Using Wireless to Share Your Files and Folders

by Lee Asher

Of course, once your computers are networked together and sharing Internet access, the next step is to make your internal network a little more useful. One of the best things you can do with your wireless network is use it to share your files and folders.

File sharing implies a system in which users write to as well as read files or in which users are allotted some amount of space for personal files on a common computer, giving access to other computers as they see fit. The latter kind of file sharing is common in schools and universities.

Look Out for Security
Before I tell you how to share folders, a quick word of warning: if you don’t have encryption set up on your network, then everything you share will be available for others to view. This means that anyone could bring their computer close enough to connect to your wireless connection (and in many cases, your neighbours are close enough), and they could see everything you’ve put in a shared folder.

How do you get around this?

Well, unfortunately, there are only two things you can do: only share things that you wouldnt mind other people seeing, or turn on encryption for your network. If you want to change shared files from other computers as well as just uploading and downloading them, you definitely need encryption. For more, see Dealing with Security Threats: Wireless Encryption.

Automatic Sharing
Here’s some good news: if you’re happy to put your shared files in a special folder, you don’t need to do any extra configuration. Windows automatically shares your Shared Documents folder when you create a wireless network, to give you a space to share pictures and music across your network. To access the Shared Documents folders, just open My Network Places using the Start Menu.

Sharing More
Of course, most people want to share more than one folder. I, for example, want to be able to access Word documents I’m working on from any computer on my network, without saving them outside My Documents. Luckily, you can access any files across the network, as long as they are in the same folder together.

To share an existing folder, simply right-click it and choose Sharing and Security. Tick Share this folder on the network in the box that appears. If you want to be able to change the files from other computers, you should also tick Allow network users to change my files — if you dont do that, then the files will be read-only when you use another computer to access them.

Remember that sharing files over the network can be slow, depending on how fast your wireless equipment is. Because of the way Windows works, you should try to avoid keeping lots of files in the same shared folder, as it can slow down the network more than you might expect.

You Can Even Share Drives
You can share whole drives, if you want to. You should never do this for your whole hard drive, though, as it is very dangerous — anyone who could get access to your network would be able to see everything on your computer, including all sorts of private information that you probably wouldnt want them to have. Worse, if you had it set to allow the network to change files, your computer could get messed up big time.

Where drive sharing becomes useful, then, is to share removable drives. You can right-click anything from a CD drive to a floppy drive, and share it over your network. The procedure is the same as turning on sharing for a folder, except that there is an extra step where you need to click to confirm to Windows that you understand the risks involved.

Once a removable drive is shared, you can do all sorts of things. You can use software that needs the CD to run as long as the CD is in one of your computers, or you can save to floppy disk from computers that don’t have floppy disk drives — the possibilities, as they say, are endless.

With a little lateral thinking, you can take this even further. Devices like digital cameras and mp3 players almost always appear in My Computer as drives while theyre plugged in — turning on sharing for these drives basically means that you’re sharing the devices across the whole network. It’s really neat to be able to plug your camera into one computer and then download the photos on to all of them — give it a go!

Original Source:

Information supplied and written by Lee Asher of CyberTech SoftShop
Suppliers of the DeadEasy Ebook Maker and Publishing Wizard.

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