Our Helproom Editor explains how to network PCs and laptops running Vista and Windows 7.

QUESTION I'd like to network my Vista and Windows 7 PCs, which sit side by side. Can I do this with a USB cable? The ethernet ports on both PCs are already in use to connect them to the internet.

HELPROOM ANSWER If your PCs are situated next to each other and are both are connected to the internet via ethernet, it's almost certainly the case that they are already physically connected to the same router and are therefore already wired up for networking.

If, for some reason, they're connected to different networks, you can still connect them via ethernet using a network switch and advanced router functions. But we'll assume they are on the same network. If you were using Windows 7 on both PCs, you could take advantage of the Homegroup feature. To do this, you would go to the Start menu, search for Homegroup, then click the ‘Create a Homegroup' option to get started.

Because one of your PCs is running Vista, however, you'll need to manually configure the network. First, ensure that both PCs are members of the same workgroup. It's likely that they are and that this workgroup will be called ‘WORKGROUP', but it's best to check. From the Start menu, right-click Computer and select Properties. Now look under ‘Computer name, domain and workgroup settings'. The workgroup name will be displayed at the bottom of this section, which you'll need to change if the two PCs don't match.

Click the Change Settings link in the same window, then click Change in the System Properties window that pops up. A restart will be required.

Next, you'll need to ensure that both PCs are configured to use the same network location. Set this to ‘Home' as it will allow you to share the most between your PCs. Open the Network and Sharing Center and look for your network connection under ‘View your active networks'. If your network location is set to Public, network sharing will have been disabled for security reasons. Click this and change it to Home.

You will need to share at least one folder on one of the computers to start with. The simplest way would be to create a folder and right-click it, then select Properties. On the Sharing tab click Share and choose with which users the folder should be shared. It's a good idea to set up password-protected user accounts on both PCs before you complete this step.

If you have any trouble, click the link 'I'm having trouble sharing'. For more information, including how to network PCs running XP, see Microsoft's website.

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