How to share printers, files, and folders in Windows Server 2003 without requiring a login (user name and password).

The beauty of Windows XP is that it really makes sharing files and printers across a network rather easy. Those of you who’ve done it know that it’s a simple matter of right-clicking the folder or printer you want to share, and then choosing a few options. It’s then available to anyone on your network.

Unfortunately, Windows Server 2003 doesn’t make things that easy. At the very least, it requires entering a user name and password before connecting to the folder/printer. This is ideal in a secure networked environment, but there are situations where security isn’t as big a concern, and the Server 2003 way of “sharing” is quite simply a pain.

But this can be changed. Here’s how.

I’ll make this short and sweet. Follow these step-by-step instructions, and your files and printers will be shared with everyone on your network. No need to enter a username and password, credentials, etc. Simply browse to the shared folder or printer and use it, just like in Windows XP.

Note that these steps are all taken on the machine running Windows Server 2003.

The first part has to do with Enabling the Guest account:

  1. lusrmgr.msc – Click Start/Run, then type in “lusrmgr.msc” (no quotes, that’s an L at the beginning, not a 1). Click OK.
  2. Enable the Guest account – Click Users, right-click Guest, choose Properties. Clear the box under Account is disabled. Click OK.
  3. Add the Guests group to the Everyone group – Click Groups, right-click Guests, choose Properties. Click Add, type in “Everyone” (no quotes), click OK. Click OK again.
  4. Close lusrmgr.msc

The last part has to do with editing some of the security policies:

  1. secpol.msc – Click Start/Run, then type in “secpol.msc” (no quotes). Click OK.
  2. Find Network access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts and disable it
  3. Find Network access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts and shares and disable it.
  4. Find Network access: Let Everyone permissions apply to anonymous users and enable it.
  5. Find Network access: Shares that can be accessed anonymously and add the share names of the files and printers you’re sharing. This might be case sensitive.
  6. Close secpol.msc

A few small notes… First of all, not all of these steps are necessarily required – you might get away with only a few of the changes. Second, you’re decreasing the security of the server to some degree. This probably won’t matter in a small environment (for example, a home, office, classroom, etc), providing you don’t expect malicious intrusion attempts from a networked computer, and assuming you’re also behind a firewall of some sort to help keep attacks from the internet at bay. Finally, the standard “I take no responsibility for anything that happens” disclaimer… basically you’re on your own, so make sure you back up before attempting any of this.