Creating a Windows XP Network – An Overview
Creating a home network or a small office network does not require much expertise - thanks to the Windows Network Setup Wizard. You can access the Windows Network Setup Wizard from Start Menu -> All Programs -> Accessories ->Communications. It is better to pre-plan the kind of network you want. Wired networks are more secure than wireless. Though wireless networks offer ease of computing in a certain range, people can get unauthorized access to your personal wireless network even if you miss out on a simple point. Plus, creating a wireless network for home or small business will incur more costs as the wireless hubs/routers are expensive. Another downside is that the building structure may create interferences with signals - forcing you to change your position to connect to the network.
The procedure is almost same for setting up both wired and wireless networks. In this article, we will focus on wired networks (or Ethernet, as they are better known). To start with, you need a high powered computer - preferably a desktop operating on Windows XP, Service Pack 2 or 3 (though a simple computer can also be used, high resource computer will add speed to your Windows XP network). In addition, you need two Ethernet cards or NIC (Network Interface Cards) on this computer, hereafter referred as host. All your other computers will connect to this host for sharing printers, scanners, Internet or any other peripherals as well as files. The need for two Ethernet cards arises as one of the cables will go into the modem that connects to the Internet and the other one goes to the network router/hub. If the modem is internal, than you can use a single NIC – not practical - as most ISPs offer their own external modems. You can opt for modems that go into the USB port to avoid the need for two Ethernet cards.
All of your other computers in the network should also carry an Ethernet card (all of the modern computers and laptops carry the card, also called as LAN card, Ethernet Card or NIC). Another important device is a router or hub that you will use to connect all the computers you wish to connect to the Windows XP Network. Keeping the router/hub turned off, connect all of your computers to the different slots in the router. Switch on all computers and then the router. Check out the lights on router to see if all computers are properly connected to the router. If any light is OFF or blinking off and on, you need to check the Ethernet card and the cable to fix the issue.
Up to this point, we have not used the Windows XP Network Wizard. Once you can see all lights “green” on the router hub, connect the host to it. Before connecting the host computer, make sure you have connected it to the Internet modem and all other peripherals that you wish to share on the network. With this done, run the Windows XP Network Wizard available under Communications submenu of Accessories Menu in All Programs from Start menu. Though you will need to run it on each computer - to create a proper Windows XP Network - you have to run it first on the host. Just run the wizard and follow the prompts. The last screen offers you several options including an option to create a network setup disk. I recommend you create the network setup disk. This eases your task while also serving as a ready CD when you include more computers into the network. Once you run the CD on each computer, you are all set. You can access the different computers and host computer using My Network Places. To share files and folders, right click, select Properties and enable sharing using the Sharing tab. As long as the host is connected to Internet, you can use any computer to browse the Internet.
TIP: Never allow sharing of the system drive of host computer to avoid complications including accidental deletion of important files that may ruin your network.
Now that you have your Windows XP Network working, let us check out some important points related to Windows XP Network Administration.
Managing Windows XP Network
Backing up Files on Windows XP Network
The most common mistake people make is to forget backing up files. There is option of Backup and Restore in Windows XP that people seldom use. I never found it to be of much use. It is better to use some third party software or manual burning of backup files. One of the best things with Windows XP Network is that you need not setup a backup schedule on each computer on the network. You can create a backup set for the entire network on the host computer. You may then use some third party software such as Nero CD Burning to schedule local backups to one or more places on the network, meaning you have backup not only on the host but also on other computers. This is especially useful when the host computer crashes. Another method I would suggest here is continuous backup to a remote server. Servers from Mozy and Idrive offer FREE storage space up to 2 GB. You can create a backup set for the entire Windows XP Network and forget about backing up files. These software have the provision of auto-backup as well as continuous backup where they backup files as soon as they find a file modified. You can also register with some FREE hosting sites such as 000webhosting and use FREE FTP software (example Filezilla) to upload files. However, while selecting free hosting sites, check out if they have any restrictions on file types. The above site has no restrictions as such. The only thing is that you have to schedule backups and manually upload files unlike servers such as Mozy and Idrive. Though slow, these two remote backups work in the background so your files are automatically backed up even if you forget.
Windows XP Network Management – Sharing Files and Folders
Just as on a standalone system where you create several users and allow them admin or limited access, you can use the Computer Management Console on the host computer to set sharing access to different computers, and the users of computers for each computer. To achieve this, right click on the My Computer icon and select Manage. In the dialog box that appears, click on Shared Folders. The right pane of the window will show you all the items that are being shared on the network. You can use this feature to enable or disable sharing of the different resources at computer lever and also at user level.
Alternatively, you can use the My Network Connections to see what all workstations and drives are being shared. You can set individual sharing on different computers by getting to that particular computer and using My Computer to reach the folder that you wish to share or block. To share or block, right click on the folder or drive, select Properties, and click on Sharing tab to enable/block sharing files.
Using the Computer Management Console on the host computer, you can also restrict users or workstations (computers on the network) to different resources on the network. You can also create groups of users to grant them appropriate privileges (Users and Groups). The Performance Logs and Alerts option allows you to track the usage of different users/groups/workstations.
IMPORTANT: Create a Restore Point before making any changes. This will help you roll back any changes if the network becomes unstable after you create new groups and allow/restrict access to network resources.
TIP ON WINDOWS XP NETWORK ADMINISTRATION: You can further configure the way people use your Windows XP Network. To control the users, type “GPEDIT.MSC” in Run command on Start menu and in the resultant window, configure the Windows XP network so as to control how users access and use the shared resources.
This post is part of the series: Troubleshooting Windows XP - How to Fix Windows XP Problems
Windows XP is the best operating system till date. You have read much about advantages of Window XP. We will talk about Windows XP disadvantages: troubleshooting Windows XP; fix Windows XP problems, speed up Windows XP; how to make Windows XP run faster; and many other XP problems & solutions.