Windows File Sharing Notes

Last Updated:   12/21/22  22:47            Jeffrey Knauth

Many people, including me, have had problems sharing files among PCs on their networks. After a lot of Googling and experimenting, I have found the following solves most of the problems, at least in my private (home) Wi-Fi and Ethernet network of four PCs running behind a firewall. Maybe part of the following procedures is now overkill, but things are working for me so far.

In the following text I'll abbreviate things along the lines of "Win10 21H2" means "Windows 10 Version 21H2".

Two of my PCs are now running Win10 22H2; one is running Win10 21H2; one is running Win11 22H2. It's possible that things would work less well in a network with one or more PCs running other editions/versions. Also, in case it makes any difference, for signons all of my PCs use a local account instead of my Microsoft account.

The following procedures do not attempt to restrict sharing in any way, e.g., to prevent certain PCs or people from accessing the shared files. In theory such restrictions can be configured; I didn't need such restrictions and haven't tried to test those configurations.

To make the process clearer, in the following I'll focus on two PCs: XPS8940, which has some files to be shared, and XPS13-2, which needs to access those files over the network. Of course the roles could be reversed. Any PC could have files it allows other PCs to access, but that PC could also access files owned and shared by other PCs. Just apply the sharer (owner) procedures or accesser procedures or both to each PC as appropriate for what that PC is supposed to do.

File sharing is done on a folder (directory) basis. You set up a share for a folder and thus provide access to all the folders and files within it, i.e., the whole tree for that folder.

Initially on All the PCs

Set up the base networking environment:

On the Sharing PC (XPS8940), the Owner of the Folders

To share a folder, i.e., to allow other PCs to access the folder:

There are alternatives to this procedure, e.g., to restrict access to only some users, but this simple approach seems to meet my needs.

After doing this on a particular PC, you can see all the shares that PC has created by doing this:

On the Accessing PC (XPS13-2)

To access resources on the sharing PC (XPS8940):

On All the PCs

Reminder:  In Control Panel > System, make sure the Computer Name and Workgroup are displayed as expected on all the participating PCs (see above, Initially on All the PCs).

Accessing a Shared Folder

In this example, XPS13-2 should now be able to access the shared folders on XPS8940. The most reliable way to do that seems to be to set up a shortcut on XPS13-2. In the shortcut the target address should be \\XPS8940\zzz, where zzz is the share name that was set up on XPS8940 for the shared folder (see On the Sharing PC (XPS8940), the Owner of the Folders for how this was done).

Problems Remaining

  1. Win10 and Win11 usually do not display all the PCs in the network, e.g., when clicking Network in the Navigation pane of a File Explorer window. However creating a shortcut such as \\XPS8940\zzz seems to get to the zzz folder reliably even if XPS8940 was not displayed as being in the network.
  2. On the accessing PC, in some cases I cannot drag and drop a file onto a network shortcut for a shared folder located on another PC. However I can doubleclick the shortcut's icon to open it and then drop files onto the opened directory window. Maybe the problem is that for these problem shortcuts the folder is in the root directory of the owning PC. Long ago this problem did not exist. In contrast, I can drag and drop onto shortcut icons for shared folders which are not in the sharing PC's root directory.