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Windows 7 networking features explained

FAQ: HomeGroup, DirectAccess, VPN Reconnect & more

Once upon a time, computers were standalone machines running local applications. However, now without an ability to access the internet, retrieve email, chat via instant messaging, and connect with file shares and software, the computer is little more than an expensive paperweight.

Clearly, the trend is toward remote and mobile computing, and it's important for an operating system to provide the tools necessary to remain connected and productive from anywhere.

Microsoft is incorporating a variety of new networking features in Windows 7 that simplify connectivity and help users access network resources no matter where they are connecting from. Here we'll take a closer look at some of the innovative networking features to be found in Windows 7 (we may get a little bit technical at times).

HomeGroup

Let's start with an enhancement aimed primarily at home users and home businesses: With Windows 7, Microsoft introduces the concept of HomeGroup. The HomeGroup feature serves two primary purposes: to make sharing files and resources between computers on a home network easier, and to protect shared files and resources from guests or wireless-network intruders.

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Many homes have multiple computers, and users want to be able to share music and pictures, or network all of the computers so as to print to a single printer. This type of local area networking has been possible in Windows for years, but it has often been easier said than done, leading to many hours of user frustration.

Open HomeGroup from the Control Panel. Click on Create a HomeGroup to begin the process. You can determine the types of files or content that you want to share with the HomeGroup by checking or unchecking the appropriate boxes.

After you click Next to create the HomeGroup, Windows 7 will automatically generate a password that other users will need in order to join the HomeGroup and share the resources.

Windows 7 Starter and Windows 7 Home Basic versions cannot create a HomeGroup, but computers running any version of Windows 7 can join a HomeGroup. One significant drawback to the HomeGroup concept is that it works only with Windows 7, so any Windows XP or Windows Vista systems in the home will not be able to participate.

Using a HomeGroup simplifies the process of sharing files, folders, and other network resources with trusted computers on your home network. At the same time, it enables you to allow visiting guests to connect to your wireless network for internet access without also granting them access to the shared content and resources. It also prevents any unauthorised rogue wireless connections from gaining access to shared resources.

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NEXT PAGE: VPN Reconnect

  1. The important points to remember when networking PCs running the new OS
  2. VPN Reconnect
  3. DirectAccess
  4. Windows Server 2008 R2 Required


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