Computers on a network can be part of a workgroup or a domain. The difference between them is how resources are managed on the network. While domains are fit for enterprise networks, home networks can work very well with workgroups. In this article I will explain the difference between domains and workgroups, show how to access your workgroup settings and how to change them, both in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Network Domains vs. Workgroups
Domains are used in big networks that include servers alongside desktop computers, laptops, network printers and many other devices. In network domains, administrators need to apply rules and settings to network computers and devices, manage their performance, security and solve any issues that come up. In order to access a computer from a domain, you don't need a user account defined on that specific computer. You need a user account created for that domain, assigned to you by the network administrator. Therefore, you can log to any computer from the domain, using the same domain user account.
Workgroups are used for small networks, where each computer has its own set of rules and settings. They are used mostly in home or small-business networks. In order to access a computer from the workgroup, you need to have a user account defined on that computer. There is no domain user account that can be used on all network computers. Therefore you can work only on those computers where you have a user account defined.
How to Access the Workgroup Settings in Windows 7 & Windows 8
Viewing the currently assigned workgroup is done from the same location, both in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
The old-school way is to go to Control Panel -> System and Security -> System.
There you will find a section named ”Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings”. Here you will find an entry named Workgroup, displaying the current workgroup for your computer or device.
Alternatively, you can use search. On the Windows 8 Start screen, type the word workgroup and filter by Settings.
Any of the search results being displayed will lead you to a window where you can view the current workgroup.
In Windows 7, go to the Start Menu and search using the word workgroup. Click on any of the results being displayed.
How to Change the Workgroup in Windows 7 & Windows 8
Next, let’s learn how to change the current workgroup with something else. In the System window, click or tap 'Change settings'.
The System Properties window opens. In the Computer Name tab, click or tap the Change button.
The ”Computer Name/Domain Changes” window opens. In the Workgroup field, type the name of the workgroup you want to join and click or tap OK.
You receive a welcome note, informing you of this change. Click or tap OK.
Now you are notified that you must restart your computer in order for the changes to be applied. Click or tap OK.
You are back to the System Properties window. On the bottom of the window, you will notice a note, reminding you once again that the computer must be restarted in order for the workgroup change to take effect. Click or tap Close.
Windows asks if you want to restart your PC now or later. Before you click or tap Restart Now, close any applications or work you have opened.
After the computer is restarted, it will join the newly assigned workgroup and it will be able to interact with other computers that are part of the same workgroup.
As you can see, changing the workgroup in Windows 7 and Windows 8 is a simple procedure. Having a different workgroup on the computers that make up your network is, most often, the root cause of many networking issues. With a simple change they can be solved and you can easily share folders, libraries and devices. If you are looking for other useful networking tutorials, don’t hesitate to check our recommendations below.