The benefits of home networking

The benefits of home networking

Share files, printers, video and more with each of your home PCs

Home networking used to be the preserve of technical whizzes, but thankfully Windows makes the whole process simple enough for anyone to set up and enjoy. In this guide we’ll reveal exactly what you need so you can share everything from video and music to printers and files.

Basic equipment

You might already have the essential equipment you need to set up a simple network. Most broadband routers can act as a wireless hub and all Advent PCs and laptops are set up for wireless or direct-wired networking.

If wireless connections don’t work well in your house then you can extend your network with Powerline network adapters.

Powerline network adapters help you spread your network to every room in your home.

These adapters (also known as HomePlugs) work with your existing wireless or wired network. They allow you to run your network through your home electrical wiring, so you can set up adapters in different rooms to extend your network all over the house.

The adapters are easy to set up: just connect your router to a Powerline adapter using an Ethernet cable, then plug in additional adapters wherever they’re needed, connecting your PC or other networked devices to them. If you need to connect more than one device to a single Powerline adapter, choose a model like the Devolo dLAN 200Mbps AV Wireless-N Adapter.

Basics of sharing

Once all your computers are connected to your network, setting up sharing is simple. If all your computers run Windows 7, the best option is to set up a Homegroup on your main PC (which needs to be running Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate) then connect to it from your other PCs.

To do this, click Start > Control Panel, then click Choose Homegroup and Sharing Options, under Network and Internet. Click on Create a Homegroup, select each library you want to share, click Next, and make a note of the password before clicking Finish.

On your other computers, open the same Choose Homegroup and Sharing Options window, but click Join Now. Select the items you want to share from that PC, click Next, then enter the password. Now you can browse the shared items from each of your computers.

You need to do a bit more work if you want to share with computers running earlier versions of Windows 7. Click Start > Control Panel > View Network Status and Tasks, to open the Network and Sharing Center in Windows 7. Check your network has Home Network status, then close the window and go to the folder with the files you want to share. Right-click the folder name and choose Share With > Specific People. In the dialogue box, choose Everyone, from the top dropdown list, and click Add. By default, others can read or copy your files, but they can’t alter them or add new files to the folder. You can change this by clicking the dropdown arrow next to Read under Permission Level, and changing it to Read/Write. Click the Share button to finish, and other networked computers can now browse these files.

The Network and Sharing Centre provides an overview of the main network settings for your computer.

Extending your network

With networking you can share devices like printers, so you don’t need to buy one for each computer. Some printers are already network capable, with built-in wireless networking, like the Advent AWP10. Once everything is set up correctly, your computers can access them by browsing your network.

Standard USB printers can also be shared. You can either do this by connecting one to a PC and then using Windows to share the printer (this computer will need to be switched on and connected for other computers to access its printer) or you can connect it to a USB print server, which makes it available on the network. Many broadband routers include a print server.

The other popular device for sharing on a network is a large hard drive – Called Network Attached Storage or NAS – that is accessible to all your PCs. It’s a great way to make video, photos and other files available to everyone. You can find advice on buying storage in our buyers guide. For advice on wireless and other printers, check out our printers and scanners buyers guide.

Media Streaming

As more music and video is digitally stored, you’ll want to be able to share this over your network so that other computers, and networked devices like Smart TVs and mobile phones, can play it by connecting to your computer. This means you don’t need to move discs around or make multiple copies of favourite songs or films.

The easy option for streaming media on your network is built into Windows Media Player. As long as your Windows 7 computer is attached to a Homegroup, you can share your media by choosing Start > Control Panel > Choose Homegroup and Sharing Options. Tick the box marked Stream my pictures, music, and videos to all the devices on my network. On another computer connected to the same Homegroup, open Windows Media Player, select the PC sharing the media (under Other Libraries), and you’ll be able to play music and other supported files directly from that computer.

Network-capable TVs and radios can browse shared media on your network, playing files directly from your computer or from a shared device like an NAS drive. Alternatively, you can invest in a media streamer, which plugs into a TV to enable it to access video, photos and music from your network. The Western Digital TV Live is well worth considering.


Stream video from your network to any digital TV with the WD TV Live.