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In Microsoft Windows, what is the purpose of a Workgroup? I understand that a Domain allows the administration of security (user names, passwords, file access, etc.) to be centralized. But what does a Workgroup give you?

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The quick answer is that it allows peer to peer networking, as opposed to server-centralised networking with domains. –  paradroid Sep 6 '10 at 13:32
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Just think of a workgroup as meaning not-in-a-domain. –  Joel Mansford Sep 6 '10 at 14:54
    
Sam, is this what you're asking? standalone: 4 computers on 4 different workgroups, workgroup: 4 computers on same workgroup, "What does the workgroup give you that is impossible to do on a standalone network?" –  hyperslug Sep 7 '10 at 1:09
    
Seems like most answers agree on the point of view contradicting accepted best answer that "Workgroups provide easy sharing of files, printers and other network resources". –  Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин May 2 '12 at 6:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In computer networking, a workgroup is a collection of computers on a local area network (LAN) that share common resources and responsibilities. Workgroups provide easy sharing of files, printers and other network resources. Being a peer-to-peer (P2P) network design, each workgroup computer may both share and access resources if configured to do so.

Perhaps a little bit of Microsoft Windows history would help building the context,

Windows for Workgroups is an extension that allowed users to share their resources and to request those of others without a centralized authentication server. It used the SMB protocol over NetBIOS.

so,

The Microsoft Windows family of operating systems supports assigning of computers to named workgroups. Macintosh networks offer a similiar capability through the use of AppleTalk zones. The Open Source software package Samba allows Unix and Linux systems to join existing Windows workgroups.

Workgroups are designed for small LANs in homes, schools, and small businesses.
A Windows Workgroup, for example, functions best with 15 or fewer computers.
As the number of computers in a workgroup grows, workgroup LANs eventually become too difficult to administer and should be replaced with alternative solutions like domains or other client/server approaches.

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-1 Could you add more detail on the benefit of standardizing on MSHOME rather than everyone assigning their own workgroup name? –  hyperslug Sep 6 '10 at 15:27
    
@hyperslug, afair, 'WORKGROUP' was more commonly seen in the 'pro' forms (Windows for Workgroups onwards) and 'MSHOME' was the home network domain-less form of networking the 'non-pro' (or 'home') versions. You need a default so things work out-of-the-box and 'MSHOME' is that default for the home editions. –  nik Sep 6 '10 at 17:52
    
more context: the 'pro' forms were targeted towards enterprise networks (office/work environment) and the 'home' forms were for individual users. Of course, things changed and SOHO environments picked up the home editions for lowering cost while, people started carrying their home laptops to work -- leading to mess. The enterprise networking features were also lacking in the home editions. –  nik Sep 6 '10 at 18:02
    
This answer doesn't really say anything about what workgroups do. The first quoted section talks about sharing and utilizing resources, but the sharing has nothing to do with workgroups. The second quoted section mentions the product name "Windows for Workgroups" but that was just the product name. It has nothing to do with what workgroups are actually used for. The last quoted section at least says something about what workgroups do, but nothing about the usefulness or effect of workgroups. –  Chris Vesper Dec 19 '12 at 22:18
    
@ChrisVesper, please do add in your answer and increase the level of knowledge here. Thanks. –  nik Dec 20 '12 at 14:01

Workgroups just provide a grouping when browsing resources in the UI. "Network Neighborhood" (which has gone under a variety of names, such as "Network Near Me") displays computers that share your workgroup name. And there's an "Entire Network" that lists all the other workgroup names.

There's no impact on security or resource access. It's just a display thing.

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Thanks. It's a pity there is no notification on activity in questions to which one answers –  Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин May 2 '12 at 5:47

After some doubting whether to post it as a separate question being closed as duplicate of this question, I decided to put it as answer... Any corrections and explanations of contrary point oа view are welcome.

I either disagree with accepted answer that

In computer networking, a workgroup is a collection of computers on a local area network (LAN) that share common resources and responsibilities. Workgroups provide easy sharing of files, printers and other network resources

or do not understand the basics of identification, network sharing and access

In my LAN I have 8+ workgroups + Windows-based laptops having arbitrary set workgroup names and this, workgroup naming, does not have any influence on visibility or accessibility of computers.

IMO, workgroup naming is just a convenience permitting to see computers in different "folders" on Windows Explorer.

In a workgroup the resources (shared folders, network printers, services, etc.) are identified by

  • (SID computer name)\username\

without involvement of any workgroup names.
prepending them and there is no workgrup name used.

Or is it?
What have I missed?

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