4 ways to monitor who is accessing your shared folders/files

Windows allows us to easily share files and folders with other people on our network; but some of us may want to know when someone else is accessing our shared files and folders. I am going to show everyone 4 different methods to do just that.

Computer Management

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For all its faults, Windows has a lot of features. In fact, many people outside the tech circle don’t even know most of them. Computer Management is one of these features. From Computer Management, users can do many things. Amongst these “many things”, users have the ability to

  1. See all the folders they are sharing (Computer Management -> System Tools -> Shared Folders -> Shares);
  2. See who (from their network) is connected to their computer (Computer Management -> System Tools -> Shared Folders -> Sessions);
  3. What shared files are opened (Computer Management -> System Tools -> Shared Folders -> Open Files).

You also have the ability to create new shares, stop sharing specific shares, disconnect anyone connected to your computer, or disconnect access to just the opened files. If you want can also right click on “Computer Management (Local)” -> “Connect to another computer” to monitor the shares of another computer (if you have access).

To access Computer Management, simply find it under Control Panel, or open Start Menu -> Run and type in compmgmt.msc (Windows Vista and Win7 users can just type compmgmt.msc in their search box instead of going to Run).

ShareWatch

sharewatch_main

Image by the developer.

ShareWatch is a very small (77 KB) free, portable, and standalone application which monitors all shared folders and files on your computer. Like Computer Management, it allows you to disconnect a user’s access to your computer or to a file at will. While you can’t add new shares with ShareWatch, you can stop sharing a share. Like Computer Management, ShareWatch allows you to monitor the shares of a remote server or computer (if you have permission/access to do that).

Net Share Monitor

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Image by the developer.

Net Share Monitor is another small (636 KB), free, portable, and standalone application which monitors local or remote shares. It tells you who is connected and what files are being access. Just like ShareMonitor and Computer Management, you have the ability to disconnect users or access to files. Two features unique to Net Share Monitor, however, is the ability to log all activity related to shares and play a sound to notify the user a new connection has been opened to the shares. Features lacking in Net Share Monitor include not being able to create a new share or stop sharing a share.

System Tray Share Monitor

scr5

Image by the developer.

System Tray Share Monitor, while not that small in size, portable, or standalone, is an open source software which pretty much does the same thing as Net Share Monitor: it tells you who is connected and what files are being access, you have the ability to disconnect users or access to files, and you can log all shares related activity. One feature in System Tray Share Monitor not present in all the others is the ability to filter what shares/files you monitor by connected user’s username, computer network name/IP, number of files opened, or max idle time.

Overall which one of the above methods you want to use will depend on your needs. If you want to just occasionally monitor shares, there is no need to download a third party program when Computer Management will do that for you. However if you want to monitor shares on a regular basis, Net Share Monitor is the way to go because not only will it notify you when users connect, but it can also log the activity. Plus Net Share Monitor is portable and standalone, so you don’t need to install it and you can take it with you on the go.

You can download ShareWatch, Net Share Monitor, and System Tray Share Monitor from the following links:

ShareWatch

Version reviewed: v1.0

Supported OS: Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista ***Seems to work fine on Win7

ShareWatch download page on Softpedia

Net Share Monitor

Version reviewed: v1.0

Supported OS: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003 ***Seems to work fine on Win7

Net Share Monitor homepage [direct download]

System Tray Share Monitor

Version reviewed: v1.3.1

Supported OS: Windows NT, 2000, and XP ***Seems to work fine on Win7

System Tray Share Monitor homepage [direct download]

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21 comments

  1. andrew camary

    It’s really a nice list you have mentioned here.
    I would like to add one more comprehensive application named LepdeAuditor for file server (http://www.lepide.com/file-server-audit/ ) that helps to audit all activities made in file server at granular level. It provides the auditing data into real time and alerts instantly by sending customized email notification if any un-authorized person try to make any changes for the same.

  2. Dominique

    FileAudit has been voted PC Mag Editors Choice. It monitors all access and access attempts across all files and folders on Windows Servers. It’s agentless, simple to use and takes 3mins to install. This should help you guys who are looking to do a things the best and easiest way.
    http://www.fileaudit.com

  3. iezad

    with using all this software, can i tracking who transfer file in sharing folder at previous date? example i have installed this software in february but can i detect user in shared folder in january?

  4. Steinarr

    i need tools or programs with all in one kosting me some money . ..i expect that.

    my mission is to get a simple view in who is using the drives and folders and i nee statistics in report format.. and triggrs if someone is reading simething he is nit allawed. hope any has a goog idea ´???

  5. Ashley

    Hi Ashraf,

    I suspect my computer was hacked. But when I go to sessions in shared folders there’s no activity shown there. I have a few questions. Isn’t sessions supposed to show my own login activity? If I was actually hacked could the hacker clear his remote logins from my sessions folder, and if yes, can it be the reason it shows no activity, including none of my own? I have Windows 7.

  6. Gmak1

    @Rajiv:

    Hi Rajiv,

    Have a look at trialling NetFort LANGuardian(http://www.netfort.com/solutions/file-activity), it is a network monitoring software that covers file access monitoring and auditing as well as other solution. It should solve your problem if you are still having the issue? It will allow you to search back on file access history giving you username, file-name and action detial.

    Here are some things you may use it for:
    – Finding out what files have been deleted from a file share and who deleted them.
    – Identifying the users that have accessed a specific file or file share over a specific time period.
    – Counting how many files of a given type are shared on the network

  7. Rajiv

    I would like to kno does any tool or any technology give us a log of the file accessed?

    Lets say I get some changes made in the file, and want to find out when the changes were made and who made the changes.
    So, if any of the tools could keep a log of the person accessing which particular file at which time, and also the record of the person saving the file with changes, then it can solve my purpose.

    Rajiv.

  8. zach

    I am on a home network (secured) and have set everything up to allow file and printer sharing which is on a windows xp desktop. However, even though I have configured all the computers to be in the same workgroup on the network none of them can seem to access the desktop and it cannot access any of the others. I have set up a network before on the same computer and it worked but it does not now. In between times the hard drive crashed and I had to reformat. Two of the other computers on the network are vista and one other one is xp. Does anyone know how I can fix this problem of not being able to share the printer? I think the error message that comes up is that they do not have access. Any help would be appreciated.

  9. a simple happy man

    Salam Ashraf

    I tried to install System Tray Share Monitor as administrator only to get an error message saying it can’t access c:\Windows\System32\oleaut32.dll and that I should check that I had the proper permissions to access this file.

    I tried unlocking the file and re-installing and the same thing happened, again and again and again…..

    Any helpful advice? ….please

  10. Rob

    Ashraf,
    Took your advice and downloaded Net Share Monitor

    A nice enhancement would be the ability to tell it that you (I) are happy with who is connected, and that would stop the systray icon from flashing.
    Then if there is any further activity, it starts flashing again.