Homegroups make sharing files and folders easy on Windows 7, but Windows XP and Vista users have to do things a little differently. Fortunately, there are dead-simple ways to share files on both XP and Vista, too.
Microsoft offers a very detailed step-by-step guide for those of you looking for an exhaustive walkthrough, but here's the short version for Windows XP users:
Any system on your network should now have access to the shared folder on your XP system. Now, let's move on to Vista.
- click Start > Run, type control folders, and press enter
- click the View tab, and scroll down to the bottom of the list box
- place a check next to use simple file sharing and then click OK
- open My Computer and browse to a folder you want to share
- right-click the folder and choose sharing and security
- click the warning text ("If you understand the security risks...") then click Just enable file sharing
- check Share this folder on the network and give your share a name (it doesn't have to match the folder name)
- if you want to allow others to edit, delete, and add new files, check the Allow box as well
- click OK, and you're done!
Again, Microsoft offers a very thorough walkthrough of the sharing process on Windows Vista. But Vista introduced a new feature designed to make sharing a bit easier than it was in XP -- Public Folders. While they're not quite as flexible a sharing option as Windows 7 homegroups, Vista's Public Folders are easy to configure and use.
- click the Windows button and type sharing, then click Advanced sharing settings when it appears
- under Home or Work, scroll down to Public folder sharing
- click the radio button next to Turn on sharing...The C:\Users\Public\ directory is now shared, and other users can now view and modify folders and files located inside. If you want to keep people from making changes, you'll need to do the following:
Any files or folders you want to share can now simply be dropped into the Public folder for easy access.
- open Computer and browse to C:\Users, right-click Public, and choose properties.
- click the Security tab, then click the Edit button
- click Everyone, then uncheck Full control, Modify, and Write under Permissions for Everyone
It's always a good idea to get acquainted with the more advanced sharing options -- including password-protected sharing. If you're interested in setting up tighter controls, visit Microsoft and check out this post for Windows XP and this one for Vista.