With the release of Windows 11, sharing files and folders over the network has never been easier. Whether you need to share documents, photos, or other files with colleagues, friends, or family members, Windows 11 provides multiple ways to do this, both within your local area network and over the internet.
Windows 11 offers two powerful built-in features for file sharing on the same network: File Sharing and Nearby Sharing. These features make it effortless to share files between computers within your local network. Additionally, it offers email and cloud features like OneDrive to transfer files between computers using the Internet.
In this step-by-step tutorial, we will explore the various methods and features that Windows 11 offers to make file sharing easier and more efficient.
Share files on Windows 11 from File Explorer Using File Sharing
The first method we're going to explore (pun intended) includes sharing files using File Explorer.
Setting Up File Sharing on Windows 11
Before you can share files between computers, you need to set up a few settings on Windows 11. Ensure that all the computers you intend to share files between are connected to the same network.
If you're using Windows 11 with a Microsoft account and a PIN, face recognition, or passwordless sign-in, sharing files might be tricky. It's a good idea to use a local account or create a new one to set up sharing and avoid problems.
Below are the settings you'll need to configure in order to make sure everything works smoothly.
1. Enable Network Discovery and File Sharing
Network Discovery and File Sharing are the two features that enable devices on the same network to find and communicate with each other, as well as share files and resources. To share files or folders between computers, these settings need to be turned on.
First, launch Windows Settings by pressing the Start button and clicking 'Settings'.
Then, click the 'Network & internet' tab from the left, scroll down, and then select 'Advanced network settings' on the right.
After that, click on the 'Advanced sharing settings' tile under More settings.
Expand the current network (Public or Private) profile and enable 'Network discovery' and 'File and printer sharing' options.
2. Sharing with Password Protection
You need either the login details of the user who is sharing the files or their computer must be configured to allow sharing without requiring a password.
The password-protected sharing settings are enabled by default, meaning that if you want to access a shared file or folder from another computer, you'll need the username and password of the user who is sharing the file.
But if you want to let anyone on the network access your shared files or folders without requiring a password, you should turn Password protection off.
To do this, expand the 'All networks' tile in the Advanced sharing settings page, then turn off the 'Password protected sharing' option.
Then, make sure your computer is on the same workgroup as the computers you want to share with. To do that, select the 'System' tab in the settings and click on the 'About' tile on the right.
Then, click on 'Advanced system settings'.
In the System Properties window, go to the 'Computer Name' tab and click on 'Change'.
Then, make sure your computer is on the same workgroup.
3. Enable SMB features
Click on the Start menu, type
windows features, and select 'Turn Windows features on or off' control panel tile.
In the Windows Features window, search for the 'SMB Direct' option in the list of optional features and make sure it's enabled.
If you need to share files with older devices or versions of Windows, find 'SMB 1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support' and expand it. Then, check both 'SMB 1.0/CIFS Client' and 'SMB 1.0/CIFS Server'.
Click 'OK' to install the features.
After making changes to optional features, restart your computer to ensure the changes take effect.
4. Start Necessary Servies
services.msc and click 'OK'
In the Services window, scroll down and look for the following services one by one:
- Function Discovery Resource Publication
- Function Discovery Provider Host
Then, for each service, double-click on the service to open its properties.
In the properties window, under the General tab, ensure that the 'Startup type' is set to 'Automatic'. If the service is not already running, click on the 'Start' button to start the service.
Then, click 'Apply' and then 'OK'. Follow the same steps for all the services mentioned earlier.
The listed services are essential for proper network discovery and sharing, so make sure they are running for seamless file sharing.
5. Set a Static IP Address (Optional)
Setting up a static IP address can make it easier to share files between two computers over a network, but it's not strictly necessary. When sharing files over a network, whether you need to set up a static IP address depends on your specific situation and preferences.
With a static IP, you can easily set up shortcuts, bookmarks, or saved network locations with a single, fixed address. This makes accessing shared files more convenient.
If you often exchange files between certain computers, having a static IP is like assigning a fixed address to each computer. This helps things work more efficiently when you share files because the computers always know where to find each other. Follow these steps to assign a static IP address for your computer:
In the Windows Settings, go to the 'Network & internet tab' in the left pane and click on the current network connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) on the right pane.
On the next settings page, click on the 'Hardware properties' tile.
Next, click the 'Edit' button next to the 'IP assignment' option.
In the pop-up window, choose 'Manual' from the drop-down menu.
Then, enable the 'IPv4' toggle and fill out your network details:
- IP address: Choose any number between 192.168.0.0 to 192.168.255.255.
- Subnet mask: Specify a Subnet mask - for example, 255.255.255.0.
- Gateway: Enter the IP address of your router or modem. Typically, this is either 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.
- Preferred DNS: Type the IP address of a DNS server or DNS service provider. For instance, you can use 184.108.40.206 for the Cloudflare DNS service.
- Alternate DNS: Fill in the IP address of an alternative DNS server or DNS service provider. For instance, 220.127.116.11 for the Cloudflare DNS service.
You can also use the 'ipconfig' command in the Command Prompt to find the current network details, which can then be used to fill in the necessary information.
Finally, click 'Save' to save the IP configurations.
Share Files and Folders Over a Network from File Explorer
In Windows 11, File Explorer provides two methods for sharing files. You can use the basic settings for express file sharing with minimal setup or go for the advanced sharing to personalize permissions and explore more advanced settings.
Express File Sharing from File Explorer
Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to share with others. Then, right-click the folder, click 'Give access to' and select 'Specific people'.
Select the user or group who will have access to this folder from the drop-down and click the 'Add' button. For example, select 'Everyone' to give access to every user on this computer, which means anyone can access this folder from another computer on the network using any of the user credentials on this computer.
Then, click the username and select the permissions you want for the folder under Permission Level.
- Read: Users can browse and open files.
- Read/Write: Users can browse, open, edit, and remove content within the folder they are sharing.
Once done, click the 'Share' button.
On the final window, right-click the shared folder and select the 'Copy Link' network path. You can then share the link with others who need to access the folder.
Share Files or Folders using Advanced Sharing
Advanced Sharing lets you give a unique name to the shared folder, control how many people can use it at the same time, decide who can access it, enable caching for faster access, and include comments or notes.
Navigate to the folder you want to share and right-click on it, then select ‘Properties’ from the context menu. Alternatively, right-click the folder, select ‘Show more options’, and then choose ‘Properties’ in the old context menu.
In the Properties window, click ‘Advanced Sharing’ to configure advanced sharing options.
Check the ‘Share this folder’ option.
If you want to set a different name than the actual name of the folder, specify it in the ‘Share name’ field.
Then, specify how many people can use it at the same time. The default value is 20.
If you want, you can also add additional comments or notes for the shared folder using the ‘Comments’ box.
After that, click the ‘Permissions’ button to change permissions for the content of the folder.
In the Permissions dialog window pop-up, select the user or group who will have access to the folder. Then, check the permissions you want for the selected user or group:
- Full Control: This permission allows users to view, modify, and adjust permissions, even take ownership of files.
- Change: Users can read, execute, write, and remove files and folders within the shared area.
- Read: Users have permission to open and view the contents of the files and folders.
'Everyone’ is given ‘Read’ permission by default.
To give access to a specific user(s), click the ‘Add’ button.
In the Select Users or Groups dialog window, click ‘Advanced’.
Next, click the ‘Find Now’ button to list all the accounts on the computer.
Under Search results, select the user(s), and click ‘OK’. To select multiple users, press and hold the
Ctrl key while selecting the users.
Then, click ‘OK’ again to confirm the users.
Afterward, select the added user and specify the permissions.
Click ‘Apply’ and then ‘OK’.
If you want to make the shared content available on the computer that accesses it even when the shared computer is offline, you need to configure the caching settings. Enabling caching means that copies of the shared files are stored locally on the computers that access the shared folder.
To do this, click the ‘Caching’ button in the Advanced Sharing window.
In the Offline Settings, you have three caching options that allow you to control how files and folders are being cached for offline access:
- Only the files and programs that users specify are available offline: With this setting, users can manually choose specific files and programs to be cached and available offline. Other files won't be cached unless the user specifies them.
- No files or programs from the shared folder are available offline: When you select this option, no files will be cached for offline access.
- All files and programs that users open from the shared folder are automatically available offline: This option caches all files and programs that are opened from the shared folder, making sure they are accessible offline. When the ‘Optimize for performance’ checkbox is selected, Windows will try to prioritize performance over storage space efficiency.
Select your preferred Offline settings and click 'OK'.
Finally, click 'Apply' and then 'OK' to save the settings.
Then, click 'Close'.
Share a Drive on a Network
Sharing a drive is similar to sharing a folder in Windows. It's an easy and straightforward process.
First, open File Explorer by pressing
E. Then, right-click on the drive you want to share and pick ‘Properties’.
In the drive's properties, go to the ‘Sharing’ tab. Then, click on ‘Advanced sharing’.
Check the box that says ‘Share this folder’. Then, click the ‘Permissions’ button to choose permissions.
To give others full control, tick the box under ‘Allow’. Then, click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK’.
Click ‘Apply’ and then ‘OK’ again.
Lastly, click on ‘Close’.
After this, your drive will be shared on the same network. People with your computer's user account and password can access it.
Share files on Windows 11 using Nearby Sharing
If you wish to quickly share files between computers over a network without setting up file-sharing, you should use the Nearby sharing feature.
Nearby Sharing is a feature in Windows 10 and Windows 11 that allows you to easily share files, links, photos, and more with nearby devices using Bluetooth and a Wi-Fi network. However, Nearby Sharing only supports sharing individual files and links rather than entire folders. You can share multiple files by selecting them all and starting the sharing process. Each file will be sent individually to the recipient.
I to open Settings, click on 'System' and select the 'Nearby sharing' tile on the right side.
If you're not signed into your Microsoft account, click 'Sign-in' and enter your credentials to sign in with your Microsoft account.
After that, choose an option to enable Nearby sharing.
The 'My devices only' choice lets you share files only with devices using the same Microsoft account. The 'Everyone nearby' option allows sharing with any nearby devices. To share files on the same local network, pick 'Everyone nearby.'
After enabling Nearby Sharing on all Windows 11 computers within your network, you can start sharing files between them.
Open File Explorer and locate the file you want to share. Right-click on the file and select the 'Share' option.
Under the 'Nearby share' section, choose the device to share the file.
Once you select the device, a notification will appear on the destination computer. You can select the 'Save & open' or 'Save' button on the notification to start the transfer.
Share Folder or Drive using Shared Folder Wizard
You can also use the Shared Folder Wizard to share folders on a Windows 11 computer. Press the
Windows key, type
Computer Management, and select ‘Computer Management’ from the results to open the tool.
From the left panel, click on ‘Shared Folders’.
Under Shared Folder, right-click the ‘Shares’ option and select ‘New Share’.
In the Create A Shared Folder Wizard, click ‘Next’ to continue.
Next, enter the path of the folder you want to share and click the ‘Browse’ button to select the folder.
Navigate to and select the folder, then click the ‘OK’ button.
Then, click ‘Next’ to continue.
In the ‘Share name’ field, give a name to the shared folder. This is the name other users on the network will see. Include a description for the shared folder in the Description field.
To change the offline setting, click the ‘Change’ button.
Choose an offline setting and click ‘OK’. The default setting is ‘Only the files and programs that users specify are available offline’.
After that, click ‘Next’.
In the ‘Permissions’ step, choose the permission you want for the shared folder.
To customize access permissions for the shared folder, select the ‘Customize permissions’ option and click the ‘Custom’ button.
In the Customize Permissions window, select the user or group, and check the permissions you want to give to the group or user.
To add a specific user, click the ‘Add’ button and select the user.
After selecting the user, check the permissions and click ‘OK’ to confirm the permissions.
After setting the permissions, click ‘Finish’.
In the final step, copy or note down the share path that you can share with others. Finally, click ‘Finish’ to share the folder.
Access the Share Folders, Files, and Drives on Windows 11
There are two ways to access shared folders and files on Windows 11: using the shared path or through the Network section in File Explorer.
If you have the Shared Path, all you need to do is enter the path (e.g.,
\\ComputerName\SharedFolderName) in the Run utility (
R) and press Enter to access it. If asked, enter the username and password for an account that has been granted access to the shared folder or drive.
To access them through the Network section, open File Explorer (
E) and click on 'Network' in the left panel. Wait while the network searches for shared computers.
Then, double-click on the computer's name you want to access.
Here, you can find all the shared folders, files, and drives from that computer. Double-click on the folder to access its contents.
Alternatively, you can type the path to the shared folder in the address bar and press
Enter to access the folder directly.
Map a Network Drive in Windows 11
If you need to work frequently with shared files stored on another computer or server within your network, you can make the shared folder or drive permanently appear in File Explorer by mapping.
Mapping a network drive allows you to create a direct shortcut to a shared folder or drive on another computer or network device. This makes it easier to access and work with files and folders located on a remote network location as if they were on your local computer. When you map a network drive, the remote folder appears as a drive letter in File Explorer, and you can access its contents just like you would any local drive.
Open the 'Network' page in the File Explorer and navigate to the shared folder or drive you want to map to your computer. Then, right-click on the folder and choose the option 'Map network drive'.
In the 'Map Network Drive' window, select a drive letter that you want to assign in File Explorer for the folder.
If you wish for the drive mapping to happen automatically each time you log in, ensure that there's a checkmark next to 'Reconnect at sign-in'. If you wish to use different user credentials that have the necessary permissions to access the shared resource, then check the 'Connect using different credentials' option. Then, click on 'Finish'.
Once completed, the mapped drive should be visible on the 'This PC' page of File Explorer.
How to Unshare Files and Folders on Windows 11
You can stop sharing the folders using multiple methods, with the easiest being through the classic context menu.
To quickly stop sharing the folder with others, follow these steps:
Open the File Explorer and navigate to the shared folder on the host computer. Then, right-click the folder and select 'Show more options'.
In the old context menu, click on 'Give access to' and select 'Remove access'.
Then, click on 'Stop sharing'.
In the File Explorer, navigate to the folder you want to stop sharing with everyone. Then, right-click the folder and select 'Properties'.
In the Properties window, switch to the 'Sharing' tab and click on 'Advanced Sharing'.
Uncheck the 'Share this folder' option and click 'Apply'.
On the Sharing prompt box, click 'Yes' to confirm. Then, click 'OK'.
Then, click 'Close' to close the Properties window.
Another simple method to stop sharing folders is by using the Computer Management tool, where you can find and stop any shared folders.
Open the Run command (
compmgmt.msc and hit
In the left panel, expand 'Shared Folder' and select 'Shares'.
Here, you can find all the folders and files shared from this computer. Just right-click on the folder you want to unshare and select 'Stop Sharing'.
Then, click 'Yes' to confirm.
Using Third-Party Software to Share files
While Windows already has built-in file-sharing capabilities, third-party tools can offer additional features and customization options for file-sharing. There are various file-sharing software options available, both free and paid, each with its own set of features. Among the top free file-sharing software are D-LAN, FileZilla, and Syncthing.
However, to share files through third-party software, the app needs to be installed on all the computers within the network that you want to share files with.
For example, D-LAN is a simple and lightweight solution for sharing files within a local area network (LAN). It doesn't require an internet connection and works fully within the local network environment. Users can create shared folders, view shared content, and communicate with other users who are part of the same D-LAN network.
Unlike Windows tools, it is easy to set up and use. All you have to do is install the software on all the computers you want to share files with. Once installed, all the computers in the same network with D-LAN software will appear in the left pane.
Go to 'Settings', and click the '+' button to add the folders you want to share.
Once you add the folders, they automatically appear under your computer name in the D-LAN network. Select the computer, then select the folders and click on 'Download selected items'.
That's everything you need to know about sharing files and folders over the same network on Windows 11.