How to Find Shared Windows Folders

Windows Lets You Share Folders With Other Networked PCs

Magnifying Glass Icon White
Magnifying Glass Icon White. saemilee/Getty Images

Microsoft Windows allows files and folders to be shared on a network. This lets networked desktops and laptops access that information without having to have physical access to the computer.

For example, a user might share a whole folder of documents or videos, and anyone else with access to that share can open those files, edit and save to them, and maybe even delete them if the permissions allow for it.

How to Find Shared Folders in Windows

The easiest way to find a list of network shares is to use Windows Explorer to view them alongside other local files:

  1. Search for Network in the Start menu or find it in the left pane of Windows Explorer.

    In Windows XP, go to Start > My Computer and then click My Network Places in the left pane.
  2. Open the computer that has the shared folders you want to browse.

    In some older versions of Windows, you might have to first open Entire Network and then Microsoft Windows Network before you can see any shares.
  3. In the right pane, any non-administrative Windows shares set on that computer will appear, like folders and printers. If no items are shown, then nothing is being shared.

    Folders are shown in this window link to the shared folders. Opening any of these shares will reveal the contents of the actual folder. However, while the folder contents are the same as what's on the shared computer, the folder paths might not be the same because the one who shared the data can choose a unique share name.

    For example, the path  MYPC\Files\ (with trailing double backslashes) is showing the "Files" folder on the "MYPC" computer, but the actual folder path on the computer might be C:\Backup\2007\Files\.

    Using the Net Share Command

    Use the net command to find the actual location of file shares, including administrative shares, by entering the net share command into Command Prompt. You can see the Share name that can be used to access the share plus the Resource, which is the share's true location.

    Shares with a dollar sign ($) at the end of the name are the administrative shares, which should not be modified.

    The root of every hard drive, the print drivers folder, and C:\Windows\ are shared by default as administrative shares.

    You can open administrative shares only through the name+$ syntax with admin credentials, such as MYPC\C$ or MYPC\ADMIN$.