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Windows XP File Sharing Mysteries: Part 2

by Mitch Tulloch
09/19/2006

In my previous article on this topic, we looked at how same computer sharing works in Windows XP. Same-computer sharing provides a simple way for users sharing the same computer to share files with each other by dragging them into the Shared Documents folder. To illustrate this, we told the story of Bob and Alice, a couple who owned a single computer and shared their files this way. But sharing things can be difficult (in real life, that is), and so Alice decided to go out and buy another computer so they could each have their own machine. After a while though, they decided they still want to share things sometime (most couples do) so they go to Future Shop (or whatever) and buy a workgroup switch or hub so they can network their computers together.

Once they've done this, Bob now wants Alice to continue to have access to files he moves or copies to his Shared Documents folder. To do this, Bob has to share his Shared Documents folder on the network. So he opens up My Computer, right-clicks on Shared Documents, and selects Properties. Then he selects the Sharing tab (Figure 1).

I should note at this point that Bob's computer is configured to use Simple File Sharing, a method of sharing folders introduced in XP to make it simpler for users to share folders for other network users to access. If you've got XP Home Edition, then you're stuck with Simple File Sharing, but if you have XP Professional Edition, then you also have the option of disabling this feature and using the classic Windows 2000 sharing interface instead.

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Sharing tab of Bob's Shared Documents Properties before running the Network Setup Wizard

Anyway, Bob now sees that before he can share this folder, he first has to set up network sharing and security on his machine. So he clicks the link to start the Network Setup Wizard and follows the prompts to create a workgroup named MSHOME and enable the File And Printer Sharing exception in Windows Firewall on his computer. At the end of the wizard, he can either create a network setup floppy to use on Alice's machine, or Alice can simply run the wizard on her machine and accept all the prompts in the same way Bob has done. Once Bob has run the wizard and restarted his machine, the Sharing tab of his Shared Documents Properties now looks different (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. The Sharing tab of Bob's Shared Documents Properties after running the Network Setup Wizard

Note that running the wizard has in fact shared Bob's Shared Documents folder on the network using a share name of "SharedDocs" (Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. Bob's Shared Documents folder is now shared on the network

If Alice runs the wizard in the identical fashion, her Shared Documents folder will also be shared as "SharedDocs." Of course, having two network shares with the same name is no problem, since they are on different computers and therefore have different UNC paths (i.e. \\XP-1\SharedDocs for Bob's shared folder and \\XP-2\SharedDocs for Alice's).

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