Here's how to set up a HomeGroup network in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Microsoft introduced HomeGroup in Windows 7, which offers an easy way to set up and configure sharing between a group of PCs and laptops. Note that Windows Starter and Windows Home Basic versions can join a HomeGroup, but lack the ability to create one.

If you install Windows from scratch, you will be prompted to set up a HomeGroup as part of the initial configuration. If you didn't do this, you can create a HomeGroup at any time.

To get started, go to the Start menu and type homegroup in the Search box. Double-click HomeGroup when it appears in the list to access its settings menu.

If a HomeGroup already exists on the network, you'll be asked whether you want to join it. You’ll need to get the password from whoever set up the HomeGroup. Enter it and click Join to connect.

If no HomeGroup exists, a button will appear allowing you to create one. Click this and specify whether you would like to share pictures, music, videos, documents and printers. Click Next and Windows will provide a password for you to give to other users.

Windows 8 also supports HomeGroups and comes with a new configuration interface under PC Settings. Scroll down to HomeGroup and you will be presented with a screen where you can turn on or off various sharing options.

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Windows 7 HomeGroup setup