Domains and workgroups have been around for a long while, but homegroups are relatively new. Introduced in Windows 7, homegroups add an extra option when connecting multiple PC’s together over a network. All options are used to organize computers that are on the same network, but each one organizes the computers and resources in different ways.

Computers that run any version of Windows on a network must either be a part of a workgroup or a domain. If you run Windows 7 (or Windows 8 for that matter) and are on a home network then you can also be part of a homegroup – it’s not essential but it is now another option.

To put this in an even simpler form, a home network will usually contain PC’s on a workgroup and optionally a homegroup. A PC on a network in an office will more likely be on a domain.

Anyway, what are the differences?

Workgroups

All computers that are part of a workgroup are equal. No computer has control over another computer.

Each PC has its own set of user accounts. You may log into your PC with your own username, but you’ll need to create that username on each of the other networked PC’s if you want to log into them with your credentials. Of course if you do do this then it’ll be a completely separate login to that of your own PC and none of your files or settings will be there.

A workgroup is not protected by a password. Any PC within the office network or within the home network will be able to connect to the workgroup without any problems.

All PC’s that are connected to the workgroup must be on the same local area network or subnet.

Homegroups

PC’s on a home network must be connected to a workgroup, but starting in Windows 7 they can now be connected to a homegroup too.

A homegroup is a great way to share pictures, music, documents, videos and printers with other people who are connected to the homegroup.

Homegroups are password protected. If you set up a homegroup you’ll be given a password that other PC users on your network will have to use if they wish to join the same homegroup. The password only needs to be entered once, when the PC requests to join the homegroup.

Once connected you’ll have easy access to other users’ shared documents, music etc.

Domains

Within a domain there will be one or more computers that are servers. The servers are used to control security and permissions of all users and computers connected to the domain. Any changes that are made are automatically made to all PC’s.

Domain users must provide a password or other credentials every time they log onto the domain.

As a domain user you will be able to log on to any other PC on the domain with your usual logon credentials without having to set up a new user account on that computer.

Network administrators can lock down different features from users so that they can’t change certain system settings. This allows a tight control to be kept over security.

Thousands of computers can be connected to a domain and they can even be on different local area networks.

Image Credit: Harry19