Networking home computers and sharing resources like files and printers has been possible in some way, shape, or form pretty much since Windows has existed. Microsoft has made great progress with Windows XP and Windows Vista, but for many users home networking is still part skill, and part blind luck, with a healthy dose of black magic thrown in for good measure.
With Windows 7 Microsoft has gotten it right. HomeGroups greatly simplify the process of sharing resources between networked home computers and it enhances security at the same time to prevent unauthorized access to those same shared resources.
This Springboard Series blog provides an in-depth look at Windows 7 HomeGroups and how they work. I particularly like this description of Microsoft’s model for HomeGroup security:
“Microsoft modeled HomeGroup security after the way most people secure their homes. They tend to secure the outer perimeter (doors, windows, and so on) but leave interior doors unlocked. They also tend to allow free access to the documents and media within the household. As a result, HomeGroup secures the perimeter with the homegroup password. Joining a homegroup by using the password gives you full access to the interior, including all of the documents and media in the homegroup that are in shared libraries.”