HomeGroups and Windows 8: How to share everything (or nothing)

Beginners' Tips Series!

The days of having a single family computer that everyone shares are long gone. Now it isn't uncommon to find multiple computers, tablets, printers, gaming consoles, etc. all in one household. With so many users and devices in a single place, it may seem like sharing data between them might be a challenge.

Fortunately, you don't have to be a network engineer to figure out how to get Microsoft devices all talking to each other and sharing data. With HomeGroups, it's easy to set up.

What is a HomeGroup?

A homegroup is two or more computers that reside on the same home network. Members of a homegroup can share pictures, documents, music, videos and printers with each other.

They can be used to share individual folders and files with other computers in a way that can be easily managed by everyone who is part of the group. A homegroup can also be used to create a central server of sorts for media, printers, etc. that can be accessed by different computers, but managed centrally by one user.

HomeGroups can be secured using passwords, and each member can control exactly what they share with the other members of the group.

Any computer running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 can be part of a homegroup. However, Windows 7 Starter/Home Basic and Windows 8/8.1 RT have limited functionality. The former cannot create homegroups of their own and the latter cannot create homegroups or share content with other members.

How to set up a HomeGroup from scratch

If you want to set up a new homegroup for the first time:

  1. Go to Control Panel > Network and Internet > HomeGroup, then click Create
  2. Select which libraries you would like to share with future members of the group

How to join an existing HomeGroup

Before joining an existing homegroup, you will need its password. To find it, you need to go to the computer that the homegroup was created on.

  1. Then, open Control Panel > HomeGroup.
  2. Click View or print the homegroup password.

Now that you have a password, go to the computer you want to join to the group.

  1. Go to Control Panel > HomeGroup.
  2. The computer should automatically detect that a homegroup exists and will prompt you for the password. Enter the password and click Join.
  3. Select the Libraries that you want to share with the rest of the group.
  4. Click under Media Devices and select what devices you wish to share.

NOTE: This is where you would activate sharing for streaming media to your Xbox 360 or Xbox One.

In Windows 8.1, you can get easy access to the HomeGroup settings by opening the Charms bar on the right, then going to Settings > Change PC settings > Network > HomeGroup.

Here you can use the sliders to choose what Libraries you want to share, or toggle printer sharing and media streaming. You can also view your homegroup password, or leave the group all together.

To share individual folders instead of Libraries

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. Navigate to the folder you want to share
  3. Right-click, then select Share with > Specific people.

  1. Click the drop down arrow, select and then HomeGroup
  2. Click Add

  1. You can change what level of sharing you want by clicking the arrow next to the homegroup in the list and choosing Read or Read/Write. This is also where you would remove permissions from the folder.

  1. Click Share to save your changes

All set. Now what?

You can get a view of all of the computers and devices that are part of your homegroup by going to Control Panel > Devices and Printers. There you will see computers, printers, and gaming consoles that belong to your group.

To access files from your computer

If you want to open documents, watch videos or listen to music that has been shared out to your computer via the homegroup, you can open File Explorer (known as Windows Explorer in Windows 7) and simply navigate to them under the HomeGroup section on the left.

To remove your computer from the homegroup

If you no longer want a computer to be part of the group:

  1. Go to Control Panel > HomeGroup
  2. Click Leave the homegroup

  1. Click Leave the homegroup again to confirm your decision

As more and more devices creep into our homes, it becomes increasingly important to manage them in a simple way. The development of HomeGroups has taken the once esoteric world of home networking to a level that anyone can understand, making it easy to share between them all.

  • Using this since I'm using Windows 7
  • but i think its the time to move to windows 8 windows 7 was good for 2010 not for 2014 you will find great experience of using windows there and if you have problem i will help you
  • Hey dude i am using w10 tp 9879 now.. :)
  • I believe windows 8 home group and windows 7 can work together if you ever decide to upgrade a machine. I went win 8 on all my pcs
  • Great article! Users of File History (Windows 8 awesome backup solution), please note you cannot use HomeGroup feature toghetner. Well, you ca turn it on but there is an unexplained glitch causing all your pictures, music and videos from respective libraries to randomly backed up ad dupicated all over until your backup location is crammed. Yes, you need to choose between File History and HomeGroups, cannot use both. It is extremelly annoying and to dsate unaddressed by Microsoft. I hate them for this. (Apparently no one uses File History for them to care.) If you are interested see this mile-long thread.
  • Yep, using this for a while, but good write up! Very useful info!
  • Same here
  • Wish RT could utilize this feature.
  • You can join Homegroups with RT... just can't share from the RT device.
  • Not only can you join homegroups with RT, but you can access any regular shared folders on a network. - of course if you know how to do that, you don't need to use homegroups lol... I guess "Homegroups" are like "shared folders for dummies" no offence. ;)
  • That's what I meant....i wish RT could share its folders using this feature.
  • I decided to us bittorrent sync instead.... Mainly due to not having limitations...
  • Really a very useful article.. Never knew it is so easy
  • Can you mix OSs on the network? I am 8.1 my son is 7. ( my wife is mac!!!)
  • Bit torrent sync
  • Yep. The different versions of Windows will play nice together. I use Win7 and my Surface Pro 3.
  • Just don't create any unnecessary tension in your marriage for having a different computer OS.
  • I love the Homegroups feature, it's very useful and convenient with all our devices. Hopefully with Windows 10 they'll include Windows Phones. It would be nice to access a TV show or movie that's on another system through my phone. Fingers crossed!
  • You already can using remote desktop.
  • Or PLEX if you'd prefer a streaming option. There's actually several different apps that'll work for this.. Moliplayer is another one.
  • Thanks for those suggestions, I'll definitely check them out. I've tried RDP and that's fine but I'd rather just have the ability to open the video app when I'm at home and see my available folders, like I can on Xbox and my SP3.
  • You can't choose to share only with some members of the group
  • You're a family though
  • My Surface 2 has major issues going to "deep sleep" when my desktop PC is turned on, which sleep study says is due to "Unregistered Device SE" (doing this from memory, so that may not be exactly correct) and the wifi. I've always attributed this to Homegroups or something.
  • I wish servers or non Microsoft file shares supported it. Since they don't i have been sticking with traditional file sharing.
  • I stop the Homegroup services on every PC I install Windows on...
  • Because you don't want to share your porn collection...
  • I kind of agree. it is pretty easy to screw-up and share everything to everyone....or when you create a new folder or files...... I think that you should have to manually opt-in and select which folders you want to share, not just the "pictures, and videos" etc folders.  It also shares each and every folder that all users have access to so if you forget to change the permissions on each and every folder, the new items pop up on someone's screen, and shows the new pictures, videos, etc. It needs to be set where new folders created by anyone, are not shared by default and broadcast to everyone saying new pictures, new music, etc.  This should apply to both the files in the user's own profile and new files and directories created anywhere on the C:\ or any other drive or partition. If you ahve a lot of files like myself, I don't keep them in my own profile, because the more files that you have in your profile, the slower your computer experience will be.  So quite often, I will keep them in another folder.
  • My PC and Laptop are connected to the same network, but on LAN and Wi-Fi respectively. They can't see each other on the network. How do I solve this? Both are however able to see each other if they are both on LAN(Wired). But they can't when one is wired and the other is on Wi-Fi. My router is DSL-2750U from D-Link. Any solution to this is much appreciated, can't setup a home group. Thank you!
  • Is your wireless profile a "home" type? Make sure it's not public type
  • Err... How to see my wireless profile? Sorry, I'm a newbie to this. Thanks for the response! :)
  • +635 Great post.
  • Pointless if u have set up network shares.
  • Use my homegroup... Seem them randomly stop at times so I have folders shared too
  • I really hope they update homegroups, and make it more stable. I used to use it, but then sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. I think there should be a better way of sharing files and content like homegroups but better, something like a hub for devices and be able to happy share it. But when I used this, it was a nice feature and easy. I guess it's not that needed anymore for me, since I rarely share anything, and when I do it's outside the house so I use onedrive ^______^ but I really hope Microsoft makes homegroups and file sharing in general nicer to use.
  • I don't understand why people have issues. I have 4 computers, a tablet, and laptop. Homegroup has never stop working randomly for no reason.
  • alright so i followed this word for word, and now the homeshare isnt showing up in my xbox one media player. Before it showed everytime but with no files to view, and now it just isnt even showing up. I dont know what I am doing wrong, so frustrated, PLEASE HELP.