9.3 Troubleshooting Network Problems

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9.2 Home Networking

Home networks ‚ which can be wired, wireless or a combination ‚ are ideal for sharing a high-speed Internet connection, using one printer with several PCs, or sharing files on multiple computers. This section offers tips on safe, hypersonic networking.

9.2.1 Desktop Shortcuts for Your Network Resources

Shortcuts on your desktop are the quickest way to access computers, drives, folders, or other resources on your network. To create a shortcut, just open My Network Places, and drag each frequently used folder or item to your desktop. Voil ƒ ! XP creates a desktop shortcut for each one. If you've created mapped network drives , as described in Section 9.2.5, drag those to the desktop from Windows Explorer. Then when you want to open any of these items, just double-click them.

9.2.2 Finding Another Computer on the Network

If you share a network with many computers ‚ say, in a busy office ‚ it can take a fair amount of hunting and clicking to locate a colleague's PC. Here's a quicker way to find another computer on a network ‚ as long as you know its name or part of its name .

To start, press Ctrl+Windows key+F and conduct a search, just as you'd search for a file on your own PC. You can search for a name or even just a few letters. For example, if you search for "jus," XP finds all the computers whose names contain that string of letters (e.g., Justin, Justice, or AuJus). To connect to the computer you want, just double-click the correct one.

9.2.3 Stop Searching for Network Resources

When you connect to your network, XP checks to see if any new printers or folders that have been designated as shared resources have been added to the network. If XP does find any of these shared resources it adds shortcuts to them in My Network Places. (My Network Places lets you browse through the network.)

On a small network, this is a convenience; on a larger network, it can be rather annoying as new printers and folders continually appear or disappear. To turn off this feature, open Windows Explorer and choose Tools Folder Options View. In Advanced Settings, turn off the box next to "Automatically search for network folders and printers" and then click OK.

9.2.4 Speeding Up My Network Places and Network Browsing

When you open My Network Places or browse to another computer on your network, your network may seem to be working in super slo-mo . One reason for the pokey response is that when you connect to another computer, Windows XP checks for Scheduled Tasks on that computer, which can easily take 30 seconds or more. (Scheduled Tasks are tasks that a computer automatically performs , such as a weekly virus scan.)

For a quicker response, you can tell XP not to check other computers for scheduled tasks.

To do so, run the Registry Editor (see Section 15.1.2) and go to My Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Explorer RemoteComputer NameSpace. Then delete the subkey {D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF}. (The value for it is Scheduled Tasks.) Finally, close the Registry and reboot; you should now see a quicker response.

9.2.5 A Faster Path to Computers on Your Network

If you frequently need to access a drive or folder on another computer on your network, clicking there through My Network Places can wear out your wrist . For more direct access to another drive or folder on your network, consider this simple trick: mapping it as a network drive.

When you map a folder or drive, it appears on your PC as a normal drive, such as F:, even though it's actually still on another PC on the network. The advantage is that you can reach the folder or drive just as you would a drive on your local PC ‚ with just a single click.

To map a file or folder as a network drive, run Windows Explorer (Windows key+E) and choose Tools Map Network Drive. In the Map Network Drive dialog box, shown in Figure 9-7, use the menus to fill in a drive letter, as well as the drive or folder location.

Figure 9-7. If you map a network folder as a drive on your PC, you can access that folder more quickly by using My Network Places. One potential glitch: if anybody renames the remote folder or drive, you won't be able to reach it anymore from your shortcut. Fortunately, you can just make a new shortcut.


To make sure the drive is available to you immediately whenever you log into XP, choose "Reconnect at logon." Then click Finish. The new drive now appears in My Computer and Windows Explorer.

9.2.6 Coaxing Your Network Card to Run Its Fastest

Most Ethernet network cards run at one of two speeds: 10 Mbps (known to geeks and hardware manufacturers as 10Base-T mode) or 100 Mbps (a.k.a., 100Base-T mode). The cards are set to automatically sense your network's speed and switch to the appropriate mode. But they don't always successfully make the leap, which means you have to give them a nudge.

To make your network card work at a higher speed:

  1. Run your PC's Device Manager by typing devmgmt.msc at the command prompt (choose Start Run and type in cmd ) .

    The Device Manager is a tool that helps troubleshoot a variety of hardware problems. For more tips about using it, turn to Section 10.1.1.

  2. Click the + button next to Network adapters, and highlight the adapter you want to force into 100Base-T mode .

    If you have a wireless network card as well as a wired network card, make sure you choose the wired one (wireless cards can't run as fast as 100 Mbps).

  3. Choose Properties Advanced to open the Adapter Properties dialog box .

    Under Connection Type or Media Type, change the value from Autosense to 100 Mbps, and click OK.

    You should now get the higher connection speed on your network.

9.2.7 Optimizing Your Router

The heart of a home network is a router , an inexpensive piece of hardware that connects multiple PCs to each other and to a modem. Your router's out-of-the-box settings don't always offer you the best performance possible. For instance, what happens if somebody else has setup your network and forgotten to change the manufacturer's default password? You don't have to be the head of Homeland Security to know that's not a good thing.

Here're a few tweaks for happiest networking:

9.2.7.1 Keeping your connection alive

Some ISPs disconnect you from the Internet if you haven't used your connection for a certain amount of time. Fortunately there are a few ways to prevent this from happening:

  • Connect on Demand . Turn this setting on to automatically re-establish your Internet connection if it drops .

  • Maximum Idle Time . Set this setting to 0. Now your router maintains an Internet connection, regardless of how long it's been since you last used your PC.

  • Keep Alive . Set this setting to "on." It's another way of maintaining a constant Internet connection, even if your PC is idle.

9.2.7.2 Changing your router's password

Most routers require a password in order to use the Administrator account, which gives you control over how the router works. Most routers come with a default password ‚ for example, Linksys routers typically ship with the preset password "admin." Since that's not particularly tough to guess, and anyone who's bought a Linksys router now knows it, you should change the password by clicking the Password tab and following the directions there. Otherwise, someone else could take control of your router ‚ and lock you out of your own network.


Note: If you have a DSL connection, the MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) setting on your router is important. It determines the size of each packet of information sent to and from your network. (When you send data over the Internet, it gets broken into pieces called packets: these packets often travel separately and are then reunited when an email message, Web page, or file reaches its destination.) As a general rule, DSL users should use a value of 1492 for their MTU.
UP TO SPEED
Measuring Your Network's Speed

Curious or concerned about your network speed? You can test it out easily ‚ and it's a good idea to do so, especially if you think it's slowing down. A sluggish network could be a sign of trouble.

A good way to go is the free Qcheck network performance program, available from http://www. netiq .com/qcheck. In order for it to work, you first have to install this program on two or more PCs on your network. Once you've done that, you can check your network speed in a variety of ways.

One option is to test data throughput , which measures how fast data travels across your network. Another measure you can check is response time , which measures how quickly a computer on the network responds to a signal from another computer.

Test your network a couple of times over a few days or weeks to see if it's maintaining speed. If it's slipping, start diagnosing the problem (Section 9.3.3).


9.2.8 Sharing Files on a Network

One of the advantages of being on a network is that you can easily share files and folders with other people. Here's how:


Note: Sharing folders with others on a network is not the same as sharing folders with other people who use your computer. Your Shared Documents folder contains files and folders that other people with accounts on your PC can access. But people on your network can't access those files and folders unless you specifically designate the Shared Documents folder as a shared folder.
  1. Run Windows Explorer and right-click the folder you want to share .

    Here're a few things to keep in mind when you're choosing files to share. First, when you share a folder, you also share any subfolders underneath it. Second, don't share any system folders, such as My Computer C: Windows, because someone may damage them and seriously harm your system. For the same reason, don't share an entire drive, such as the My Computer C: drive. In fact, you may want to set up a specific folder that you share on the network. For example, you can give it the extremely creative name of Shared Network Folder, and then put files and folders in it that you want to share. That way, all other folders and files on your PC won't be accessible to other people.

  2. From the Properties dialog box that appears, click the Sharing tab and select "Share this folder on the network. "

    The dialog box shown in Figure 9-8 appears. If "Share this folder on the network" is grayed out, it means you're not currently on a network.

    Figure 9-8. This dialog box can be very confusing. The top portion ‚ "Local sharing and security" ‚ pertains only to your own computer, so use it only when sharing folders with other people who use your computer. For sharing files on a network, pay attention to the bottom section, "Network sharing and security."


  3. If you want the folder to have a different name on the network than it has on your computer, type the alternative name in the "Share name" box .

    Because others on the network probably aren't as familiar with your folders as you are, use a descriptive name for the folder they can understand.

  4. If you want others to be able to edit the files on your hard disk, select "Allow network users to change my files. "

    As a general rule, you shouldn't turn on this option, since it lets other people alter the files (as well as delete them) on your computer without your knowledge. Unless there's a good reason to allow others to edit your files ‚ like you're on a corporate network and your whole department works on the same files ‚ don't select this option.

  5. When you're done, click OK .

    Other users on the network can now share the folder and files you've selected.

In Windows Explorer, the icon for a shared folders has a small hand holding a folder, as you can see in Figure 9-9 (the hand is actually pretty tiny, so you need to look closely). If a folder's not shared, it looks like any normal folder.

Figure 9-9. Folders that can be shared with others on a network look as if hands are holding them (the bottom two here are shared); those that aren't shared merely look like regular old folders.


9.2.9 Chatting on Your Network with WinChat

Few people realize it, but Windows XP has a built-in instant messaging program, WinChat. It doesn't have as many features as instant messaging programs like ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger, but it's free of spam and viruses. Even better, WinChat is more secure than other IM programs, since you can only use it to communicate with people on your network.


Note: As with most instant messenger programs, you can only send messages to others who are running WinChat, and you can only deliver messages to people who are running the software at the same time you are.

To run WinChat, open the Run box (Start Run) and type in winchat and press Enter. Next, click the dial button and choose whomever you want to chat with on your network. (When you click dial, you receive a list of everyone on your network, even if they're not running WinChat. So if you dial someone and they don't respond, it may not be that they're ignoring you ‚ they simply may not be running the program.) If the recipient is running WinChat, she hears a ringing sound. When she clicks the Answer button, the two of you are free to chat. Figure 9-10 shows WinChat in action.



Windows XP Power Hound
Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
ISBN: 0596006195
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 119

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