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Sharing Resources

After your network is working, each computer can share selected resources—that is to say, folders and printers. The purpose of sharing is to make these folders and printers available to other computers, where they look and act exactly like folders on your own hard drive and printers connected to your own computer. This section briefly describes how to make resources available to other computers on the network.

Sharing Folders and Drives

By default, on a workgroup network Windows XP automatically shares the My Documents folder in the All Users profile folder; this is the folder that is listed as Shared Documents in My Computer.

Vista has a corresponding feature, but you must enable it. To do so, click Start, Control Panel, Network and Internet, Network and Sharing Center. If Public Folder Sharing is shown as Off, click the round v button next to it and select Turn On Public Folder Sharing.

To make a file available to other users, simply drag it to the [Shared or Public] Documents folder on your computer, and users on other computers can locate it on the network and read or copy it. In many cases, having this one shared folder might be sufficient.

Sharing Folders on XP

You can share other folders as well. To do so, locate the folder in Windows Explorer and right-click it. From here, the procedure differs somewhat depending on whether you’re using XP or Vista.

On XP, select Sharing. If you have Simple File Sharing enabled, the dialog in Figure 6.11 will appear.

Figure 6.11

Figure 6.11 To share a folder, check Share This Folder on the Network and enter a share name.

Check Share This Folder on the Network and enter a share name, a name of up to 14 characters with no punctuation characters other than the underscore (_) or hyphen.

On an XP Professional computer on a workgroup network with Simple File Sharing enabled, or on a Windows XP Home Edition computer, you see a check box labeled Allow Network Users to Change My Files. If you do not check it, network users can view and copy the files, but they cannot modify or delete them.

On an XP Professional computer with Simple File Sharing disabled, or on a domain network, the Sharing tab appears as shown in Figure 6.12.

Figure 6.12

Figure 6.12 When Simple File Sharing is not active, there are more specific permission controls.

In this case, you can control permissions to read and write files on a per-user or per-group basis by clicking the Permissions button. These permissions work as additional restrictions to any imposed by NTFS file security, if the folder is on a drive formatted with NTFS.

For example, if the sharing permissions grant read/write access to Everyone, the file is still protected by whatever per-user permissions are assigned to the file; a network user simply has the same rights to the file that he or she would have if seated right at the computer. If the sharing permissions give Everyone just Read access, users can read files if the NTFS permissions let them, but in any case no network user can modify or delete files.

Sharing Folders on Vista

On Vista, after right-clicking a folder, select Share. The dialog shown in Figure 6.13 appears. By default, your own user account is listed.

Figure 6.13

Figure 6.13 The File Sharing Wizard in Windows Vista.

  • If Password Protected Sharing is turned on, use the drop-down list to select one or more other user accounts or group names (including the helpful catch-all Everyone), and click Add to give permission to read and/or save files in the shared folder.
  • If Password Protected Sharing is turned off, add Everyone to the sharing list; this is the only entry that matters for network access.

As soon as one or more names are listed in the People to Share With list, you may adjust their Permission Level settings by selecting one of the following choices:

  • Owner, Co-Owner—Can read, modify create, delete, rename, and change permissions on files.
  • Contributor—Can read, modify create, delete, and rename files.
  • Reader—Can read but not write, modify, or delete files.

Click Share to finish the sharing process. After a folder has been shared, to adjust its sharing settings, view its Properties page and select the Sharing tab. The settings are nearly identical to those described previously for XP, so I won’t repeat that discussion here.

Sharing Folders from the Command Line

From the command line, you can share a folder or drive with the command

net share sharename=drive:\fullpath

For example,

net share music=c:\musicfiles


net share cddrive=d:\

and can cancel a share with the command

net share sharename /delete

You can also share entire drives by viewing and right-clicking the drive icon in [My] Computer. This is a great way to make a DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, floppy disk, or other disk available to all users on a network. In the case of DVD and CD drives, you can read but not write to these disks.

Sharing Printers

You can share any printer that is controlled by your computer. This includes printers directly cabled to your computer and printers driven using LPR or other direct network protocols.

To enable printer sharing, do the following:

  1. Choose Start and view the Printers and Faxes folder.
  2. Right-click the printer icon and choose Sharing, or select Properties and then select the Sharing tab.
  3. Select Share This Printer, and enter a network name for the printer, as shown in Figure 6.14. Enter up to 14 characters, avoiding punctuation characters.
    Figure 6.14

    Figure 6.14 Enabling sharing for a printer.

  4. If your network has only Windows Vista/XP/2000 32-bit computers, click OK, and you’re finished. Other network users can now use the shared printer.

Otherwise, continue to the next section to add extra printer drivers for other operating systems.

Installing Extra Printer Drivers

If you have computers running other versions of Windows or other CPU types, you can load the appropriate printer drivers for those operating systems now, and network users will receive them automatically when they connect to your printer. This step is optional, but it’s a friendly thing to do.

View the Sharing tab in your printer’s Properties dialog box and select the Additional Drivers button. Windows displays a list of supported operating systems and CPU types. The XP version is shown in Figure 6.15. (By the way, “Intel” refers to any Intel or compatible chips, such as those made by AMD or VIA/Cyrix.) On Vista, you can install only XP-/Vista-compatible drivers, in 32- and 64-bit flavors.

Figure 6.15

Figure 6.15 You can install drivers for additional operating systems or CPUs to make it easy for network users to attach to your printer.

Check the boxes for operating systems you want to support and click OK. Windows then goes through these one by one and asks for the appropriate driver disks. You can find these drivers on the original installation disks for the alternative operating system, or often on disks provided with the printer, which might contain support for many operating systems on the same disk.

When installed, the alternative drivers are sequestered in your Windows folder and delivered to users of the other operating systems when they elect to use the networked printer.

Setting Printer Permissions

If you’re on a domain network or have chosen to disable Simple File Sharing, you can control access to your shared printers with three security attributes that can be assigned to users or groups:


Lets User or Group


Send output to the printer

Manage Printers

Change printer configuration settings, and share or unshare a printer

Manage Documents

Cancel or suspend other users’ print jobs

You can use the Security tab in the printer’s Properties dialog box to alter the groups and users assigned each of these permissions. The CREATOR OWNER name applies to the user who submitted a given print job.

You probably don’t have to change the default permission settings unless you want to limit use of the printer by outside users in a domain environment only. In this case, delete Everyone, and add specific groups with Print permission.

Sharing Fax Modems and Other Devices

The software provided with Windows does not permit you to share a data modem, fax modem, scanner, or other input/output device over your network. You may find it as annoying as I do that the Windows Fax service is built to provide shared fax sending and receiving for a network, but the sharing capability is disabled in Windows XP and Vista.

If you want to be able to send faxes through a single phone line from several networked computers, the Windows Fax service on Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003 can be shared. You can also purchase a third-party fax sharing program such as Symantec WinFax.

Shared scanners are a more complex matter. Some printer/scanners have network capability built in. (This isn’t even a high-end feature anymore. The Brother all-in-one laser printer/scanner/copier I bought for $99 has it.) With network capability, anyone on the network can use the scanner from his own desk. But this may not really be necessary. Because a scanner has to be connected to one of your computers anyway, and you will need to stand there to put pages into the scanner, you can simply save the scans to a network shared folder and later pick up the files from another computer.

Avoiding Firewall Issues

If you find that you cannot access shared folders or printers on another network computer, or if other users cannot access resources that are shared by your computer, it’s possible that Windows Firewall or a third-party firewall is interfering. You may need to make a configuration change to let file and printer sharing work. However, in doing so, you must be very careful not to make your computer more accessible than absolutely necessary.

Use this checklist to enable file and printer sharing on both the computer that is sharing resources and the computer that is attempting to use them.

  • On XP, be sure that you have run the Network Setup Wizard at least once. File and printer sharing are silently disabled until you do so.
  • If the computer is running Vista or Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, be sure that the Windows Firewall service is not blocking you. Open the Control Panel. On XP, open Security Center, and then Windows Firewall. On Vista, select Allow a Program Through Windows Firewall. Select the General tab. The Firewall should be On, and Don’t Allow Exceptions should not be checked. On the Exceptions tab, be sure that File and Printer Sharing is checked.
  • If you are using a third-party firewall service such as Norton Internet Security, be sure that this firewall is also configured to permit Windows File and Printer Sharing between computers on your subnet. The exact method for doing this varies from one product to another, but most have a fairly easy and explicit way to enable Windows file and printer sharing.

In general, you cannot safely share files and printers between computers that are not on the same network subnet—that is, directly connected on a network that is controlled by a single router.

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