Network discovery is a process through which a computer becomes discoverable on the network and can be viewed by other computers that are connected to it via any network medium. In pre-Windows Vista operating systems, for example Microsoft Windows XP and earlier versions, Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) was used to locate remote computers before the communication actually used to occur. Whereas in Microsoft Windows Vista and above operating systems (including Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview), Network Discovery must be enabled manually by the administrators before the computers can become discoverable on the network.
When Network Discovery is enabled on an operating system, the OS becomes discoverable on the network but it still does not allow other computers to communicate or access information that is stored in it. In order to make the computer accessible from the network, File and Printer Sharing must be enabled manually as well. This means that even if a computer becomes discoverable on the network, it still remains inaccessible until File and Printer sharing is enabled in it.
Both Network Discovery and File and Printer Sharing can be enabled from the same interface by selecting appropriate radio buttons.
Best Practices for Homes and Production Environments
In Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview, by default Network Discovery is turned on and File and Printer Sharing is disabled. Since the operating system has two network profiles namely ‘Private’ and ‘Guest or Public’, best practices given below must be implemented on ‘Private’ network profile. Both Network Discovery and File and Printer Sharing must always be kept disabled on ‘Guest or Public’ network profile to secure the computer from unauthorized access and data loss.
When Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview is used in homes, it is unlikely that they would have sensitive information stored in them. Considering this, it is a best practice to make the operating system both discoverable and accessible for the home networks. This allows even the users with no technical knowledge to communicate with and access remote Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview computers without troubles.
On the other hand, in production environments the computers are expected to contain valuable information that organizations might want to secure and prevent it from getting accessed by unauthorized persons. To maintain this policy and to add an extra layer of security to the data, administrators in production environments must not enable Network Discovery, but since it is important for computers to stay connected to the network, they must enable File and Printer Sharing on them.
Managing Network Discovery and File and Printer Sharing
Although Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview automatically displays a sidebar asking if the administrators want to turn off File and Printer Sharing on the computer as soon as they assign an IP address to them, if by chance they have skipped the step or have selected the wrong option, they can follow the steps given below to modify the configurations:
- Log on to Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview operating system with the administrator account.
- On the Start window, click Desktop icon.
- On the desktop screen, hover mouse to the bottom right corner and from the displayed options click Settings.
- On the displayed sidebar, click Control Panel and on the open window click Network and Internet.
- On the next window, click Network and Sharing Center and from the window that appears next, click Change advanced sharing settings from the left bar.
- On Change sharing options for different network profiles window, expand Private network profile by clicking Private.
- From the displayed options, click to select the desired radio buttons under Network Discovery and File and Printer Sharing sections.
- Once done, click Save changes button to save the changes.