Ensure home network interoperability with Windows 8 and previous version of Windows [Tips]

Share and access content home network Windows 8

In this Windows 8 How-To, you’ll learn how to join HomeGroup to share and access content in a home network. Plus, you will also learn how to ensure home network interoperability on Windows 8 and previous version of Windows. 

Windows 8 is set to change the way we use computers today, with many new features and enhancements that make easier to get things done. One of the new features in Windows 8 is the ability to use a Microsoft account — Windows Live ID or typically your Live email address — to create your account in the operating system, leaving the traditional local account as a secondary option. The key benefit using a Microsoft account is the ability to synchronize many of the user’s settings and data among PCs.

The issue, though, comes when you need to maintain consistence interoperability in a home network with Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP or other versions; problems may occur and you need to be prepared to deal with them or you can avoid them with a couple of tips.

Windows 8 and HomeGroup

HomeGroup is a piece of Microsoft network technology that you can use to share files and printers with other Windows PCs around the house. This technology will still be supported in the upcoming version of Windows, and it is the easiest way to share and access content in a home network.

To configure Homegroup in Windows 8, follow these steps:

1. Use the Windows 8 Logo Monochrome +I keyboard shortcut, and then click More PC Settings.

2. From PC settings, select HomeGroup and type the password to join. The password can be found in the main computer. If the main computer is running Windows 7 or Windows 8, go to Control Panel, type homegroup in the search box, then click HomeGroup and finally click View or print the homegroup password.

HomeGroup Join Windows 8

3. When Windows 8 finishes making all the necessary changes, swipe from left-to-right the options on the right-hand side to enable the content that you want to share on the network, e.g., Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, Printers and devices, or Media devices to allow TVs and game consoles to play content from your computer.

HomeGroup sharing folder and devices

4. To browse the network shared content, open Windows Explorer and from the right, click Homegroup — Don’t use the Network link –. A difference from the Network link, Homegroup will list the shared content by user and not by computer.

HomeGroup Windows Explorer Windows 8

Windows 8 and sharing content with previous versions

What I just showed you was the simplest method to share content in the network with Windows 8 and Windows 7 PCs. In the case you need share and access content in your home network with other versions of Microsoft’s operating systems, the traditional Windows file sharing is the way to go. Now you should use the Network link from the Windows Explorer from the menu on the right to access the share folders.

Network shared Windows 8

Tip: If you are sharing or accessing a folder on the network, make sure that you have configured a password for your account. Windows doesn’t like it too much accessing the network without a password, so you may run into access issues.

Now just browse the network to access shared content and be ready to enter the username and password to gain access.

Note: You may run into a situation where network folders aren’t being listed, and you’ll see a message at the top of the window saying: “Network discovery and file sharing are turned off. Network computer and devices are not visible. Click to change…”, click on it, and then select Turn on network discovery and file sharing. Now you can continue browsing the network folder.

How to share a folder on Windows 8 [Bonus]

If this is your first time-sharing a folder on a network with Windows 8, follow these steps to accomplish the task. The process in Windows 8 is pretty similar to Windows 7, once you are done the content will not only be available for Windows 8 and 7, but also on Windows XP and other versions:

1. Create a folder in a location that you’ll remember, e.g., in C:\ or external drive, or in the Desktop.

2. Right-click the folder, select Properties, then navigate to the Sharing tab and click the Share button.

File Sharing Windows 8

3. Choose the people you want to share the folder with. For a quick way to share content, you can use the Everyone group, this will allow granted access to all users. Type everyone, click Add and from the right, choose the permission level of Read or Read/Write. When you are done, simply click Share and then Done.

If you are sharing a folder that is located at the root of the drive C:\, in an external drive or in different partition, you are done by the end of step #3. However, if you are sharing a folder from a system location, e.g., Desktop, Documents, Music, etc., you’ll need to go through a couple more steps, because Windows requires you to change the folder permissions in these circumstances:

4. From the Sharing tab, click Advanced Sharing and then check Share this folder. From this setting’s window, you can also change the name of the shared folder, set the simultaneous number of users that can access the folder, and more importantly you can click the Permissions button, and change the Share Permissions for groups and users in the system.

Advanced Sharing Windows 8

5. When you are finished making your changes, don’t forget to apply, click OK and Close to finish sharing the new folder.

To access the newly shared folder, go to another computer, open Windows Explorer and from the menu on the right, click Network and double-click the computer with the content you want to access.

That’s all there is to it!

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me. Email him at [email protected].