14.8. Exchanging Files Between PCs
The Network Setup Wizard automatically lets all your networked PCs share files and printers. Although you need to tell your PC which printer you want to share (as described in the previous section), you don't need to do anything to start sharing files. The wizard simply creates one shared folder on each PC called, appropriately enough, the Shared Documents folder. Two folders live inside it: Shared Photos and Shared Music, both handy repositories for those files you want every PC to access but don't want to copy to every PC on the network.
To view your own PC's Shared Documents folder, open My Computer (Start My Computer). The Shared Documents folder appears ( alongside a few other folders and any drives on your machine). While youre looking inside the folder, remove anything you don't want accessible to others. Anytime you want to share a file with somebody else, just copy it to the Shared Documents folder.
Note: Your PC may sport a Shared Documents folder even if you're not on a network. That's because Windows XP automatically creates a Shared Documents folder on every PC that has two or more user accounts. That lets the owners of the two user accounts share files by placing them in the Shared Documents folder.
14.8.1. Viewing, Copying, and Moving Files on Other PCs
When you're ready to go spelunking for files on your network, open My Network Places (Start My Network Places) and choose "View workgroup computers from the task pane. Windows XP displays an icon for every networked PC, followed by the PC's name and description. If you don't spot your networked PCs listed, give Windows XP some time. The PC's icons may take a few minutes to show up the first time you look for them.
My Computer treats each networked PC the same way it treats a folder: double-click any networked PC's icon to see its contents, all displayed inside a folder. You should spot that PC's automatically shared Shared Documents folder, and perhaps a shared printer. If you don't see the Shared Documents folder, rerun the Network Setup Wizard (see Section 14.4), and be sure to turn on "File and Printer Sharing."
Once you're peering inside a networked PC, Windows XP acts as if you're looking at folders on your own computer. You can copy and move files just as if you were copying files and folders on your own PC.
Warning: Normally, deleting a file places it in your PC's Recycle Bin, giving you another chance to retrieve it later. But drives on networked PCs provide an exception to that rule, which could turn into a gotcha. If you connect to Ted's PC and delete a file from Ted's Shared Documents folder, Ted's file disappears for good, irretrievably bypassing the Recycle Bin on both PCs. That's why it's important to limit what you share on a network, as it's all fair game for irretrievable deletion by other network inhabitants.
14.8.2. Sharing Additional Folders
The Shared Documents folder works fine for sharing occasional files. But you may want to share a group of files without dragging them to the Shared Documents folder. For instance, you may want to share a large project temporarily for somebody else to view. For those occasions, Windows XP lets you share any folder with the rest of the network by following these steps:
Right-click the folder, and then from the pop-up shortcut menu, choose Sharing and Security .
That folder's Properties window appears.
Turn on "Share this folder on the network."
Sharing a folder lets people on other PCs open and view that folder's files or even transfer copies of the files to their own PCs. But Windows XP keeps a protective blanket over your copy of the files by not letting anybody change or delete any file that you're sharing.
If you want to give others the privilege of changing or deleting your files, turn on "Allow network users to change my files."
When you click OK, your folder immediately appears on the menus of the other networked PCs .
If somebody calls out from across the room, saying they can't see your shared folder yet, tell them to press F5; that refreshes their screen, letting it display the newly shared folder.
You can share an entire drive on the network by following the same steps, but it's rarely worth the risk. Shared information is accessible not only to other networked PCs, but to anybody who breaks into your network. Be careful not to share sensitive information. Instead, limit your file sharing to a few shared folders and the Shared Documents folder, which is much easier to police.
Tip: You may want to leave your laptop's Shared Documents folder empty, as laptops move through more unsecured environments than desk-bound PCs.
14.8.3. Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
New to Windows XP, the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard solves the question new PC owners have asked themselves for years : how do I move my old PC's information to my new PC?
The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard grabs your old PC's files, program settings, and your My Documents folder. It packs all that information into one gargantuan file, and then unpacks everything on the new PC, placing each item neatly in the right place. Your new network provides just the pipeline the wizard needs to move that mammoth file from old PC to new. And remember: a network can be as simple as a cable between two PCs (see Section 14.10).
Although the wizard excels at mass moves, don't forget that it works just as well for moving settings and data from a single programall your e-mail from Outlook Express, for instance.
If you want to move files and settings from a Windows 95, 98, or Windows Me PC to a Windows XP PC, jump ahead to step 7 in the list below.
But if you're moving from one Windows XP machine to another, follow all these steps to move files and settings from your old PC to your new one:
Run Disk Cleanup on your old PC .
Disk Cleanup (see Section 9.4) quickly dumps the files you don't need: items from your Recycle Bin, temporary files left by programs, leftover Web browser trash, and other things you don't want to waste time transferring. Deleting them now can save a lot of transfer time.
Install your old PC's programs onto your new PC .
The wizard copies your programs' settings and data ; it doesn't copy the programs themselves. So before running the wizard, scrounge around for the original installation CDs for your old PC's programs. Then install the programs onto your new PC. When the wizard copies all your data and settings to the new PC, the programs will be waiting.
Run the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard on the old PC, and then click Next at the Welcome screen .
Start the wizard by choosing Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. When the wizard leaps to the screen, click Next at the Welcome screen.
The wizard, trying to orient itself, asks: "Is this your new PC or your old one?"
Tell the wizard it's running on the old PC, and then click Next .
Telling the wizard it's on the old PC lets the wizard know that you want it to pack up your files and settings for the impending transfer.
Tell the wizard where to store the computer's collected files and settings, and then click Next .
The wizard scopes out your PC's available connections, and then asks how you'd like that whopper file transferred to your new PC. Since you have a network, choose Other, shown in Figure 14-11. That lets you click Browse and navigate to a folder on your new PC.
If you don't have a network, though, your only real choice is a portable hard drive. The wizard packs up your files, settings, and folders into one huge file that's much too large to transfer in any other way. To move the information to a portable hard drive, choose Other, click Browse, and navigate to your portable hard drive.
Tell the wizard what files and settings to grab, and then click Next .
The wizard first offers to move all your files and settings to your new PCa safe bet, ensuring that everything moves over. To copy all your files and settings to your new PC, click Next.
But if you only want a few items moved over, choose "Let me select a custom list of files and settings when I click Next." The wizard then presents a list of program settings, specific folders, and types of files, as shown in Figure 14-12. Click the Add or Remove buttons to pick and choose which items to copy to the new PC.
Figure 14-11. Although the "Home or small office network" option seems the obvious choice, choose Other, instead. Then click Browse to navigate your network and choose a specific folderperhaps your Shared Documents folderon your new PC for the wizard to deposit your data and settings file. Later, when you run the wizard on the new PC, tell the wizard to unpack that file.
This custom selection tool comes in handy, for instance, when you want only to move your mail from Outlook Express, in order to back it up.
Figure 14-12. The wizard presents a list with three categoriessettings, files, and foldersand it pre-selects every item in each of the three categories. That's great if you want to move everything, but awful if you only want to move a few thingsyour Internet Explorer settings, for instance. To empty an entire category quickly, click the first itemAccessibility, in this figureand then press Alt+R. The wizard speedily removes every item, one after the other, until it leaves you with an empty list. Then click Add Setting and add the settings you want, one by one. Repeat that process for the other two categories, Folders and Files, adding only the few folders and files you want transferred.
If you've started at step 1 and already gathered your files and settings from your old PC, choose "I don't need the Wizard Disk," and then click Next.
Create a Wizard Disk, if you need one; otherwise , click Next .
The wizard asks where to look for the files you've transferred.
Choose Other, click Browse, and navigate to the folder containing your transferred files, then click Next .
Browse to the folder on your new PC that you chose in step 4. Inside that folder, you'll find a new folder called USMT2.UNC. That oddly named folder contains all your files, settings, and folders that you told the wizard to transfer from your old PC.
The wizard grabs your copied files and settings, unpacks them, and then files them away in the appropriate places. When the wizard is through, restart your new PC. That lets all the programs wake up with their recently acquired settings.
14.8.4. Windows Briefcase
When moving a few files between a PC and laptop, the biggest question isn't really howit's easy enough to move files back and forth with a floppy, a memory card, or even over a network. No, the bigger question is which : which file is the newest versionthe one on your PC or the one on your laptop?
This problem never happened in the old days, because you'd simply toss your papers into a briefcase when carting work home. The papers in the briefcase were always the latest drafts.
Windows XP tires to recreate that era with its digital Briefcase, which computerizes the process to keep your documents up to date.
The Briefcase works like this:
Create a briefcase .
Right-click anywhere on your desktop; from the shortcut menu, choose New Briefcase. A folder named New Briefcase appears on your desktop. Strangely enough, the folders icon resembles a briefcase.
Copy your portable files into the Briefcase .
When you're ready to take files on the road, copy them into the Briefcase the same way you copy them into any folder: drag them onto the icon. Or double-click the Briefcase icon to open the folder, and then drag your files inside.
Copy the briefcase onto the other PC, laptop, or to a USB drive (see Section 9.2) .
Since your laptop is networked now, it's easy to copy a file-packed briefcase to your other PC. A network's not a necessity, though. If the Briefcase stays small, it can fit on a floppy for transport. You can also copy the briefcase to a USB drive.
Open the Briefcase on your new PC and work on the files .
The key is to work on the files while they remain inside the Briefcase. Don't copy them out of your Briefcase and onto the second PC.
When you return home, reconnect your laptop to your PC .
Or, if your Briefcase lives on a USB drive or floppy, insert the USB drive or floppy disk into your PC.
Right-click the Briefcase; from the shortcut menu, choose Update All Items .
Here's where the Briefcase stops acting like a "dumb" folder with a spiffy icon. The Briefcase compares its copies with the copies currently on your PC and displays a list showing which files are newerthe ones in the Briefcase, or the ones on your desktop PC.
Click Update .
The Briefcase replaces the old documents with its newer versions, keeping everything up to date.
You must remember two important points when using the Briefcase. First, always open the items while they're inside the Briefcasedon't copy them outside the Briefcase.
Second, once you copy files to your Briefcase and copy the Briefcase to your laptop, feel free to work on either the Briefcase's copies or your PC's original copies. But don't work on both copies. If you change them both, you're confusing the Briefcase. The next time you choose Update All Items, the Briefcase tells you both copies have changed, and it leaves you with the problem of sorting out the mess.
Tip: If you find that that you've updated the same Word document on both your PC and your laptop, you're not completely out of luck. Use Microsoft's Word's Compare feature (Tools Compare and Merge Documents) to merge the two documents into one. It highlights all the differences, letting you right-click any highlighted item and choose whether to keep or discard that change.
My Network Places, double-click the icon of the networked PC with the goods, navigate to its cherished folder, and begin browsing your way though all the shared files. If your digital editing program or music player wants to access those files, you need to tell the program to follow that same convoluted path .
That's where mapped network drives step in to simplify the process. Mapping lets you assign a drive letter to any commonly accessed folder, like the folder containing all the goodies on a networked PC. Your PC then assigns a drive letter to that folder, treating the folder as if it were a drive on your own PC. Open My Computer, and there's your folder, sitting right next to your C: drive. The bottom line? Creating a mapped drive shortcut can save you a lot of click work if you're a frequent traveler across your network.
Follow these steps to assign a drive letter to any folder, whether it's on your own PC or deep within your network:
Open My Computer (or any other folder, actually) .
Choose Tools Map Network Drive .
The Map Network Drive window appears, letting you select a drive letter as well as a folder to transform into a networked drive.
Choose a drive letter for the distant folder .
To choose a drive letter for your favorite folder, click the drop-down arrow in the Drive box and select any available letter. You can't use C as a drive letter, as your hard drive always snaps that one up. But any other listed drive letter is fair game.
Choose the folder you want to map .
Click Browse (see Figure 14-13) and navigate to the folder you want to make more accessible; then click OK. That folder's name appears in the Folder box.
Turn on "Reconnect at logon," and then click Finish .
The "Reconnect at logon" option speeds up access by telling Windows XP to reconnect automatically every time you turn on your PC. If you don't turn this on, the mapped drive will still appear listed in My Computer. But the drive will take longer to open the first time you double-click its name.
Your newly mapped network drive immediately appears in your My Computer folder, ready to open with a quick double-click.
Figure 14-13. Choose Map Network drive from any folder's Tools menu to launch the Map Network Drive window.
Top: Pick a memorable drive letter for your folder"P" for digital photos, for instance, or "M" for MP3 filesand then click Browse.
Bottom: Navigate to the folder on your network, and click OK to assign the drive letter you've just chosen to that folder.
Note: Even though a mapped network drive behaves as if it lives on your own PC, don't forget that it's living on somebody else's PC, subject to the same networked Recycle Bin rules: anything you delete from somebody else's PC is gone for good, bypassing the Recycle Bin's on both PCs.