Windows now assumes that the files should be shared between all PCs that are part of a homegroup. Users can limit access through advanced settings. But the controls are hidden from the vast majority of home dwellers who don't need them.
Unfortunately, HomeGroup only works between computers running Windows 7. Upgrades from earlier Win versions start at about $100 per computer. Older PCs with Windows XP or even Vista will still find it devilishly difficult to share files and printers, even with Win7 machines. The weeds grow thicker when users try to share files with Apple Mac computers, which are famously friendly to set up on their own network—but that don't get along so naturally with Windows PCs.
Network Magic. This software does as good a job of easing networking hassles. It uses little jargon and often automates the setup process, scanning a network to generate an innovative map of all connected devices. Sharing files is just another click or two away. It can be a godsend for non-techies trying to link PCs that run older versions of Windows, or networks that combine PCs and Macs.
Network Magic can even configure many leading routers. The software is now owned by Cisco and works particularly well with hubs from Cisco and its popular Linksys brand. A version for sharing files costs $30 for three computers, and a $50 Pro edition adds parental controls and other features. Not sure if it's worth the investment? A seven-day trial enables free testing of all versions.