I will continue our networking series and show how to share files and folders between Windows XP and Windows 7 based computers. The procedure can be slightly more complicated than when sharing between Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers but it's still very manageable.
Step 1: Workgroup Must be the Same
Since the HomeGroup feature only works on Windows 7 based PCs, you need to make sure that your Windows XP and Windows 7 PCs are in the same workgroup. To check this, go to 'Control Panel -> System and Security -> System' on the Windows 7 PCs. On the Windows XP PCs, right click on the My Computer shortcut from your Desktop or Start Menu and click Properties.
In the System Properties window, go to the Computer Name tab and check the workgroup to which the computer belongs.
If the workgroup is set the same on all computers, everything is fine. If it is not, you need to change it so that it is the same. If you want to change the workgroup on a Windows 7 PC, check out our guide called How to Change the Workgroup in Windows 7. If you want to change it on a Windows XP PC, click on the Change button in the 'Computer Name' tab. In the 'Computer Name Changes' window, type the new workgroup name and click on OK.
You will be then asked to restart your PC. Once this is done, the Windows XP PC will be joining the new workgroup.
Step 2: Network Sharing Settings must be Compatible
In order for sharing to work with your Windows XP computers, your Windows 7 PCs should be using the Home or Work network locations and must have two settings turned on: network discovery and file sharing.
To simplify things, it can be a good idea to turn off password protected sharing for the network location you are currently using. To learn how to change network sharing settings in Windows 7, check out our guide called How to Customize Network Sharing Settings in Windows 7.
To make sure your Windows XP PCs see other computers on the network, you must make sure the Computer Browser service is running. It should be, by default. But, if you don't see other computers, then this service is most probably disabled or stopped. To enable it, right click on the 'My Computer' shortcut from your Desktop or Start Menu and click on Manage.
In the Computer Management window, go to 'Services and Applications' and open the Services section.
In the list of services, check if the Computer Browser service is started and set to Automatic, as shown in the screenshot below.
If it is not, double click on it, and go to the General tab in the Properties window. There, under Startup type, select Automatic. When done, click on OK.
After you reboot your PC, the service will automatically start and you should be able to see other computers on the network.
Step 3: Share Files and Folders
The next step is to share files and folders on your network computers. You can do this using the sharing wizard or advanced sharing settings. To learn how to share files in Windows 7, check out our guides on this subject: Share Libraries or Folders Using the Sharing Wizard and Share Libraries or Folders Using Advanced Sharing.
For Windows XP, use the normal sharing procedures.
Step 4: Access Shared Files and Folders
To access the shared files and folders from the Windows XP computers, go to 'My Computer -> My Network Places -> View workgroup computers'. You should be able to see all the computers which are turned on at that moment.
For Windows 7, open a Windows Explorer window and go to Network. There you will see also the Windows XP computers which are turned on.
If password protected sharing is enabled on the computer you are trying to access, you will be asked to enter a valid user name and password. One thing to watch out for is to first type the name of the computer you are accessing in the username field. This will change the domain to that computer instead of your local one. Then type '\' and a user name defined on the computer you are accessing. Afterwards, type the password, click on OK and you will be able to access all the files and folders shared by that computer.
Making computers with Windows 7 and Windows XP work together in the same network is slightly more difficult. They must be in the same workgroup and have compatible network sharing settings but if you pay a bit of attention it should work fine. If you have some useful networking tips don't hesitate to leave a comment. Also, for more useful information on networking, check out the articles listed below.