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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Networking Vista to Vista

Let's begin with an overview of the Network and Sharing Center (see Figure 11.3) options because this is where we'll spend a lot of time in this chapter. It'll help you get a basic understanding of the controls.

Figure 11.3

Figure 11.3 The Vista Networking and Sharing Center is where you control file sharing on your network between computers.

First, open it by typing Sharing in the Search bar in the Start menu and then clicking the Network and Sharing Center when it appears to open it.

  • Private versus Public—For optimal sharing, set the network to Private as follows: Click Customize on the right of the Network and Sharing Center window, below the image of the globe. Select Private, if it is not selected, and click Continue. The Public option turns key sharing settings off and is handy when you are on a public wireless network with a laptop.
  • Network Discovery—On the main Network and Sharing Center screen, set Network Discovery to on if you want to engage in any sharing activities. This allows your computer to be seen by other computers on the network.
  • File Sharing—This allows your files and folders to be accessed by other computers on the network. If it's turned off, all access attempts will be denied.
  • Public Folder Sharing—This toggles the Public folder on your machine on or off. I talk about this useful feature in more detail in Method #3 later in the chapter.
  • Printer Sharing—This allows you to share printers attached to your computer with others.
  • Password-Protected Sharing—If it is set to On, you will be challenged when you try to remotely access the computer across the network. That said, if you type in the correct User ID and password for the target machine, you will get access to all files and folders for the target machine for that user account.
  • Media Sharing—This makes media libraries available through Windows Media Player to other computers on your network.

OK, now let's move on to some techniques for sharing between two Vista machines. In my examples, I call the computer that is sharing files Vista1 and the computer that is accessing files Vista2.

Method #1: Access an Explicitly Shared File or Folder

You can access a shared folder or file on Vista1 from Vista2 if the following conditions are met:

  1. Both computers are on the same network and powered on.
  2. All computers are using the same workgroup name.
  3. Network Discovery on both computers is set to On.
  4. All computers are set to Private.
  5. File sharing is set to On on Vista1.

When these conditions are met, you should be able to browse any files or folders on Vista1 from Vista2 if the folders are explicitly shared as follows:

  1. Right-click on the folder to be shared and choose Properties.
  2. Click the Sharing tab.
  3. Click the Share button.
  4. Choose Everyone in the blank pull-down list and click Share (see Figure 11.4). The system takes a few minutes to set the folder to share.
    Figure 11.4

    Figure 11.4 Choose Everyone to share a folder with anyone who has a login account on your computer.

  5. You now can access that shared file from Vista2 by following these steps: Click the Windows button and then Network; double-click the icon for the Vista1 computer; double-click Users and then the user account that contains the shared file; and then drill down into the user's folders to find the shared folder.
  6. Here's an example: If I shared a file called Vancouver on the account I log in to on Vista1, called Andy, I would have to click Users, Andy, Desktop, and I'd see the shared folder Vancouver there.

Method #2: Access Files by Using User Credentials

To access all files in a user account on the Vista1 computer, take the following steps:

  1. Ensure both computers are on the same network and powered on.
  2. Make sure all computers are using the same workgroup name.
  3. Set all computers to Private.
  4. Set Network Discovery to On on Vista1.
  5. Set file sharing to On for Vista1.
  6. Set password-protected sharing to On for Vista1.

Then, on the Vista2 computer, do the following:

  1. Click the Windows button and click Network.
  2. Double-click the icon that represents the Vista1 computer.
  3. When the Connect to VISTA2 dialog box appears (see Figure 11.5), type in the username and password for the user account you are trying to access on Vista1.
    Figure 11.5

    Figure 11.5 When you connect to another computer on the network, provide the username and password of a valid user account on the target computer.

  4. Now you will have full access to all the files on the target user account from Vista2.

Method #3: Share a File Using Public Folders

This is probably the easiest way to share single files or folders between two Vista computers.

If you browse to C:\Users on any Vista computer, you'll see a folder called C:\Users\Public. This is a new feature in Vista (see Figure 11.6). It's a great place to drop files or folders and easily share them between computers. To make it available to anyone on your network, follow this checklist:

  1. Make sure all computers are using the same workgroup name.
  2. Set all computers to Private.
  3. Ensure Network Discovery is turned on.
    Figure 11.6

    Figure 11.6 Vista's new Public folder feature is a handy way to easily share files between computers on a network.

Next, go into the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel and click the down arrow next to Public Folder Sharing.

There are three choices, as follows:

  • Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open files—Anybody who can access your computer over the network can open the files and folders in your Public folder but cannot edit or delete them.
  • Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open, change, and create files—Anybody who can access your computer over the network can read (or view), edit, and delete files. They can also put new files in the Public folder.
  • Turn off sharing—This switches off access to the Public folder.

For added security, turn on password-protected sharing, because anyone who browses to your computer will get instant access to your Public folder and its contents. This is especially important if you use a wireless network and don't protect it with either WEP or WPA to prevent outsiders from connecting to it.

Here's how to do that:

  1. Open the Network and Sharing Center.
  2. Click the down arrow to the right of Password-Protected Sharing and select on or off.

Troubleshooting Vista-to-Vista Networking

Under most circumstances, problems with Vista-to-Vista networking are caused by security software.

The Windows Vista firewall should naturally manage any sharing unless you have messed with it. If in doubt, check the Firewall exceptions, as follows:

  1. In the Control Panel, click Classic View, Security Center.
  2. Click Windows Firewall on the left.
  3. Click Change Settings and then click Continue on the UAC dialog.
  4. Click the Exceptions tab, and make sure that the File and Printer Sharing box is checked.

Be sure to check the firewall for all machines involved in file sharing on your network.

The same goes for a third-party software firewall if you installed it. It could be blocking file-sharing traffic between machines. Check it on all machines that you are trying to share between.

If you run another security suite, such as MacAfee or Symantec, they are notorious for blocking file sharing, so be sure to test your system without them. If file sharing works with them disengaged, you know where the problem lies.

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