How to Create Shared Folders at Work

Access to Shared FoldersThe workplace is changing. Gone are the days when you had to be tethered to a desk and collaborate with colleagues while sitting at a conference table. Thanks to the internet, you can work from anywhere in the world and share your work with colleagues without ever leaving your laptop.

Despite the massive technological leaps in the last decade, sharing files and folders can still be a challenge, especially if you don't have a background in IT or technology. This tutorial will guide you through the many folder sharing options available to you, including Windows Sharing and cloud based solutions such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.

Sharing Folders Through Windows Network Sharing

If you're using a newer version of Windows (XP Pro, Windows 7 or 8), you will be delighted to know that your operating system comes equipped with a robust set of sharing tools. These sharing tools allow you to create a private network with your colleagues. Once you've setup the network, you can select which folders to share with just a few clicks of the mouse.

If multiple people use your computer, you can also share work folders using "Public Folders". We will look at both these methods briefly below.

Windows Shared Folder Wizard

The Shared Folder Wizard is the easiest and quickest way to share files and folders across a network. The tool guides you through the setup process with detailed instructions and offers a lot of control over synchronization and access.

  • Click on the Start button and go to 'Run'.
  • Type in 'shrpubw.exe' into the run dialog box.
  • Click on the first result. This will open the Shared Folder Wizard.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to create a shared folder. Give it a unique name and specify the files/folders you want to share.
  • Select 'Access' settings. Keep in mind that if you want users to only read, but not modify the files, choose 'read-only'.
  • Click on 'Finish' to complete the setup.
  • Open up your computer and find the 'Network' section in the left pane. You should now see the folder you shared under '[YOUR COMPUTER NAME]' heading. Congratulations, you've just shared a folder across your network!

Sharing Folders Directly with Specific Users

What if you wanted to share a particular folder or file with someone on your Windows network and didn't want to go through the whole hassle of creating a new shared folder? Windows helps you do that as well. The process is exceptionally easy, as we'll see below:

  • Find the folder you want to share.
  • Right click on the folder.
  • In the contextual menu, navigate to 'Share with'. You should see your local networks and homegroup in this menu.
  • If you want to share with specific people on your network, or other users on your computer, click 'Specific People' in this menu.
  • You should now see the 'File Sharing' dialog box. Here, you can select which users to share the folder with. You can also set access permissions.

Sharing via Public Folders

Windows offers yet another way to share files/folders across a network or with other users on your computer: the Public folder.

  • Open your main Windows install partition (most likely, C:)
  • Navigate to the folder named 'Users' (C:\Users)
  • Here, you'll see a folder for your username and another folder named 'Public'. The former stores all documents specific to your username. The latter is a shared folder visible to everyone on the network or other users on your computer.
  • To share files/folders across the network, just drop them onto the 'Public' folder. It will now be accessible to everyone on the network.

Sharing Folders via Cloud Based Solutions

While Windows sharing is more than handy, a better way to share files and folders is through cloud based sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. Cloud based solutions are better than Windows sharing because:

  • You can access your files from any device or platform, be it a Linux laptop or an Android tablet.
  • You can share folders with anyone, regardless of whether they are on your network or have an account with the service.
  • Changes are synchronized in real-time, making collaboration easier.
  • Most services offer generous storage space for free, with additional space available for just a few dollars a month

Since most of these services work on the same principles, we will briefly cover only one - Dropbox. Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud-based storage solutions and offers 2GB of storage space for free. To share folders/files with Dropbox, follow these steps:

  • Sign up for a Dropbox account at Dropbox.com
  • Install the Dropbox client on your local computer. Although not necessary, this makes it extremely easy to store and sync files.
  • Once installed, you should see a 'Dropbox' folder on your Desktop. Any file/folder you drop onto this folder will be automatically synchronized on Dropbox.com
  • Log in to your Dropbox.com account. You should see a list of files/folders you've uploaded via the Dropbox folder on your local computer. You can also add files by pressing the 'File Upload' icon at the top right.
  • Hover over the folder/file you want to share. You should see a link icon on the right. Click this icon to create a share link to the folder.
  • In the next dialog box, enter the email address of the person(s) you want to share the folder with. If you've uploaded your contacts to Dropbox, you can also just enter their names directly.
  • Add a custom message (optional) and hit 'Send'. Anyone whose email you entered above will now get access to this folder.

Providing access to shared folders at work used to be a rather complicated task. Thankfully, better sharing options built-into Windows and the advent of cloud based storage and sharing solutions has made the whole process significantly easier.