HomeGroup: A practical guide to domestic bliss with Windows 7

I got married final summer season. One of the awesome things about being married is that because so many humans have done it, you never must look a long way for good recommendation on constructing a hit marriage. One thing you listen plenty from circle of relatives and pals is with reference to sharing, and the way bringing your lives collectively in happiness and concord is essential, as is retaining your own individuality and power.

Perhaps you’ve had the misfortune of seeing this error message, despite the fact that you recognize complete properly that Mr. Lappy is connected to the local network. Windows file sharing issues were an ongoing topic within the Ars OpenForum as long as they have been round. Configuring file and printer sharing, working with a couple of customers, or even something as primary as getting machines to locate and connect with every other, has long been an exercising in frustration. The problem have become even extra obvious with windows Vista: you may take a look at the smart new “network map” and reliably see your Xbox 360, your wireless router, your windows logo-well matched community printers and so on, but your real computer systems may also or may not display up, and clicking on their icon to connect to them may additionally or won’t actually paintings. And that’s simply file sharing! If you want to apply a printer attached to another laptop, there are several steps worried, along with journeys via numerous conversation packing containers, driving force set up, and altogether an excessive amount of hassle. You’ve got to work at it (and maybe be a piece fortunate) to get everything strolling smoothly.

(In different words, it’s similar to marriage, right?)

I’m sure it’s only a coincidence, but windows 7 shipped around the equal time I got married, and it includes a captivating new generation known as HomeGroup. Its purpose is certainly simple: get all your home computers sharing files, media, and printers with each other, in a manner this is both comfy and simple. But Microsoft also has a deeper purpose here: they may be trying to sooner or later kill off the decrepit NetBIOS technology it really is at the heart of maximum windows sharing issues.




So let’s examine HomeGroup and the technologies concerned that make it paintings. And just to preserve things interesting, we will examine HomeGroup with what Mac OS X offers.


HomeGroup in windows 7 is the fruition of an idea that’d been round at Microsoft as a minimum as a long way returned as 2002. For the duration of the Longhorn development cycle, the windows’ improvement team designed a home-focused network era known as “Castles.” The name, which become derived from the overdue-Middles a while English saying, “a man’s house is his fortress,” contrasts nicely with the “area” model that paperwork the premise of maximum business networks. The underlying era among them was in large part the same, but in contrast to a windows’ domain, a fort environment would not require a devoted windows Server set up with a website controller, and user accounts would be synchronized among machines.

The targets of citadel’s designers had been as lofty as the relaxation of the Longhorn team: windows update patch distribution and automatic replication of utility installs to every pc were both “we’re going to do it in version 2” functions. With the Longhorn development reset in past due 2004, the fort technology and all these ideas disappeared. I think this is for the best. The belief on the time is that a residence would possibly have 2-3 computer systems that every one family individuals might percentage. This method possibly sounded desirable on paper in 2002 and 2003 as the generation changed into being developed, but in recent times, humans dwelling in a residence collectively have “their” computer that handiest they use. They’ve some files that they will want to share with all people else, and different documents they don’t. The citadel method could’ve caused extra issues than it solved.

By the time 2005 turned into underway, Microsoft had already been working on tackling the issue of coming across gadgets and sharing media over the nearby network. You name it: wireless get right of entry to points, network-related printers, set-top packing containers, game consoles—Microsoft had an answer equipped to move. Windows join Now allowed a computer running XP service % 2 or later to locate and configure a wireless get right of entry to factor; the proprietary usual Plug and Play protocol (and greater lately, tool Profile for web offerings) allows some other kind of tool to be found and communicated with. The Peer call resolution Protocol offers a manner for machines on a network to discover every different by way of call without requiring a DNS server or relying on older NetBIOS generation. All of this era become established by the time windows Vista got here out, and it gave Microsoft all the pieces it needed to make building a local peer-to-peer community absolutely straightforward.

The give up result is truly lots better than citadel’s designers may want to’ve imagined. As opposed to shoehorning the windows’ area model into a home environment as become at the start predicted, HomeGroup is a reasonably easy protocol that is built atop a stack of different technologies which can be already in use for connecting devices together. We’ll get into the details of that era later, but first, permit’s examine the user interface.

The HomeGroup person Interface

With a few exceptions, all setup and configuration of HomeGroup is done inside windows Explorer. The revised left-hand pane in Explorer is split into 5 sections; HomeGroup is one of them. It’s straightforward sufficient that you don’t ought to do whatever other than say which of your 4 Libraries you want to proportion, and whether you want to also percentage your printers.