Monday, September 27, 2010

Windows Networking

Windows Networking at Home
You've set up a home network and all your computers share the same internet connection. That's great, but now lets get everything else sharing. Modern versions of Windows are shipped with an easy to setup and use method for sharing printers and files.
You may have experience with networks from school or the office. A network can make a big difference around the house, and can save you money on peripherals. For example, you no longer need to buy a printer for each PC in the house. They can all print to the same one. You can also share files and documents between computers. No more burning a file to CD when you want to move it around to other computers.
Prepare the Network
In preparation of setting up the rest of the network, I highly recommend that you choose unique and meaningful names for every computer on the network and put them all in the same workgroup. These simple steps will help you identify and find each computer on your network. Open up System in the Control Panel. Switch to the Computer Name tab. Your computer's name and workgroup are listed below. Click the Change... button to give it a new name. Give each computer a short unique name like "upstairs" or "den", and place them in same workgroup. The Windows default workgroup is HOME which is just fine. Put HOME in the Workgroup box and click OK. Repeat this for all the computers on your network.
Printer Sharing
Usually the most helpful and timesaving feature of a home network is the ability to share printers. This is pretty easy to setup, but unfortunately some printers simply won't work over a network. I've seen some Dell and some Hewlett Packard printers that for some reason or other could not be made to share. The majority of printers are happy to share over a network.
The first step is to install the printer correctly on the "server" PC. This computer has to be on to receive instructions from the other computers on the network in order to print. After printing a test page to ensure correct installation, open the Printers and Faxes section of the Control Panel. Right-click the printer you wish to share, and select the Sharing... option. Simply click the box next to Share this printer and type a name in for the printer. If your home network has computers using older versions of Windows click the Additional Drivers button. Put checks next to the versions you wish to enable. You may have to install additional drivers from the CD that came with your printer, or drivers may not be available for these older versions to use this printer. Click OK and the printer will be ready for sharing.
Now we need to get the other computers to use the shared printer. Get on a computer you wish to use the shared printer. We now need to connect to the other computer. There are several ways to do this, the easiest of which is to type the name of the sharing computer into Internet Explorer. Open IE and type the name of the computer preceded by two back slashes into the Address bar and hit enter. For example, enter "den" or "upstairs". You can also browse through My Network Places to find it. Open My Network Places then click View workgroup computers. Double click the computer sharing the printer. If you see a message saying you were unable to connect then you most likely have a firewall blocking your attempts. Disable any third party firewalls and try again.
Now right-click the printer and select Connect... A warning will appear, click Yes. At this point the drivers will be downloaded and installed. The printer is now installed on this PC. Close these windows and open the Printers and Faxes icon in the Control Panel. The printer should be listed there. You can make it your default printer by right-clicking and selecting Set as Default Printer. Print a test page. Repeat this for all the computers on your network.
File Sharing
Sharing files can also be quite helpful. Sometimes we need to have access to a document from anywhere in the house. Sharing a large file like a video over the network can save a lot of time and the effort of burning it to a CD. Some programs can even be run from another computer over the network.
Sharing a file is as simple as right-clicking the drive or folder in My Computer that you wish to share and selecting Sharing and Security... You can even share your entire hard drive by right-clicking your C drive. If this is your first shared folder or you are sharing a sensitive area you will be presented with a warning. Click when you are ready to continue. Then click the check box next to Share this folder on the network. Choose an appropriate name. The next check box decides if users will be able to change files in your shared folder. This has to be checked if you want users to be able to save files in this folder or edit files already listed. If this box is checked then anyone can delete the files in this folder as well. As an additional caution, if you have an unsecured wireless network anyone on the street can read your files and if this second box is checked, delete them all. If you are on a wireless network be sure you have tight security setup and don't share your most sensitive files.
For other users to access these files they will need to connect to the sharing PC the same way listed in the section on printers. Either type the name preceded by two back slashes, or browse My Network Places to the computer. The shared folder should appear under the name chosen during the sharing setup. To make this shared folder more accessible you can create a shortcut to the folder, or you can make a network drive. A shortcut can be created by simply right-clicking the shared folder and selecting Create Shortcut.
Network Drives
A network drive makes the shared folder available as though it was a hard rive installed on the local computer. Right-click the shared folder and select Map Network Drive... Choose a drive letter. The checkbox, Reconnect at logon, will make this drive permanent. Otherwise the drive will disappear when the computer is rebooted. Clicking Finish will complete the setup. You should now have a drive which can be accessed like any other, but which shows the files from a different computer.
This article is from [] where articles, howtos, and faqs are posted to assist the everyday PC user. Topics include spyware, security, hardware upgrades, tweaks, and general computer usage tips. All advice is given in a step-by-step manner so almost anyone can have their computer running in top form.

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