Network and Sharing Center

Network and Sharing Center in Windows 7 allows you to determine which networks your computer is connected to and the network designation assigned to those networks. The first time that you connect to a network you must choose a network location. This automatically designates the appropriate firewall and security settings for the type of network that you connect to.

You can access Network and Sharing Center by right clicking the network icon in the system tray and selecting Open Network and Sharing Center or by clicking the Start menu, then Control Panel and then Networking and Sharing Center.

There are four network locations:

Home network: This is used in a trusted environment which allows you to see other computers and devices on the network and allows other network users to see your computer. The Windows 7 feature that enables this functionality is Network discovery which is turned on by default for home networks.

Work network: This is used in workplace environments. Network discovery is turned on therefore, you can see other computers on the network and others can see you. You cannot create or join a homegroup.

Domain network: This is used in Active Directory domain networks and which are controlled by systems/network administrators. You cannot create a homegroup but you can join one created by someone on the network.

Public network: This used in public places such as, wireless networks in airports. Homegroup is not available on public networks while network discovery is turned off. It is recommended to choose this option if you’re connected directly to the Internet and have no perimeter protection.

The Advance sharing settings item in Network and Sharing Center allows you to configure sharing options for each different network profile. Note that network profiles apply on a per-network interface basis. The available sharing options are as follows:

Network discovery: allows Windows 7 to locate other computers and devices on the network. In addition, it makes your computer visible to other computers on the same network. Remember, when you disable Network Discovery other sharing functions remain enabled.

File and print sharing: enables files and printers to be shared with other users on the same network.

Public folder sharing: allows network users read and write access to a public folder location. When you disable this option users can only access folders that they have appropriate permissions.

Media streaming: allows users on the network to access your pictures, music, and videos. In addition, you are allowed to access other’s pictures if they have this option enabled.

File sharing connections: allows you to choose between protecting file-sharing connections using 128 bit encryption, 40 or 56 bit encryption. The lower bits are present for compatibility with devices that do not support 128 bit encryption.

Password protected sharing: allows you to restrict access to shared resources only to users who have accounts configured locally. This option is not present in Active Directory domain environments and to give other users access you need to disable this option.

Homegroup connections: allows you to decide how authentication works for connections to Homegroup resources. With all user accounts set to the same user name and password you can set this option to allow Windows to manage Homegroup connections. Otherwise, you should configure this option to use user accounts and password to connect to other computers. This option is available only in Home/work network profiles.