Windows 7 has made sharing files and folders on a network even easier with its HomeGroups function. However, if you think your Vista and XP PCs can't share the same network, you'd be wrong. We show you how to get all your PCs to play nicely on the network, including Macs.
Set Vista and XP to share files and folders
Here's how to prepare Windows XP and Vista to share files and folders with Windows 7.
In XP, you can share files on the network by dragging them into the Shared Documents folder. Or, you can activate sharing manually at the file locations.
Right-click the file or folder you want to share, and pick Sharing and Security. Click the checkbox to Share this folder on the network.
If you want others to be able to modify - or add - content, click the box to Allow network users to change my files. Click OK. To turn off sharing, open the same menu and unclick the checkbox.
In Windows Vista, you can also copy files to your Public folder to share with anyone on the network.
To selectively share items, right-click the file or folder, and pick Share. Pick the user accounts for people who should have access from the drop-down menu, and click Share.
To retrieve files hosted from a Windows 7 system, look in the Network browser within XP or Vista.
Share files between Mac OS X and Windows 7
An OS X Mac can share or retrieve files with Windows 7, although it takes a couple of extra steps. Here's how to share from OS X.
Open the Network System Preference, click your network connection on the left pane, and press Advanced. Click the WINS tab, type your Windows 7 PC's workgroup name, and click OK. Click Apply.
Open the Sharing System Preference, and click the checkbox to enable File Sharing. Click Options, and check the box to Share files and folders using SMB (Windows).
Click the box to enable sharing for your user account. If needed, click the plus icon below the Shared Folders box to add more locations.
On the Windows 7 system, if your Mac doesn't appear in the Network area, type the Mac's computer name into your Windows file browser.
For example, my shared Mac is named 'Felix', so I typed \\Felix. Enter your username and password to connect to the files. You can browse shared Windows 7 files in OS X, too.
On the Mac, go to the Finder, choose Go: Connect to Server, and enter the remote PC's SMB file path.
For example, my Windows 7 PC is named 'SLOTH', so I entered smb://SLOTH. Enter your login name and password to finish the connection.
Your multi-OS network should now be all set.
See also: Windows 7: How happy are early adopters?