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Sharing Windows Permissions in Depth, Part 1

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Eric Geier shows you how you can use advanced sharing to help better secure your files on your Windows network. You'll have full and precise control over who has access to what and the type of access they'll have. Plus you'll sort out Windows Vista's new sharing settings.
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One benefit of a having a network is the ability to share files among computers and users. However, sharing makes your data and computers vulnerable. If you don't properly secure your shares, people may be able to access them.

It could even be someone who has authorized access to the network but whom you don't want seeing or modifying your files. For example, an employee in the office might view the accounting and payroll files, or a child in the home could modify or delete your important work or school documents. A stranger could even break your encryption key (WEP is the most vulnerable) or get it from an authorized user and then access your files.

In the home setting, the "stranger" could be your children's friends; in the office environment, it might be a rogue employee or an employee's stolen laptop that has the encryption key saved.

Simply put, securing your shares adds another layer to the force field around the data on your network. This tutorial will explain further and show you exactly how to create a network using advanced sharing. You'll soon have control over the who, what, and how of the accessible of your files and documents.

Simple vs. Advanced Sharing Settings

Using the easy default sharing method in Windows XP (Simple File Sharing) doesn't let you define all the sharing settings. This is best for just basic home users.

Sharing a folder using this method gives everyone on the network access to the folder. As you see in Figure 1, you can specify only whether or not to give users the ability to edit files contained in the folder.

Simple File Sharing in Windows Vista (see Figure 2), however, does offers more control over the access. In Vista, this sharing method is similar to the advanced sharing method, but it does lack some functionality.

When you manually enable advanced sharing in Windows XP, you can better define who has access to what folders and their files, and the type of access.

As Figure 3 shows, for each folder you share you can add users or groups to a list.

You can then define whether or not to give them access to open or read the files, and to change or modify the files; or give them full control of the files, which includes deleting.

The same type of settings are available in Vista for those using the default simple method, but there are advantages of using the advanced method: You can create separate multiple share profiles for a single folder, you can define permissions for groups, and you'll see the classic sharing interface instead of the new wizard.

By default in Vista, and in XP when advanced sharing is enabled, users accessing shared folders must supply a username and password of an authorized Windows account.

Windows XP Home Edition includes only the Simple File Sharing method; to use advanced sharing you must have XP Professional. Advanced sharing is available in all Windows Vista editions.

In a few moments we'll go step-by-step to disable Simple File Sharing, which will activate the advanced method.

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