Sharing Files on a Network

So you've purchased a NAT router and set up a home network so that all of your computers have access to the Internet.  Would it be nice to be able to grab a few files from your other computer without using disks or burning a CD?  With Windows file sharing, you can do this.

Making your computer a file server

Open My Computer.  Right click the drive or folder you want to share on your network, and click on Sharing and Security.  Click the "Share this folder" bullet, and set any security options that you want.  Then click OK.

If you are using Windows XP Service Pack 2, you may need to open the Windows Firewall in Control Panel.  Once you are there, click on the Exception tab and place a check mark next to "File and Printer Sharing."

If you are using a third-party software firewall, you will need to configure it to allow File and Printer Sharing, or to allow traffic on ports 137 and 139.

Dealing with the guest account

Enabling the guest account allows anyone to connect to your shares without entering a user name or password.  If this isn't enough of a security risk, enabling it also disallows anyone using Windows XP to access your shares with a different user name.

I highly recommend disabling the guest account.  This can be done by going to the Users control panel item, clicking the guest account, and clicking on "disable guest account."

If you use Windows XP Home Edition, however, you can only share files using the guest account.  This is a severe disadvantage as well as a security risk, but it is possible to set a password for the guest account.  Open a command window and type "net user guest [password]" to set one.

Identifying your computer on the network

You will need either the computer name or the IP address of the file server you wish to connect to in order to connect to it.

IP Address: On the file server computer, go to start, run, and type cmd and press enter.  Then type ipconfig in the resulting dialog box.

Computer name: Right-click My Computer, click Properties, and click on the Computer Name tab.  This will show you your computer name.  You may want to change your computer name to something more descriptive.  Also, be sure that all of the computers on your network are in the same workgroup or domain.  The default workgroup is WORKGROUP, or MSHOME, depending on which version of Windows you are using.

Transferring files from the server

There are a few ways to access a file server.

Suppose the IP address of the file server you wish to connect to is  The easiest way to connect to it is to go to start, run, and type \\ and press enter.  You will then get a window that shows all of the shared files on the file server you are accessing.

Before that happens, you may also be prompted for a user name or password.  You must enter a user name and password for an account that is on the computer you want to access.  If the account does not have a password, you will not be able to use it to access shares on that computer.

You may be presented with a dialog box that asks for a password and has the user name grayed out.  This occurs when (1) the file server has the guest account enabled and the guest account is password protected, in which case you should type the password for the guest account, or (2) if file sharing has been disabled.

You may also wish to mount a share as a drive letter in My Computer.  This can be done through the command prompt.
Example: net use z: \\chris1\d$
You can also specify a different user name.  This is extremely helpful if the file server has the guest account enabled.
Example: net use z: \\chris1\d$ /user:chris