First, make sure that all PCs are connected to the subnet. For example, if your wireless router's LAN IP address is 192.168.100.1, use Windows Start/Run to execute the command "ping 192.168.100.1" on each PC. If any PC is unable to ping the router, find and resolve the culprit. For example, make sure the PC's wireless connection is enabled, you have selected your router's WLAN ESSID from the Available Wireless Networks list, and you have correctly entered any security parameters needed to match your router's configuration.
Next, make sure that all PC connections are configured to enable Windows networking. Open the Windows Network Connections control panel, select the wireless connection to your router, right-click and select Properties. Make sure that "Client for Microsoft Networks" is checked. If you would like to make a file, folder or printer on that PC available to others in your workgroup, also check "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks."
If you are using firewall software on the PC, make sure the firewall permits outgoing NetBIOS (Windows networking) connections. If that PC is making folders or printers available to others, allow incoming NetBIOS as well. Ideally, your firewall should be configured to permit as restricted access as possible and still meet your goals -- for example, placing specific PCs from your workgroup into a "trusted zone" that permits incoming NetBIOS.
Finally, configure all PCs to be members of the same Windows workgroup. Open My Computer's Properties panel and select the Computer Name tab. Click the Change button, enter a unique name for this PC, and the same Workgroup Name on every PC in your home network. Even if you are not prompted to reboot after changing your PC's name, I highly recommend rebooting to "start fresh" at this point.
You should now be able to open My Network Places/Entire Network/Microsoft Windows Network/Your Workgroup Name and see all of your PCs. By clicking on any PC's name, you can browse shared documents, folders or printers. If you do not see a nearby PC on the list, don't panic -- use Search/Computers or People/A Computer On The Network to find that PC by its IP address. You can now selectively share resources among the PCs in your wireless (and/or wired) Workgroup.
Microsoft provides detailed instructions and wizards for creating Windows workgroups. For example, use Windows Help to select "Networking and the Web", then "Sharing Files, Printers, and other Resources;" use the Network Connections control panel to select "Network Setup Wizard;" or visit www.microsoft.com to read articles like "How to configure file sharing in Windows XP" or "Steps for creating a home or small office network."
This was first published in August 2005