizard is disabled.

To enable it, open Folder Options, go to the View tab and, in the list of advanced settings, check the box that says: "Use Sharing Wizard." Then click or tap OK to apply your setting.

If you are stuck using Advanced Sharing, or if you prefer using it, then read this tutorial: How to Share Folders Using Advanced Sharing in Windows.

Did you find our tutorial useful?

As you could see in this guide, sharing folders with others on the network, is not that difficult. All it takes is a few clicks. Before closing this tutorial, share with us whether this guide was helpful or not. Did you encounter problems? If you did, comment below and let's discuss.