Windows network authentication

Windows  LAn Authentication

If you are on a local Windows network, then there is a good chance that you need to have your computer connect to another computer on your network, to share files.  If this is the case, then Windows authentication will be involved.  If you are running a large network, with domain controllers, then you probably have an IT department that takes care of this.  If you are a small business, running a simple local network, then that is probably not the case, and that is who this article is targeted at.

Many people get around the network authentication issue, by opening the permissions on their network shares, to allow guest access.  I never recommend this.  If someone is able to get into your network, then they will have access to all those shared files and folders.  It is much better to set the permissions on the shares to allow "Everyone" access to them.  You see, "Everyone" is different than "Guest".  What "Everyone" means in Windows, is "Everyone who can properly authenticate themselves to me".  In other words, if a user can connect, and give proper login credentials, then access is granted.  Without proper credentials, access is denied.

What are proper credentials to Windows?  A username and password combination that it recognizes.  By default this is the same username and password combination that you use when you log in to your Windows computer.  While there are ways to use different credentials, the simplest way is to have a user login on the other computer.  So, let’s say you are UserA, and want to connect to a shared folder on UserB’s computer.  The simplest method to do this securely, is to have a login added (via the control panel) to UserB’s computer.  This would be the exact same username, and exact same password, that you use on your own computer. 

Then, when you connect from your computer, to UserB’s computer, in the background Windows will use the username and password that you logged into your computer with, to connect to UserB’s computer.  You will not see any of this, but will get access to the shared folder on UserB’s computer.  This is sufficient for most small local networks.

It is possible to limit access to network shares to specific users, or specific groups of users.  Those options will be delved into in a future article.


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