Networking on Windows was such a complicated affair 10 or 15 years ago that a network tech could count on a six-figure salary just getting computers to talk to one another. While home networking on Windows works considerably more smoothly now, you can still find that Windows stalls your attempts to connect a home network together. Before you spend time on the phone calling tech support, consider these quick fixes.
If you have a new operating system
If you’ve just upgraded your computer to a new operating system or if you have a computer with Windows 7 or 8 while everything else on your network is Windows XP, networking problems are only to be expected. The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that your network adapter’s drivers are up-to-date. You’ll find them on your computer manufacturer’s website.
IPv4 is the most common networking protocol in use today. It’s been around for long enough, though, and there aren’t enough IP addresses under the system to go around anymore. IPv6 solves this problem, but the protocol isn’t common yet.
New Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems feature both IPv4 and IPv6. For some reason, though, they find it hard to automatically connect to older computers that only use IPv4. If you have a connectivity problem, about the only reliable solution would be to upgrade the operating system on every computer on your home network to Windows 7 or 8.
Sharing files over your network
Sometimes, even if you can locate the other computers on your home network, you find that you can’t connect to them to transfer files. You’ll find that Windows throws up a Windows Security dialog box that asks for a username and password – even if the other computers on your system have no usernames and passwords.
There are two ways to work this out. You could either create a login name and password for every computer on your network or you could enable Simple File Sharing all around. To enable Simple File Sharing, you need to go around every computer on your network and make the necessary settings.
If yours is a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer, you need to right-click on the network icon in the notification area and click on Network and Sharing Center. Once the window opens, click on Change Advanced Sharing Settings to the left.
Make sure that the Turn On Network Discovery and Turn On File And Printer Sharing radio buttons are selected. Under All Networks, you should also click on Turn Off Password-Protected Sharing.
When your home network is a mix of old and new operating systems
If all your network computers are 7 or 8, the Home Groups feature makes networking simple. You simply connect each computer to your Home Group and you are through (Windows 7 Home Basic doesn’t do Home Groups).
The Home Groups and Libraries features on Windows 7 and 8 can make it difficult for XP and Vista computers to connect, though. There is a workaround. You can create password-protected user accounts on your Windows 7 or 8 computers and give those passwords to the people on the computers with the older operating systems. They can use these passwords whenever they need to connect to your computer.
The Libraries feature is the other problem. While Windows XP can see all the folders and files that you include in a Library on Windows 7 or 8, it can’t see the Libraries, themselves. This is not a real problem, just as long as you don’t let the fact that you don’t see the name of the Library throw you.
A few final tips
When you first turn on a computer running Vista, 7 or 8, Windows asks you to say if you are on a Home network, a Public network or a Work network. If it’s a laptop that’s often at coffee shops and airports, you might be tempted to choose Public to remain safe. If you do this, though, sharing can become very difficult. If you’ve already chosen Public, you need to go to the Network and Sharing Center and change this back to Home.