Sharing and Discovery

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

Windows Vista® and Windows Server® 2008 give you control over how information on your computer is shared on the network. With security becoming increasingly important, you must ensure that your information is not available to anyone that you do not intend to have it.

You can turn on or off the ability to share different parts of your system from the Network and Sharing Center. In the Sharing and Discovery section of the Network and Sharing Center, you can view the status of, and enable or disable, each of the following:

  • Network discovery. Earlier versions of the Windows operating system used NetBIOS and the Browser service to discover the computers on the network. Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 expand on this by adding Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP), UPnP, Link-Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD), and Web Service-Discovery (WS-Discovery) to the NetBIOS/SMB protocols. These protocols allow all of the computers on your network to keep track of each other with the list of available services, shares, and other resources. If you turn this option off, your computer cannot see other computers on the network, nor can those computers see yours.

  • File sharing. Turning on this option enables the protocols that perform file and print sharing in a Windows environment. Turning this option on does not actually share any folders; you must still do that as a separate step for each file or folder you want to share. Turning off this option will also turn off public folder sharing, printer sharing, password-protected sharing, and media sharing because file sharing is required for those features.

  • Public folder sharing. Turning on this option shares the c:\users\public folder as \\computername\public. You have the option to share the folder with read permissions only, or with full read/write permissions. If you want to change the permissions assigned to this folder, you can use the Advanced Sharing feature (available on the Sharing tab of every folder) to adjust the users and groups to whom permissions are given. Turning on public folder sharing automatically enables file sharing.

  • Password-protected sharing. This option is only available on computers that are not joined to a domain. Turning on this option restricts access to users who have a user account and password on this computer. When this option is turned off, any user on the network can access files and folders that are shared to "Everyone."

  • Printer sharing. Turning on this option allows other users on your network to print to your locally connected printers. All local printers are automatically shared. If you want to share only a subset of your printers, you can use the Sharing tab on any printer's Property page to turn sharing off for that one printer. Turning on printer sharing automatically enables file sharing.

  • Media sharing. Turning on this option enables your computer to stream music, videos, and pictures to other computers and media-playing devices on your network. This kind of sharing is limited to a single subnet, and does not work across routers. You can specify the media types that can be shared, and the devices that are authorized to share the media. As other capable devices are discovered on the network, Windows announces the device to you through a pop-up message in the notification area. You are prompted to configure the device if you want to allow it to access your media.

These settings not only enable the components in the Windows networking software to perform that function, they also are used to configure Windows Firewall to allow that traffic in and out of your computer to the network. For settings in a managed network that can be configured by an administrator, see "Configuring Network and Sharing Center Features in a Managed Network" in the Network and Sharing Center Operations Guide (

Additional references