The first time Windows 7 or Windows Vista connects to a network, a network location profile must be selected. Each network location profile has different default settings. Depending on the profile selected, file and printer sharing or network discovery can be turned off or on, and different firewall settings can be applied.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista have three network locations profiles called Public network, Work network, and Home network. Computers that belong to and share resources on either a Public, Work, or Home network must be members of the same Workgroup. Computers on a Home network can also belong to a homegroup. A homegroup is a feature of Windows 7 which provides a simple method for file and printer sharing. Windows Vista does not support the homegroup feature.
There is a fourth network location profile called Domain network and is typically used for enterprise workplaces. This profile is controlled by the network administrator and cannot be selected or changed by users connected to the enterprise.
Windows XP does not support selecting a network location profile and is not a required step when connecting to a network.
Figure 1 shows the three network locations profiles that are available to a user in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. When connecting to a network for the first time, use the following information to make the appropriate choice.
- Home Network - Choose this network location for home networks or when you trust the people and devices on the network. Network discovery is turned on, which allows you to see other computers and devices on the network and other network users to see your computer.
- Work Network - Choose this network location for a small office or other workplace network. Network discovery is turned on. A homegroup cannot be created or joined.
- Public Network - Choose this network location for airports, coffee shops, and other public places. Network discovery is turned off. This network location provides the most protection. Also choose this network location if you connect directly to the Internet without using a router, or if you have a mobile broadband connection. Homegroup is not available.
NOTE: If there is only one computer on a network and file or printer sharing is not needed, the most secure choice is Public.
If the Set Network Location window does not display when connecting to a network for the first time, you might need to release and renew the IP address for the computer. After opening the command prompt on the computer, type ipconfig /release and then type ipconfig /renew to receive an IP address from the router.
You can change the default settings for all network location profiles, as shown in Figure 2. Changes to the default profile are applied to every network that uses the same network location profile.
To change network location profile settings in Windows 7, use the following path:
Start > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > click the current network location profile > select a network location > View or change settings in Network and Sharing Center > Choose homegroup and sharing option > Change advanced sharing settings
To change network location profile settings in Windows Vista, use the following path:
Start > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Customize > select a Location type > Next > View or change network and sharing settings in Network and Sharing Center