Connecting to Windows Server from Windows Standard
Save money, you don’t always need to pay for the ‘Pro’ version of Windows.
In Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft has ‘Business’, ‘Professional’ or ‘Ultimate’ versions which, among other features, can login to a Windows domain. This has the effect of forcing organizations to buy a more expensive version of Windows just to connect their computers to a Windows Server.
However it’s not always necessary to pay more for Windows, if you understand exactly what is possible and not possible in the cheaper versions of Windows like ‘Home Basic’ or ‘Home Premium’.
The high end versions of Windows can login to a Windows domain. This gives network administrators a lot more control over the computer and user logins through features like Group Policy. For large organizations a Windows Server hosting a domain is a big time and money saver.
However small setups can survive without a domain or have some computers not attached to the domain login.
If all the computer/users need is access to network shared drives, they can do that with any version of Windows. No domain login is needed and therefore no pricey version of Windows.
Here’s how to do it.
On the machine hosting the shared drives or folders, create one or more local users. On Windows Server go to Administrative Tools | Computer Management | Local Users
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Then go to drive/folder to share – right-click, choose Sharing | Sharing | Share then type in the local user name and Add.
Then select the user and, if necessary, change to Read/Write permissions.
You can have a single user that’s used for all computers connecting to the network share or separate users for each computer. The latter gives you more control but can be more cumbersome to administer over time.
Then on each computer, navigate to the server e.g. \
It’s a similar approach if you need mapped drive letters to network shares.
This tip came about when hearing of a small business that had been sold a Windows Server computer just for hosting some shared folders! That’s like buying a Maserati for a weekly drive to the local shops!
A Windows 7/8 computer would have been enough because it can host shared folders and has mirrored drive support for redundancy.
We’re all in favor of Windows Server when necessary, but for just sharing a folder among a few computers it’s expensive and unnecessary.
Final Tip: You might want to add the fixed server IP address to the hosts. file on each computer so the Windows machines can reliably find the server. This is often a sticking point if the local DNS doesn’t work the way it should.