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Chapter 18. Using Your Network > Sharing Your Own Folders

18.3. Sharing Your Own Folders

The Shared Documents folder is all very well and good, but it's generic. When you feel ready to flex your technical muscles ever so slightly, it's easy enough to "publish" any of your folders or disks for inspection by other people on your network. The trick is to use the Properties dialog box, like so:

  1. Locate the icon of the folder or disk that you want to share.

    Your disk icons, of course, appear when you choose Start→My Computer. You can share any kind of disk—hard drive, floppy, CD-ROM or Zip drive, and so on.

    Sharing an entire disk means that every folder on it, and therefore every file, is available to everyone on the network. If security isn't a big deal at your place (because it's just you and a couple of family members, for example), this feature can be a timesaving convenience that spares you the trouble of sharing every new folder you create.

    On the other hand, people with privacy concerns generally prefer to share individual folders. By sharing only a folder or two, you can keep most of the stuff on your hard drive private, out of view of curious network comrades.

    For that matter, sharing only a folder or two does them a favor, too, by making it easier for them to find files you've made available. This way, they don't have to root through your entire drive looking for the appropriate folder.

  2. Right-click the disk or folder icon; from the shortcut menu, choose Sharing and Security.

    The Sharing tab of the Properties dialog box opens (Figure 18-2). (The shortcut menu includes the Sharing command only if you've set up the computer for networking, as described in the previous chapter. And if you don't see a Sharing and Security command, just choose Properties from the shortcut menu—and then, in the resulting dialog box, click the Sharing tab.)

    Figure 18-2. Here's the Sharing tab for a disk or folder. (The dialog box refers to a "folder" even if it's actually a disk.) You can turn on "Share this folder on the network" only if "Make this folder private" is turned off; after all, if a folder is private, you certainly don't want other network citizens rooting around in it.

    If you're trying to share an entire disk, you now see a warning to the effect that, "sharing the root of a drive is not recommended." Click the link beneath it that says, "If you understand the risk but still want to share the root of the drive, click here" and then proceed with the next step.

  3. Turn on "Share this folder on the network" (see Figure 18-2).

    The other options in the dialog box spring to life.

  4. Type a name for the shared disk or folder.

    This is the name other people will see when they open their My Network Places windows.

    Make this name as helpful as possible. For example, you may want to name the kitchen computer's hard drive Kitchen Documents Drive.


    If any of the other PCs on your network aren't running Windows XP, the shared folder's name can't be longer than twelve characters, and most punctuation is forbidden. You can type it here, all right, but—as a warning message will tell you—the other machines won't be able to see the shared disk or folder over the network.

  5. Turn off "Allow network users to change my files," if you like.

    If the "Allow network users to change my files" checkbox is turned off, you create a "look, don't touch" policy. Other people on the network can open and read what's inside this disk or folder, but won't be able to save changes, rename anything, delete anything, or deposit any new files.

    Otherwise, your co-workers can theoretically run wild, trashing your files, renaming things at random, and painting a mustache onto your face in the JPEG family photo.


    Turning off the "Allow network users to change my files" checkbox isn't much of a security safeguard. True, other people on the network won't be able to change what's in your folder—but there's nothing to stop them from copying stuff out of it. Once they've saved copies of your files on their own hard drives, they can do with them whatever they like. They just can't copy the changed files back into your shared folder or disk.

    In other words, if you don't want people to see or distribute what's in your folders, turn off the sharing feature.

  6. Click OK.

    As shown in Figure 18-3 and 18-4, the icon changes for the resource you just shared. It's also gained a new nickname: you may hear shared folders geekily referred to as shares.

    Figure 18-3. When you share a folder or a disk, a tiny hand cradles its icon from beneath—a dead giveaway that you've made it available to other people on the network.

    Figure 18-4. Shared disks and folders automatically show up in the My Network Places window—including shared disks and folders on your own PC, which can be a bit confusing. Here, the network-wire logo replaces the usual sharing-hand icon.



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