Can I HomeGroup My iPad?
By Dan Stone
While Macs and PCs can get along just fine and share files over the Windows HomeGroup networking system, Apple's iPad and other iOS devices are not compatible with HomeGroup. For iOS devices to share files with other computers and devices over the network, they need to use Apple's Home Sharing, a separate system that requires iTunes installed to work and that cannot interoperate with HomeGroup.
Windows HomeGroup is a computer networking system that lets users share content over a local network with minimal setup while still offering enough security to keep unwanted users out. The HomeGroup interface isn't a specialized program, but just the computer's file browser. HomeGroup can share any type of file and can operate across different operating systems, such as Mac OS X. However, HomeGroup requires at least one Windows-based system to set up and operate.
PCs, Macs and iOS devices like the iPad can share media content over a local network with iTunes Home Sharing instead of sharing content via the homegroup. Home Sharing is a zero configuration networking system, which means other than setting up the program, there's nothing else you need to do to get compatible devices to be able to use the system. It uses the file libraries stored within iTunes to allow devices to stream content over the network between systems and play back on any device regardless of where the original files are stored.
Hidden File System
Unlike Windows computers and Mac OS computers, which feature the File Explorer and Finder file browsers, respectively, iOS devices do not have a file browser that lets you explore the device's file contents from the device itself. Effectively, iOS has a hidden file system. It still stores content in the same way a computer does but doesn't allow user access to file information. Because HomeGroup operates through file browser interfaces, even if the iPad were to join the homegroup, users wouldn't be able to do much with it; its file system cannot be viewed through such interfaces.
Cloud Sharing and AirDrop
The iPad can also share content with other devices via AirDrop and cloud services. AirDrop lets iOS device users share content like photos and videos with other iOS devices that are connected to the same local network. The program features security options that only allow existing contacts to send content. Apple's iCloud service lets an iPad user exchange content from a server over the Internet. This method can be used to transfer files between an iPad and a computer.
- Apple: iOS: Using AirDrop
- Apple: iCloud Support
- Apple: iOS: About File Sharing
- Apple: Understanding Home Sharing
- Microsoft: HomeGroup From Start to Finish
- The New York Times: Sharing Files With Mac and iPad
- Cisco: Zero Configuration Networking
- PCMag.com: Encyclopedia: Definition of: Zeroconf
- ZDNet: The Problem With the iPad
Dan Stone started writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company and previously worked in television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in communication studies from Northern Illinois University.