Homegroups and libraries on windows 7

One of the “newer” concepts of Windows 7 is the idea of Libraries and Homegroups.

Libraries are nothing more than a collection of shortcuts that point to other folders present on your harddisk. The idea being that you can group these files and folders more conveniently in these libraries. Windows comes shipped with 4 default libraries: Documents, Music, Videos and Pictures. Let’s quickly walk through how to create a new library and add some content to it.

  • Open the libraries view by going to Start and simply typing in “libraries“.
  • I keep on forgetting Win7 has a contexual upper menu… keep this menu in mind it will save you some grief😉 In this menu, click “new library

  • Right click on the newly created library, click on properties

From here you can add folders into the library, and also control whether to show it in the left hand side navigation pane.

The interesting part of libraries folds in when you include homegroups. Homegrouops is windows’ new term for basic file sharing. Just as in Vista before it, Windows 7 classifies your network into different “zones”. Whnever you connect to a new network, or your network settings change, you are prompted to chose to define the new network as Work, Public or Home. These zones are in reality a pre-defined collection of templates which control settings like controlling if network discovery is enabled, if shared folders are enabled, and so on. Due to this, homegroups aare only enabled when the network is in the Home or Work zone.

Aside: In Vista, even if you were connected to two networks (say your wired connection for home, and a VPN connection for work), you could only choose one zone. Win 7 allows you to choose a zone for each network connection.

Homegroup settings can be modified by clicking start and typing “homegroup”. We can also join other homegroups from this window. Note : if there is a pre-existing homegroup in the network, you will not be given the option to create a new homegroup. Seems like only one homegroup per network😦

In order to share one of our libraries via a homegroup, we simply go back to the libraries window, and select Share with.

Another note: You must have basic sharing enabled for this to work. I usually prefer using the advanced sharing since it gives more granular control, but if you use the advanced, you can’t see the above option.

That’s not to say that no files can be shared if you use the advanced sharing. You can still share using the old-style shared folders, just not via homegroup.