Windows 7: HomeGroup Overview

So far, in our Windows 7 Overview series, we have published the following:


Over the next few weeks we will be adding many more focus items on Windows 7 including Touch, Windows 7 networking and media enhancements. Stay tuned for the ultimate Windows 7 focus from Neowin.net. Here is an overview of HomeGroup in Windows 7.

HomeGroup
Ever wanted to share your music, pictures and documents within your home computers and found the task to be difficult? HomeGroup in Windows 7 will simplify the tasks associated with sharing music, pictures and documents within your home network and Windows 7 PCs. HomeGroup also allows you to share your USB connected printers, if you have a printer in the living room that's shared by HomeGroup it will be automatically installed onto your other HomeGroup enabled PCs. Domain-joined computers can be part of a HomeGroup too.

Creating your HomeGroup
As soon as you setup your network, Windows 7 will prompt you to select the type of location. Once you select Home Network, Windows 7 will start applying the necessary settings for your new network.

The HomeGroup wizard will then prompt you to create your HomeGroup and choose what to share in your HomeGroup.

The wizard then generates a password which can be used to add other computers to your HomeGroup.

Your new HomeGroup is now created and your Pictures, Music, Videos, Printers folders are ready to be shared with other computers when they join this HomeGroup. These folders - Music, Videos, Printers, Pictures - are called as your Libraries in Windows 7. Remember, we haven't yet shared any files as such. Only the network shares have been created so far.

Joining HomeGroup
When your other computer is connected to the same network where you created the HomeGroup (above), Windows 7 will prompt you that there is a HomeGroup available to join.

Once you choose to join, Windows 7 will provide you with information about the HomeGroup on your network

Click Join Now to join to your HomeGroup. You will be prompted to enter the HomeGroup password which was generated during the creation of that HomeGroup

Entering the correct password will let you join the HomeGroup and choose what you want to share

Welcome to your HomeGroup!

Viewing your HomeGroup
You can find your HomeGroup in the Explorer's Navigation Pane (left hand side of the Explorer). You can just click the Windows Explorer icon in the superbar and it will open your Libraries.

You can put any files into the Libraries and share with your HomeGroup. Its that easy!

Media Player will automatically search your HomeGroup for music and will add the files to the Media Player library. You can also search through the libraries of your HomeGroup using explorer's search functionality.

What If I forget my HomeGroup password created?
Yes, the password generated by the wizard is hard to remember (being complex and secure) and you would love to see your password whenever you forget. Windows 7 lets you view or print your password even after creating the HomeGroup in the HomeGroup options.

You can find your HomeGroup options in the Network and Sharing Center or just type 'homegroup' (without the quotes) in your start menu.

HomeGroup was certainly designed for ease and it does stay true to its promise - An easy end-to-end approach to sharing in your Home!

Remember that HomeGroup works only with Windows 7 machines and it does not support Vista or XP.

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38 Comments

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well as far as i know you cant use homegroup if you use a mix of win7 and xp comps as xp doesn't support several of homegroups features (whatever they maybe) i can seem to find a difinitive answer on ms forums but its been said more than once on there not to use homegroup if running a mixed O.S network so didn't i chose workplace but i still cant get the two xpsp3 machines to see or access the one win7 pc

Well I know one thing my laptop with windows 7 can join my home network fine, and the other three computers are all Xp ones.
So I understand this saying that Windows 7 is not compatible with Xp for networking.

It wasn't mentioned but HomeGroup requires UPnP and SSDP to be running and both of these caused problems with security breeches. The old way still works just fine if you disable them both.

This could be why Homegroups don't work for me, I've locked down my home network to help prevent attacks on my network (I've had a recent bout of network intrusions) so no way am I opening my network up again just to get Homegroups working.

Hey,
from my desktop pc i can see all users but not my laptop (to desktop), passwords are correct. i don't know why, i cant see them.

Btw you can put ANY drawer in the Library just by right clicking on it and select INCLUDE IN LIBRARY. Then the drawer is showed directly in the Explorer windows. I've tried that with my own custom Music drawer and it works..

Sounds like a great addition but like others said this needs to be available in Vista as well. The chances of every machine in a home having Win 7 will be slim. I guess the same can be said about Vista but that's still far more likely

This is neat... but what I don't like (as some of you pointed out) is the compatability with Vista and XP.
I know for sure not everyone is going to have (or will be able to legally obtain) Windows 7 on every computer in their home. I guess this is a feature for going forward.

I already have a home network with Vista (main computer) and 2 other XP machines and have no problems with that, it was quite simple to set up... I'm guessing in order to make the network compatible for Windows 7, we'd have to do it a similar way as in Vista/XP instead of using the HomeGroup.

UNC network paths (\ComputerName) will work both ways, or at least between Vista and W7, but I imagine they'd work with any OS that supports SMB. As a workaround, XP/Vista computers can use the UNC paths. I know it's not as intuitive as HomeGroup but it's still a possibility.

I agree with the sentiment of that it is a mistake to not have easy "out of the box" backward compatibility for networking and or allowing networking between other OS's. Vista was shameful enough as it is. People could easily see the files on a vista machine but not the other way around. The same seems to be true of Windows 7.
I run a grade school's network with about 75-100 computers. It has grown over the years and has many different vintages of computers. Operating systems range from Mac osX to XP to Linux(Ubuntu) and Vista. It is naive to think that everyone can just purchase a new OS to make things easier. The school has neither the funds or capability to make everything the same. It is a huge undertaking to upgrade any software. The sentiment:

"real deep thinker"
Than they're SOL. Either keep up with technology or GTFO.

doesn't work in the real world. I fear that the Homegroup is just another dead end like many Vista "innovations". What would make people buy a product that doesn't work as well as something they already have? It might be easier in it's fascist Homegroup(meaning everyone has to be just alike or be excluded as the Other.). But not even looking at the other kids who want to play is just childish. I don't get why Microsoft didn't learn this lesson after the fizzle of Vista.
I'm sure in time that I will be able to make the Ubuntu systems compatible with the Homegroup. But XP incompatibility out of the box is unforgivable and needs to be addressed before the Windows 7 release. If at least to allow for intuitive wizardless file transport during migration to the new windows 7 system.

You don't see the difference between this, and setting up the sharing settings on a very basic secure home network (all systems having user accounts that have passwords) much less a well secured one? It's a secure and easy way to set up sharing folders and I can imagine explaining it to my mom...unlike Workgroup shares. When she needs to move files currently I just tell her to use a USB stick.

Not a bad idea but without seeing it in action I don't see how it's any different from setting up a workgroup and setting up sharing. It's not that hard.

The only real difference I see is that it shares Libraries, which are more useful than folders. If I have a bunch of different music folders in my library I don't have to go to each of them separately to share them, they'll all be shared because they're in my library which is shared.

So when you select what you want to be shared (music, photos, documents etc.) your computer will be scanned once joining the Homegroup ? and all those compatable files for the types you have listed will become viewable on the other connected machines ? or is it only what you select to be added there ?

Not had a chance to try 7 yet, but how exactly are files shared? Dragged to the homegroup (thus making a copy?) if so, ugh when it comes to large files. Or can links be made in the homegroup to the files in question without moving/copying them?

When you join or create a homegroup you select which Libraries you want to share. All files you add to those Libraries will be shared on the Homegroup. You can customize any file/folder to be shared or not shared by simply clicking the Share To button in the toolbar. Why would any files be copied? This has never been the case before, and it isn't now.

This will really come into it's own when Windows Home Server supports it. I'm guessing it's not going to be added to that until the next major version tho.

DrCheese said,
This will really come into it's own when Windows Home Server supports it. I'm guessing it's not going to be added to that until the next major version tho.
I was thinking the same thing about Home Server while I was reading this. I might get one within a year and just how well it will tie in to the HomeGroup is something I'll be very interested in.

Good question. In xp is around 10 "concurrent users" (20 on IIS), so if you need more account then you must update to windows server or you must choose to use a third party software. In my case, i switched over Apache web/ftp, so i can connect thousand of concurrent users using a cheap xp license.

What puzzles me is why they can't make this XP or Vista compatible. It sounds like an extension to the Workgroup/Sharing idea, just made much much more intuitive.

I think it's a little more complicated than that. Also why would they want to back port it, they do want to sell copies of the OS too.

I'm aware of that, but some networks don't all run the same version of 1 OS. It would be easier on the home networking if the family could connect up Vista using the same method, just without Libraries.

I can understand Windows Vista, but Windows XP isn't a thought really. Windows Vista SP2 should pick up some Windows 7 functionality, and also speed up Windows Vista to somewhere near Windows 7 speed and reliability. But Windows XP will never get anymore features because Microsoft is too busy thinking about planning to cut support for it instead of finishing support for it. I think a lot of features were ported to Windows XP from Windows Vista simply because Microsoft knew the media ruined a chance for Windows Vista, we all know now that the majority actually likes Windows Vista now and those XP Lovers kind of died down. So you won't see Windows Media Player 12 for Windows XP, but for the first time ever, we will see upgrades for Windows Vista, it will be the first Windows Media Player thats the latest that isn't integrated into Windows Vista.

I'm not positive but if they do release Windows Media Player 12 for Windows XP, I will be mad at Microsoft, Windows XP is so old, and if they plan to release a new Windows Media Player for something old, it will look like Windows Media Player 11, ugly. The ports need to stop.

What about those ppl who are waiting for their XP machine to die before upgrading to the next OS, be it Vista or 7? Should they be punished by being left with old software because they are being conscientious or don't have the money to upgrade their computer(s) every year?

duneworld said,
What about those ppl who are waiting for their XP machine to die before upgrading to the next OS, be it Vista or 7? Should they be punished by being left with old software because they are being conscientious or don't have the money to upgrade their computer(s) every year?

Than they're SOL. Either keep up with technology or GTFO.

duneworld said,
What about those ppl who are waiting for their XP machine to die before upgrading to the next OS, be it Vista or 7? Should they be punished by being left with old software because they are being conscientious or don't have the money to upgrade their computer(s) every year?

XP isn't even running the same file sharing protocol or network stack as Vista or 7. I could see this making it to Vista (maybe, but probably not), but absolutely not XP.

Electric Bolt said,
Windows Vista SP2 should pick up some Windows 7 functionality, and also speed up Windows Vista to somewhere near Windows 7 speed and reliability.

Speed will not happen. If you see the link below it explains to you the changes they have made in w7 to make it faster. As you will see these are quite in depth OS changes. I am fairly confident they will not be brought to vista.

http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/archive/2009/04/2...erformance.aspx