Do you want a free, password-protected, easy-to-use file sharing feature that requires no software download? Maybe Windows HomeGroup would interest you.

A HomeGroup in Windows 7 and 8 allows the library folders – like Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos – and literally any other location to be shared in a secure group composed of other locally networked users.

The sharing incorporates any file or connected printer and is easily accessed by the other HomeGroup members. Setting up the feature is extremely simple. Follow this guide to learn how to set up or join a HomeGroup and how file sharing is performed.

See Also: The Various Ways to Share Large Photo Batches with Family and Friends

How to Set Up a HomeGroup in Windows

In Windows 7 or 8, you can access the HomeGroup feature from

“Control Panel > Network and Internet > HomeGroup.”


Click “Create a homegroup” to get started.

The next window asks you what you’d like to share.


You may be wary or put off at first when you’re allowing your documents, pictures, etc. to be shared with others. Just remember we’ll be securing the shares with a password in the next step.

A complex password will be shown next.


Take note of it or create a new password and manage other settings back at the HomeGroup window.


Change the shared libraries or printers by unchecking them one by one. Change the password with the “Change the password” link.

How to Join a Windows HomeGroup

Now that the basic setup has been done, let’s look at how another PC on the network would initiate their membership in the HomeGroup.

The following example is done with Windows 8. We’ll open the HomeGroup page from the Control Panel like we did above. Windows will detect the present HomeGroup on the other computer (“JON,” in this case), from where you can choose to join.


This computer will be asked similar questions to the one that started the HomeGroup, like which library folders to share. Select individual permissions for these folders now.


Now enter the HomeGroup password that was either generated or manually created from the other computer.


You’ll then be joined to the HomeGroup, where you can view the other files in a regular Explorer window, like so:


We’re on a PC called “Jon-DESKTOP,” but we’re able to see the libraries of “Jon-LAPTOP” because they’re both part of the same HomeGroup.

How to Share Files Using a Windows HomeGroup

In Windows 8, share a file that’s outside the libraries folders from the “Share” menu item. Stop sharing at any time from the “Stop sharing” item. The shared folder will now be included with the other library folders that were originally shared when setting up or joining the HomeGroup.


Windows 7 is similar, but not the exact same. Choose “Share with” from the menu, and then select a HomeGroup sharing option.


To see all the files another computer is sharing in the HomeGroup, open any Explorer window and find “HomeGroup.” It’ll appear as if it’s on the local PC, complete with every folder and file that’s being shared.


Streaming Files in a HomeGroup

Instead of just sharing files and folders through Windows Explorer, you can also stream media files to other networked computers.

In the HomeGroup settings, place a check next to the setting under “Share media with devices.”


Now “Windows Media Player” can be opened on a PC in the HomeGroup to find all the shared music, videos, and pictures.


Things to Remember

There are a couple of things that need to be addressed that could be causing hiccups in your HomeGroup implementation.

HomeGroup Sharing Options Aren’t Showing Up

You may not have the above sharing options as you see in the screenshots, which would indicate you’ve turned the Sharing Wizard off. Correct this by running the command “control folders” from a command prompt or the “Run” dialog box.

Open-Windows-Folder-Options-from-the-Run-dialog-box-with-the-command-"control folders"

In both Windows 7 and 8, enable the “Use Sharing Wizard” option in the “View” tab. The above sharing options will appear immediately after this change.


Files or Folders are Asking For Permission

This is a commonly encountered error after setting up a Homegroup on Windows. Luckily the solution is pretty simple.


It’s easy to accidently share a folder with limited permissions. If you get the above error that’s asking for permission, double check the proper permissions are set to include “view and edit” rights.


Final Thoughts

If you’re using more than one computer on the network for the same task, creating a HomeGroup will make it easy to share common files. You may have media on one PC that acts as a type of central hub in your network.

Set up a HomeGroup on multiple machines to easily grab that data for streaming. No matter the circumstance, a HomeGroup is simple to implement, yet serves a great purpose for networked clients.