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Windows Vista Public vs. Personal Folder Sharing: What’s Best for Your Home Office?

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/5/2011

There are two ways to share data. You can put the data you want to share in Windows Vista’s Public folders, or, you can share personal folders you create. Choose the option that’s best for you.

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    If you’ve set up a home office network and are ready to share data with others who have access to the network, you will want to decide first what type of sharing approach you’d like to use. You can choose between Public folder sharing and personal folder sharing.

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    Public Folders in Windows Vista

    Public folders are already built into Vista. The Public folder contains subfolders, including Public Downloads, Public Documents, Public Music, Public Pictures, Public Videos, and Recorded TV. You can create your own subfolders too.

    Sharing data using this method is as simple as saving, moving, and/or copying data to these folders. Anyone with access to the computer or network can access what’s in the folders easily. [See Image 1]

    Use Public folders for sharing if:

    • You do not want to manually share data or configure any settings in the Network and Sharing Center.
    • You want everyone with a user account on the computer to have full access to the data, meaning they can do whatever they want to it, including delete it.
    • You want to share files and folders from a single location on your PC, and you want to access everything you have shared from a central place.
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    Personal Folders in Windows Vista

    With personal folder sharing, you share data in your personal folders and/or folders you create. You do not need to move data to the Public folders, but you do have to manually configure sharing for the folder. [See Image 2]

    Use personal folders for sharing if:

    • You do not want to have to re-save or move data you want to share to your Public folder.
    • You want to manage what users can do with the shared data:
      • With personal folder sharing, you can add members one at a time, and make them owners, co-owners, contributors, or readers. You can’t do this with Public folder sharing.

    Permission Settings

    • Owner – The person who creates the folder is the owner. The owner can view, add, edit, or delete anything in the folder as well as delete the folder itself.
    • Co-owner - Users with this permission level can view, add, edit, or delete any file in the folder.
    • Contributor - Users with this permission level can view or add shared files others create, but can only edit or delete files which they themselves added to the folder.
    • Reader - Users with this permission level can view the files, and nothing else

    * You share large files that would be troublesome to copy and manage in a separate shared folder.

    To share a personal folder:

    1. Locate a folder to share and right-click it.
    2. Click Share.
    3. Click the down arrow to select a user. [See Image 3]
    4. Click Add.
    5. Click the down arrow by the new user’s name to select a permission level. [See Image 4]
    6. Click Share.

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