Vista supports two types of file sharing: password and password-less. The Password-less file sharing option eliminates some of the hassle of the older Windows NT/2000 network security model. If your computer were a member of Windows NT/2000 workgroup and you attempted to access a shared resources on another workgroup computer, Windows would see if your username and password matched an account on the remote computer.

At that point, one of four things would happen:

  • If your username and password exactly matched an existing account on the remote computer, you got that user’s privileges on the remote machine for reading and writing files.
  • If your username matched but the password did not, you were prompted to enter the correct password.
  • If the username did not match any predefined account, or if you failed to supply the correct password, you got the privileges accorded to the Guest account, assuming that the Guest account was enabled.
  • If the Guest account was disabled, you were denied access.

The main problem with this network security system is that you needed to have a username and password on each computer you wanted to access shared resources on. With six other computers in a workgroup, you were required to have (and remember) six additional usernames and passwords. If you were the workgroup administrator, you had to create multiple accounts for each user.

Enter the first Vista file sharing option – Password-less File Sharing (previously known as Simple File Sharing in XP). Password-less file sharing can make sharing folders and files much easier. This method to sharing files makes the contents of the Public folder accessible to everyone on the network, regardless of whether they have a user account and password on your computer. Password-less file sharing is ideal if you want to share everything in your Public folder and do not need to set sharing permissions for individuals.