Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Windows 7 HomeGroup: What is it and What's it Good For?

Published by Sunbelt Software FORUMS | RSS | MY PROFILE | PRIVACY  

Vol. 1, # 12 - Nov 26, 2009 - Issue # 12 
 Windows 7 HomeGroup: What is it and What's it Good For?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Windows 7 HomeGroup: What is it and What's it Good For?
    • Follow-up: Copycats
    • Black Friday specials
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Ding, Dong - the "Free" Dell is Here
    • No "back door" in Windows 7
    • IE8 in Windows 7 is safe from latest Zero Day vulnerability
    • Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 is here
  4. How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features
    • How to delete the recent items from the jump lists
  5. Windows 7 and Vista Security
    • Windows 7 Security: Better, Not Yet Perfect
  6. Question Corner
    • Can I have more than one session logged in with Remote Desktop?
  7. Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • How to configure the Snipping Tool with your preferences
    • Windows 7 won't start and the Startup Repair tool doesn't fix it
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Big Oven Deluxe: Easily Create A Fabulous Holiday Meal

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product.

Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:

Editor's Corner

Windows 7 HomeGroup: What is it and What's it Good For?

Once upon a time, setting up a network was a tricky thing. Physically connecting the computers was simple enough: plug Ethernet cables into the sytems' network adapters on one end and a hub or switch on the other. Later, wireless technologies came along that made the physical connection easier still. However, getting those computers to actually "see" one another on the network could be a challenge. And even when they did, sharing resources wasn't always easy to accomplish; you had to deal with setting permissions correctly on each folder, file or printer that you wanted to share. For home users who just wanted to play a little music or access some photos that were stored on another computer, it could be quite a pain.

Home networking has gotten easier with each version of Windows. Vista added the Network and Sharing Center, which provides a centralized location for managing network settings, and it's still there in Windows 7. But Microsoft has also added a new networking feature called a HomeGroup, which makes setting up a small network even easier, without sacrificing security. There's only one problem: a computer has to be running Windows 7 to join a HomeGroup, so if you have a mixed network with some systems still running Vista or XP, you can't take full advantage of it. If you do have multiple Windows 7 PCs, though, it can make your life easier. Computer users no longer have to understand the intricacies of TCP/IP and how networks work in order to share printers and documents, stream music, and enjoy all the benefits of a networked home.

During the setup of Windows 7, you're asked to select your computer's location; that is, are you on a home, work or public network? Your settings will be configured differently, based on your choice. It's assumed that within a home, there is more trust, so the default is to make it easier to share resources within the local network. If you want to participate in a HomeGroup, you must select "Home" as the location. When you make that selection, your computer will automatically start looking for other Windows 7 computers on the network. If you've already created a HomeGroup on your network, you'll have the option to join it. If not, you can create one.

You can also join or create a HomeGroup at a later time, through the Network and Sharing Center. Just click "Choose homegroup and sharing options" under the "Change your network settings" section. For security, the HomeGroup is password protected. Windows generates a secure password consisting of alpha and numeric characters, and that password has to be entered into each computer that joins the HomeGroup. You can change the password through the HomeGroup applet in Control Panel.

The HomeGroup functions as a peer-to-peer network. That is, there is no centralized control as there is in a Windows domain where an administrator can control what other users do. Each HomeGroup user can control which files on his/her computer to share with the other members. The HomeGroup is particularly geared toward sharing media, so the music, pictures and videos in the Windows 7 libraries are shared by default. Your documents aren't shared by default, but you can select to share the Documents library, if you wish. Another important point is that your files are shared as "read only" by default, so other members of your group can read the docs, play the music, view the pictures, and so forth - but can't change them.

When you join a HomeGroup, you'll find a node called HomeGroup in the left pane of Windows Explorer, just under your Libraries and above the Computer and Network nodes. This makes it easy for you to find the shared HomeGroup resources. The other PCs that are part of the HomeGroup will appear in the right pane when you click the HomeGroup node. Windows Media Player displays the HomeGroup media libraries in the WMP navigation pane, too, and Windows Media Center has a new "Shared" section when you browse different types of media (recorded TV, music, videos, pictures) where you can find the media from the other HomeGroup computers. Media streaming is enabled by default in a HomeGroup, so that you can play or view music, pictures and videos not only on the HomeGroup computers but also on certain devices such as Xbox 360 and compatible media receivers.

What if you want to share a folder that's not in one of your libraries? You can do that, too. In Windows 7, Windows Explorer now has a "Share With" option in the top toolbar (with the Organize, New Folder, Burn, etc. options). This makes it easy for you to share a specific folder with the HomeGroup (either as Read Only or with Read/Write permissions) or with specific users. There is also a "Share with Nobody" option, so you can easily and quickly make a folder private even if you previously shared it.

Sharing printers among HomeGroup computers is easy, too. It makes economic sense for everyone on a home network to use the same one or two printers, rather than buying multiple printers for multiple computers. With a HomeGroup, most USB printers will automatically install their drivers on all of the HomeGroup computers and the printer will show up in their list of available printers. There's no configuration necessary. This works with those printers that come with Windows logos. Other printers can also be shared, but you will need to go through a short wizard to install the printer. Windows finds the printer and asks you if you want to install it. If you click the prompt, the driver will be installed automatically - there's no need to find the driver software and run it manually.

What if you have a laptop that you use at work and at home? Even if your laptop belongs to a Windows domain on the work network, it can still belong to a HomeGroup when you bring it home. A computer that's a domain member can access the content on other computers that belong to the HomeGroup; however, other computers can't access its content. This is to protect the security of files that may contain sensitive business information. Note, too, that your company can enable Group Policy that prevents your domain-joined computer from joining a HomeGroup, if they wish.

For instructions, with screenshots, on how to create and join a HomeGroup, see

HomeGroup is a really great feature - when it works. I have a new laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium that I could not get to join an existing HomeGroup. Yes, the location was set as Home. Yes, the network connection between the computers was working fine (as evidenced by the ability to access one from the other through the Windows Explorer Network node). The HomeGroup Troubleshooter offered no solution. The only remedy seems to be to leave the HomeGroup on each computer, reboot, and create a new HomeGroup on one of the computers and then join it from the second. Apparently I'm not the only one who has had this problem, as others have posted about it on various forums. Here are some HomeGroup troubleshooting suggestions (but none of these was the problem with my laptop):

Tell us about your experiences. Have you set up a Windows 7 HomeGroup? What do you like (or not like) about it? Do you prefer the old Workgroup peer-to-peer model? Have you had any problems with computers being unable to join the HomeGroup, or problems with trying to access shared files? Is there anything you would change about HomeGroups? Do you trust the HomeGroup security? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at

Follow-up: Copycats

In last week's editorial, I addressed the recurring claim that Windows "copies" the Apple Mac - this time, in regard to a comment made by a Microsoft employee about Windows 7. A number of readers had good points to make on the subject. I especially liked the comment from Chippsetter, noting that Buick was the first auto maker to sell a car with an automatic transmission, and if "copying" were prohibited, other car companies would still be making all their vehicles with manual stick shifts and clutches.

lforbes pointed out that the Dell Dock is way more Mac-like than the Windows 7 taskbar. Just this week, I got a new Dell that has the Dock and had those same thoughts; however, the Dell Dock items don't "hop" when you hover over them, and (unfortunately) they don't use the genie effect to compress themselves back into the Dock when you minimize them.

KHFleischer wrote: "Now, what would I like Microsoft to copy from another operating system? One of the things central to the design of Windows is the Registry, which slowly becomes corrupted over several years of use, and which makes some useful tricks difficult or impossible. The better solution, to my mind, is to have each application's changeable data stored in an initialization file, rather than in the OS'es central database of settings. Do I expect to see this in Windows? Ever? Nope." But actually, you can. Just install a copy of Windows 3.1 (if you can find one). But for some insight into the problems with INI files and the reasons they've been deprecated in favor of the registry, see
Perhaps a better idea for storing application settings in individual files would be to use .XML files, since they're easier to parse.

I really expected to get a lot of flack from Mac fanatics over my article. Instead, it seems most of those who posted - even those who use Macs - agree with me that the "copying" has gone both ways and that it's a good thing for consumers and maybe for the companies themselves, inspiring more innovation than we might otherwise have.

As always, thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion.

Black Friday specials

The day after Thanksgiving, "Black Friday," brings many exciting deals on all sorts of products. Last year, my son stood in line all night to buy a laptop at a price that was hundreds of dollars less than usual for that model. I'm not quite that dedicated to getting a bargain, but I always enjoy checking out the specials. Win7news readers will be getting a rare special offer from Sunbelt on Black Friday, too, so be sure to check your Inboxes.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Join the Win7News fan page on Facebook!

Quotes of the Week

It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others. - John Andrew Holmes

Play by the rules, but be ferocious. - Phil Knight

He who hesitates is not only lost, but miles from the next exit. - Unknown

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Cool Tools


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Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back! But which ones can I kill? Try this:

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Ding, Dong - the "Free" Dell is Here

As I reported in my blog last month, I was one of several Windows 7 Launch Party hosts who won a new Dell laptop from Microsoft. It arrived this week, and I checked it out and did a mini-review on my blog. It's not the most powerful portable in the world - and it's certainly not the most compact - but there's plenty to like about it. You can read about it and see the pictures at

No "back door" in Windows 7

You may have heard the rumors going around that Microsoft built a "back door" into Windows 7 at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) so government agents could access users' computers without their knowledge. Say it isn't so. Well, that's exactly what Microsoft says - and it's likely that, with all the scrutiny that falls on the company, if it were true, someone would have found the proof by now since Windows 7 RTM has been available for months. So don't get too worried just yet. Read more here:

IE8 in Windows 7 is safe from latest Zero Day vulnerability

The latest vulnerability that affects Internet Explorer can allow an attacker to run unauthorized code on your computer - but if you're running Windows 7 with IE8, you don't have to worry about it. Only previous versions of the browser are vulnerable. Just one more reason to upgrade all your computers to Win7, but if you can't do that - because of cost or other reasons - at least install IE8, which will run on Vista and XP. Read more here:

Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 is here

If you have a Windows Home Server on your home network, you'll be interested in this: Power Pack 3 is being released this week. It's a free update that adds some new features for Windows 7 machines and netbooks, with enhancements to make the Windows Media Center experience better, too. The Power Pack is available in several languages, including English, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese) and will be available through Windows Update. You can read more about it here:

How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features

How to delete the recent items from the jump lists

Some readers have asked if there is a way to get rid of the recent items that are displayed in the taskbar jump lists. As a matter of fact, you can - but note that the following steps will clear the recent items in all of the jump lists. Here's how:
  1. Right click the Start button
  2. Select Properties
  3. Click the Start Menu tab
  4. Uncheck the item "Store and Display Recently Opened Items in the Start Menu and the Taskbar"
  5. Click Apply
When you do this, Windows will empty the %UserProfile%\Recent folder, which is where these items are stored. If you want Windows to start saving items again, go back and recheck the box. Also note that this will not delete items that you have pinned to a jump list.

Windows 7 and Vista Security

Windows 7 Security: Better, Not Yet Perfect

Microsoft made great strides in the security arena with Windows Vista, and now they've added more security features with Windows 7 (while fine tuning some of those Vista features, such as UAC, to make them more user friendly). To read about what Microsoft did right in Windows 7 when it comes to security, and to find out some of the changes that still need to be made, check out Tony Bradley's Pros and Cons of Windows 7 Security published by PCWorld, at

Question Corner

Can I have more than one session logged in with Remote Desktop?

I have Windows 7 Ultimate and I have it set up so I can use Remote Desktop Connection to log on to it from my laptop or from my other Vista computer in the basement but what I would like is to be able to log on from a remote computer without having it log me out on the Windows 7 computer. That is, I want to be able to still use the desktop, like you can with Remote Assistance. Is there any way? Thanks! - Steven L.

As with Vista and XP, Windows 7 Remote Desktop service only supports one session at a time, so when you log on remotely, the logon screen appears on the host computer and if you log back on there, it logs off the remote session. Many users would like to be able to have two concurrent sessions - a popular reason is to be able to have Windows Media Center running on the host and still be able to log on from another computer to access files or programs without disrupting Media Center.

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't support doing this. However, some folks over at the Missing Remote web site have found an "unofficial" way to enable concurrent sessions. Be aware, though, that some people have reported various problems when they tried this, so it's an "at your own risk" thing. Here are the instructions and a link to the script that you need to download to accomplish this:

Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting

How to configure the Snipping Tool with your preferences

The snipping tool is one of the applications built into Windows 7 (and Vista) that I use most often. As a writer, I often have to capture screen shots. You could also use it to copy those photos on web sites that have the right click Copy function disabled, but watch out for copyright violations. You might not realize that you can configure the snipping tool's behavior to hide that annoying instruction text, to specify whether or not to copy the snips to the clipboard, whether to prompt to save snips before you exit, and more. Find out how here:

Windows 7 won't start and the Startup Repair tool doesn't fix it

If your Windows 7 has a corrupted Master Boot Record (MBR) that prevents it from booting, you may find that using the Startup Repair Tool doesn't do any good - you're told that there was no problem found. What's up with that? This can happen if you have a USB flash drive in the computer and your hardware reports to Windows that it contains the system partition. Consequently, the flash drive is being examined instead of the real system partition on your hard drive. The solution is simple; see KB article 934540 if you haven't figured it out on your own:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

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