Each time I reinstall Windows (which thanks to good care only happens every few years in my case), I have to struggle with setting up the stupid Windows file sharing afterwards.
The problem is that Windows will allow only logged-in users to access shared files. So when anyone tries to access them, he will always be asked for a username and password. And that’s just what I don’t want! I want to right-click a file, share it and that’s it. I don’t want to have to create an extra user, give the data to everybody else in the network and have to enter it explicitly for every single file or folder I want to share. There has to be an easier way?!
There is! Here come the instructions for Windows XP (I don’t have Vista, but I guess the setup will be quite similar):
First you must disable the so-called “simple filesharing”. To be honest, I have never used it and don’t really know how it works to this day. I believe there is meant to be only one shared folder called “Shared Documents” where you have to move everything you want to share with others. But that’s stupid – who wants to be forced to copy or move things, just because you want to share them with others?
So it’s best to disable simple filesharing in the Windows Explorer under “Extras” → “Folder Options” → “View”. (By the way, this may sometimes also help when two computers don’t “see” each other in the network.)
After that you need to enable the guest account, if it isn’t already. This is done in the Control Panel under “User Accounts”. If it says “Guest Account active” there, everything’s alright and there’s no need to change anything. Otherwise click on “Guest” and then on “Activate Guest Account”.
- Now for the actual trick: The guest account is being granted access over the network. This is done under “Control Panel” → “Administrative Tools” → “Local Security Policy” → “User Rights Assignment”. (Should you see the error message “Snap-in failed to initialize” here, please follow these instructions first to fix it.) If you double-click “Deny access to this computer from the network”, you will see a list of users who are being denied access over the network, including the guest account. So if you remove it from this list, every guest on the network can access your shared files without being asked for a username and password. Voilà!
Now you can share any folder you want with right click → “Sharing and Security” →”Share this folder”. If necessary, you can also grant writing access by clicking “Permissions”, but normally reading access should suffice.
Attention! Of course this is a very unsafe method of filesharing! EVERY computer on the network can access the shared files! If you want to share files that only certain persons may see or that contain sensitive data, you should naturally not apply this method. However, if it’s only about funny videos or similar trivial stuff like in my case, this way is an excellent simplification.