The other day I posted about the process of creating a homegroup to share data between multiple Windows 7 machines on your network. The obvious question that was asked by Jerry in a comment was:
I have only one running Windows 7 and I would like to be able to access WinXP and Windows Vista machines that are on the network. How do you configure the Vista machine to be able to see the "shared" files on it with the Windows 7 machine?
Well – I don’t have any XP machines but I tried it with my wife’s Vista notebook.
On my wife’s machine I opened Explorer and browsed to \\TV-PC. I was prompted for credentials, just as you would be browsing to a Vista machine. Now the user on the Media Centre does not have a password. I tried to authenticate as that user (which is called tv) by entering TV-PC\tv in the username and pressing enter. Denied – I got a message that this was not allowed by policy. I remembered that Windows Vista by default has a policy that users without passwords cannot connect over the network. Seems Windows 7 is the same. This is a good policy. I jumped onto the media centre and created a user called sharing and gave it a password.
I repeated the process above and used the newly created user. At the top level there was a folder called users. I expanded that and there were folders called Public and TV. Note – TV is the name of the user that created the homegroup.
Drilling down into the TV folder I see the three folders I am sharing in the homegroup – and nothing else.
This is exactly what I see when I access TV-PC via the homegroup. Here’s the view on Windows 7.
So the short answer is that you can access homegroup shared data from Windows Vista (and presumably XP – but as yet untested). To do this you will need to authenticate each machine you are accessing with an account local to that machine – much as you do today.