Do you have multiple computers connected to your home network? You can improve efficiency and enable easy sharing between all computers by creating shared folders. These folders can then be accessed by any other computer on the network with the appropriate permissions, and are a great way to quickly access the files you need elsewhere on your network. Read on to step 1 below to learn more about sharing folders in each operating system.
Method 1 of 3: Windows
Share specific folders
Step 1. Make sure File and Printer Sharing is turned on
To share specific folders, this feature must be enabled. The method of enabling it varies slightly depending on the version of Windows you are using. It is highly recommended that you do not enable folder sharing on a public network, such as a school or coffee shop.
- Windows 10 - Open Control Panel and click Network and Internet. Click Network and Sharing Center. Click "Change advanced sharing settings" to the left of your network's name.
- Windows 8 - Right click on the Network icon in your system tray in Desktop View and select 'Network and Sharing Center'. Click the "Change advanced sharing settings" link. Open the profile you want to share (Private or Public). Enable both 'Network Discovery' and 'File and Printer Sharing'. Click the 'Save changes' button and enter your administrator password, if necessary.
- Windows 7 - Click the Start button, type 'Control Panel', and press ↵ Enter. Double click on the 'Network and Sharing Center' icon. Click the "Change advanced sharing settings" link. Open the profile you want to share (Home/Work or Public). Enable both 'Network Discovery' and 'File and Printer Sharing'. Click the 'Save changes' button and enter your administrator password, if necessary.
- Windows Vista - Click on the Start menu and select Control Panel. Click on 'Network and Internet', then select 'Network and Sharing Center'. Open 'Network discovery' and 'File and printer sharing' in the 'Sharing and discovery' group. Make sure both are turned on. Click 'Save' for each entry.
- Windows XP - Click the Start button and select Control Panel. Open 'Network connection'. Right click on your network connection and select Properties. Check 'File and printer sharing for Microsoft networks'.
Step 2. Find the folder you want to share
With File and Printer Sharing enabled, you can share any folder on your hard drive with other people on your network. Using File Explorer, navigate to the folder you want to share. Right click on it.
Step 3. Select the 'Share with' option
This will open the Share submenu. You can choose to share it with everyone in your Homegroup or select specific people you want to share it with.
When choosing a Homegroup option, you can allow other Homegroup members to both read and write the folder or restrict it to read-only
Step 4. Click on the 'Specific people' option to choose which users you want to share the folders with
This will open a new window with a list of all users who currently have access to the folder. You can add users to this list and give them specific permissions for the folder.
- To share the folder with everyone, click the drop-down menu at the top and select "Everyone." Click the Add button.
- To share folders with specific users, click the drop-down menu and select them or type in the names and click Add.
Step 5. Set the permissions for users on the list
Find a user on the list that you want to change permissions for. Look in the column with permissions levels, and click on the arrow next to the existing permissions. Select the new one from the list.
- Read – The user can see, copy and open the files in the folder, but cannot change or add new ones.
- Read/Write – In addition to the same permissions as read, users can now edit files and add new files to the shared folder. Files can be deleted by users with Read/Write privileges.
- Remove – Removes the permissions for this user and removes the user from the list.
Step 6. Click on the Share button
The permissions settings are saved, and the folder becomes available on the network to all users with the appropriate permissions.
Using Public Folders
Step 1. Activate Public Folders
Public folders are folders that are always shared with all users connected to the network. Anyone can read and write to Public Folders, and no special permissions are required. Public folders are disabled by default, except in a Homegroup.
- Windows 8 - Right click on the Network icon in your system tray in the Desktop view and select 'Network and Sharing Center'. Click the "Change advanced sharing settings" link. Open the 'All networks' group. Look in the "Share Public Folders" group and enable it. Click the 'Save changes' button.
- Windows 7 - Click the Start button, type 'Control Panel' and press ↵ Enter. Double-click the "Network and Sharing Center" icon. Click the "Change advanced sharing settings" link. Open the profile for which you want to enable Public Folders (Home/Work or Public). Look for the "Share Public Folders" group and enable it. Click the 'Save changes' button and enter your administrator password if necessary.
- Windows Vista - Click on the Start menu and select Control Panel. Click on 'Network and Internet' and select 'Network and Sharing Center'. Open "Public Folder" in the "Sharing & Discovery" group. Enable the feature and then click the 'Save' button.
Step 2. Turn on or off "Password Protected Sharing"
In the same place where you found the Public Folders features, you'll also see the password-protected sharing options. By enabling this feature, only people with a user account and password on the same computer can access the Public folder. When enabled, users on other computers will not be able to access the folder.
Step #3. Locate your Public Folders
When the folder is enabled, you can add things to it that you want to share with everyone on the network. The Public folder is part of the Library view, and is accessed slightly differently depending on your version of Windows. There is a Public folder in each of the Libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos).
- Windows 8 – Libraries are not displayed by default in Windows 8. To view them, click 'This PC' to open File Explorer. Click on the View panel and then on the 'Navigation panel' on the far left. Click the 'Show Libraries' option to show the Libraries folder in the sidebar. Open the library you want to add files to, and open the corresponding Public folder that appears.
- Windows 7 - Click Start and select Documents. In the left pane, open the Libraries and Documents folders, and select Public Documents. You can also choose Public Folders in the other libraries.
- Windows Vista - Click Start and select Documents. In the left pane, click the Public link in the Favorite Links group. If you don't see it, click More and select Public. Choose the Public folder you want to add files to.
Step 4. Add files
You can add and move files in Public Folders, just like in any other folder. You can copy and paste from other locations, or drag and drop files.
Method 2 of 3: Mac OS X
Step #1. Open System Preferences
Click the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Make sure you are logged in as an administrator.
Step #2. Click on the Share button
You can find it in the "Internet & Wireless" group of System Preferences. This will open the Share window.
Step 3. Activate file sharing
Check the 'File Sharing' box in the left frame. This will enable file sharing on your Mac and allow you to share files and folders with other users and other computers on the network.
Step 4. Add folders you want to share
Click the '+' button to open a Finder window. Find the folders you want to share. If you want to share a specific file, you have to create a special folder for it. Click Add when you have selected a folder.
Step 5. Share the folder with Windows computers
By default, a shared folder will only be accessible to other Mac computers. If you want to share the folder with Windows users, select the folder from the list of shared folders and click Options. Check 'Share files and folders with SMB (Windows)' and click Done.
You can use this to set the permissions for the folder
Step 6. Set the permissions for the folder
Select the folder from the list of shared folders. The list of users on the right shows which users currently have access to the folder. Click the '+ or '-' buttons to add or remove users from the list of users who have access.
Method 3 of 3: Linux
How to access a shared Windows folder
Step 1. Install the shared folder mounting software
To access a Windows shared folder, you need to install the SMB protocols. To do this, open the Terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and type sudo apt-get install cifs-utils.
Step 2. Create a folder to act as the location for mounting the shared folder
Create a folder somewhere that is easily accessible. You can do this from the GUI desktop or from the Terminal with the mkdir command. For example, to create a folder called 'sharedfolder' on your desktop, type mkdir ~/Desktop/sharedfolder.
Step 3. Mount the folder
Once you've created the folder to act as a mount location for the shared folder, you can link it to the Linux computer. Open the Terminal again and enter the following command (using the previous example of creating the 'sharedfolder' folder):
- sudo mount.cifs //WindowsComputerName/SharedFolder /home/username/Desktop/sharedfolder -o user=WindowsUsername
- You will be prompted for the root password for your Linux installation, as well as the password for the Windows user account.
Step 4. Open folder
Opening the mounted folder will give you access to the files. You can add and remove files just like in any other folder. You can also use the terminal to access the file in the shared folder.
Create a shared folder
Step 1. Install Samba
Samba is open source software that allows you to share folders with Windows users. You can install Samba from the Terminal with the command sudo apt-get install samba.
- Once Samba is installed, create a username with the command smbpasswd -a username. You will also be asked to create a password.
Step 2. Create the directory you want to share
You can use any existing directory, but it can be useful to easily distinguish which of your folders is shared with other computers. Use the mkdir command to create the directory.
Step 3. Open the Samba configuration file
Type sudo vi /etc/samba/smb.conf. You can use any file editor, 'vi' is just an example. The Samba configuration file opens in the editor.
- Scroll to the bottom of the file and add the following lines:
- You can change the settings as needed, such as making the folder read-only or not public.
- You can create multiple entries for the file, for multiple shared folders.
Step 4. Save the file
Save the configuration file and close the editor. Restart the SMB service with the command sudo service smbd restart. This will reload the configuration file and apply the settings to the shared folder.
Step 5. Find your IP address
To link to the folder in Windows, you need the IP address of the Linux computer. Type ifconfig in the Terminal and note the address.
Step 6. Open the folder in Windows
Create a new shortcut somewhere on your Windows computer by right-clicking and choosing New → Shortcut. Using the IP address, indicate the location of the folder you created in Linux: \IP address\foldername. Click Next, give the shortcut a name, and then click Finish or Exit. Opening the new shortcut will allow you to view the contents of the shared folder.
- Keep track of who you grant access to the shared folders. If there's content that you don't want anyone to see, change, or delete, make sure you unshare the folder by adjusting the permissions.
- Unprotected wireless networks allow nearby wireless users that you may not know to access your folders.