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I am upgrading a small non-profit organization's computers and network. I will install Windows 7 Professional on 9 machines and Windows XP SP3 on 3 very old machines. I am interested in using Windows 7's HomeGroup for filesharing services, which seems the best option for the organization. (The organization cannot afford an IT to manage a network domain, and HomeGroup seems an easy enough solution for the users to configure.)

I read that a workgroup-based network would become bloated after around 15 machines joined the network, but from what I've read, HomeGroup doesn't seem to have that limitation. I also read that that as long as the NetBIOS service is enabled on local Windows 7 machines, NetBIOS continues to consume network bandwidth. I am considering disabling NetBios to save network bandwidth (since HomeGroup uses the IPv6 protocol), and to get rid of the "network" icon in the left hand of explorer window so users don't become confused by duplicate file-access paths.

I would like to give the XP machines access to the HomeGroup shares using a combination of workgroup setup and group policy (see bottom ofthis article), but I assume this would make the XP machines require access to the NetBIOS service on the Windows 7 machines.

  1. Could someone confirm that HomeGroup services will function quickly on a local network of about 9 Windows 7 machines with 3 more XP machines connected via workgroup services.
  2. Could someone confirm that HomeGroup can still function on Windows 7 with NetBIOS services on the local Windows 7 machine disabled?
  3. Can someone address whether or not WinXP will be able to access files shared on Windows 7 machines via HomeGroup if NetBIOS is disabled on the Windows 7 machines?
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1 Answer 1

  1. Homegroup will function quickly on all your 9 Windows 7 machines, much quicker than network sharing ever worked in Windows XP.

  2. It should work but I am not able to confirm it now. Do a quick test between two machines and see if everything is OK.

  3. I can confirm that Windows XP & Windows Vista computers cannot use the Homegroup functionality. Only Windows 7 and Windows 8 are able to.

You can find more info on the Homegroup, possible problems and limitations here: The HomeGroup Feature & How it Works

As for how to network the Windows XP computers, this article might help: Networking home computers running different versions of Windows

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No, Other operating systems cannot join the HomeGroup, but they can still access HomeGroup shares. See the bottom paragraph in the article that I referenced earlier. I need to know if pre-Win-7 machines can access HomeGroup shares if the NetBIOS service is disabled on the hosting Windows 7 machine. –  Brandon Lebedev Dec 29 '11 at 18:46

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