Saturday, November 24, 2012

No-Sweat Windows 8 Networking

You can share pictures, music, videos, documents and printers on your home or small business network by setting up a HomeGroup. You can select the libraries -- e.g., My Pictures or My Documents -- that you want to share, and you can restrict certain folders or files to prevent sharing. You can set up a password to prevent others from changing the share settings you designate.

Easy sharing and streaming of media and other assets among computers at home or in the workplace is a good reason to get networked. Other benefits include sharing Internet connections.

If you've been using email as a method for distributing files among family members or a small business, or are simply taking the Windows 8 plunge, Microsoft has never made it easier -- particularly in a Windows 7 migration, or an all-Windows 8 setup.

If you're already sharing an Internet connection, much of the work is completed for you.

Step 1: Connect Your Windows 8 PCs to the Internet

Perform this connection wirelessly or by using a wired connection, depending on the capabilities of the router. Wired connections are more robust.

Open the Settings charm on the Windows 8 PC by moving your mouse pointer to the lower right corner of the desktop and clicking on the "Settings" cogwheel-like icon. Then click on the wireless network icon -- it looks like a set of mobile phone signal bars -- or the wired network icon that looks like a small monitor screen.

Choose the network available and click "Connect." Enter the appropriate network security key if prompted.

Tip: Inspect your Internet connection device to determine the capabilities. A router will have a number of physical ports that can be used for a wired connection; an antenna is a dead giveaway that there are wireless capabilities. Some wireless routers don't have external antennas. If there's only one port, it's a modem, not a router, and you'll need to buy a router.

Step 2: Turn Sharing On

Turn network sharing on by right-clicking on the wireless or wired network icon from the previous step. Then click "Turn sharing on or off" and choose "Yes, turn on sharing and connect to devices."

Perform this step on each of the computers to be networked.

Tip: When sharing shares files and other assets, be sure you trust the other network users.

Step 3: Verify the PCs Are Added

Sign on to any of the PCs and point to the bottom right corner of the Start page, as before. Then enter the search term "Network" in the Search text box.

Click on the Network icon that will appear, and you'll see the PCs that have been shared.

Step 4: Join or Create a HomeGroup

Windows 8 automatically creates a HomeGroup, which is a set of PCs that are allowed to share files and printers.

Choose "Change PC Settings" from the cog-like "Settings" charm you used earlier and then click on HomeGroup. Then create or join a HomeGroup. You can obtain any existing passwords from the same settings location on any existing PCs that are already part of the HomeGroup you want to join.

Tip: To obtain an existing HomeGroup password from a Windows 7 machine, go to the Control Panel on that PC and choose "Network and Internet." Then choose HomeGroup and select "View or print the HomeGroup password."

Enter that password on the new Windows 8 machine to join the new machine to the legacy Windows 7 HomeGroup.

Step 5: Choose the Libraries and Devices to Share

Then perform this step on all of the computers you want to network.

Tip: Windows RT, the tablet version of Windows 8, won't allow you to create a HomeGroup -- you can only join one.

Step 5: Tweak the HomeGroup Settings

Choose and change the permissions on libraries and devices you want to share or not share by returning to the HomeGroup PC Settings area on the Windows 8 PC you want to tweak -- or in the case of a Windows 7 PC, the HomeGroup options area of the Network and Internet section of the Control Panel.

Tip: Use the search text box function from the earlier step to look for individual files or folders you want to share. Choose the asset, open the file location, and then click the "Share" tab to make permissions changes.