Home Computer Networking (File & Printer Sharing) Basics

Do-It-Yourself Tech

This article is somewhat of a continuation of Home Computer Internet Sharing Basics, as it assumes your internet connection is already shared between two or more computers. The task of computer networking is quickly becoming a necessary skill in order for computers to be fully utilized. When two or more computers are networked properly, they can easily share files and/or printers. Here are the basics you need to know for home computer networking:

Though it is not necessarily required to have shared your internet connection before setting up file and printer sharing, it is a logical prerequisite. You really only need a switch (or hub, this is the little box that the networking cables plug into). But if you’ve purchased a router for internet sharing, most come with a switch/hub built-in. Thus, once you have the equipment setup for internet sharing, you are ready for file and printer sharing.

To share printers or files between computers, a couple steps are required. It is best if both computers are on the same “workgroup” (this is basically the overall name of the network). To change this, right click on My Computer and then left click on Properties. A “System Properties” box appears with tabs at the top (shown in the picture on the right). Click on the “Computer Name” tab. If you click on the “Change” button toward the middle bottom area of the page, a new window pops up where you can type in both the computer and workgroup name. Once both computers are part of the same workgroup, you will be asked to restart each of them.

Now you are ready to share your files and/or printers. For file sharing, choose any folder you want to share (you can navigate to your folders either through double clicking on My Computer or double clicking on My Documents, whichever place you normally go to access your files) and right click on it and then left click on the “Sharing and Security” option. Or, as an alternative, you can simply drag and drop any files you are interested in sharing into the “Shared Documents” folder, which is accessible after double clicking on My Computer. This folder is shared by default.

If you are sharing a specific folder, after clicking on “Sharing and Security,” a window will pop up that should look similar to the picture on the left. Depending on how your computer is setup, you may need to go through a wizard to enable file sharing or you can click on the link to learn more about file sharing and then click on “Just Enable File Sharing.” With file sharing, you have the option of leaving your files as read only or clicking the box which will allow others on your network to change the files when they access them.

For printer sharing, click on the Start bar in the lower left-hand corner of the computer and then click on “Printers and Faxes.” Once you see your printer(s) listed, right click on the printer you wish to share and then left click on “Sharing.” This should bring up a window that looks similar to the picture on the right. Enter the name by which you want your printer to be shared and click OK.

You are now ready to access your files and printer from your other computer. On your other computer, click on the Start bar and then click on “My Network Places.” Your shares from the first computer should appear. If they don’t, try clicking the link on the left-hand side that says “View Workgroup Computers.” This will bring up a list of the computers on your network. Once you see the computers listed, double click on the one whose files or printers you wish to use. You should see a list of the shared folders and printers you setup previously. To view or use the files inside the shared folders, simply double click on them. To install the printer for use on the computer, simply double click on it.

It should be noted that this article only provides the basics for networking and focuses around computers with Windows XP. If you have a more specific question, please feel free to contact us.

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