BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2008

  

 

BOOT CAMP 535 (29/07/08)

Networking XP and Vista, part 1

 

It is clear now that Windows XP is not going to go quietly and although almost all new computers come with Vista, many PC owners will continue to use XP, but there’s a problem.

 

Networking two or more XP PCs is normally fairly straightforward and Vista networks are even easier to set up but difficulties usually arise when you try to mix XP and Vista computers on the same network. It’s really frustrating because the network connection appears to be working properly. All of the PCs are able to connect to the furthest reaches of the Internet, but cannot exchange files with one another, even though they are connected by cable or Wi-Fi to the same router.

 

The good news is that it can be done, and once you know how it’s actually quite simple, but first, let’s run through the basics of network operation, which should make the configuration changes that you have to make a little easier to grasp.

 

Large networks operate a Client-Server system where one computer – the Server -- is in overall charge and stores all of the software and data used by the Client computers. However, the vast majority of home and small office networks use what is known as peer-to-peer topology, which basically means that all of the computers have equal status.

 

Computers in a peer-to-peer network are linked together by a device called a Router that works a bit like a telephone exchange. PCs connect to the router through an Ethernet cable or by a two-way wireless or Wi-Fi link and these days many routers also have a built-in broadband modem so that all of the computers can connect to the Internet. It’s a reasonably simple arrangement and files, folders, complete drives and peripherals like printers connected to PCs in the network can be shared by other computers.

 

These days that’s really all you need to know. In the olden days of Windows 95 and 98 setting up a network used to be fiendishly complicated but XP simplified the whole process and it’s an absolute doddle with Vista, except of course for the little matter of linking XP and Vista machines…

 

There are two basic problems. Microsoft changed the Workgroup naming convention in Vista and introduced a new feature called Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD), which Vista uses to recognise other Vista PCs on a network. The trouble is, without LLTD XP computers are effectively invisible to Vista PCs but we’ll finish off this week by addressing the Workgroup naming problem and save the LLTD glitch for part two.

 

As you may know in order to exchange or share files all of the computers in a network have to be part of the same Workgroup. Normally it’s not something you need to worry about because Windows automatically assigns a default Workgroup name, which in XP is ‘Mshome’. Most users don’t bother to change it so that when a new XP PC is connected to the network it usually hooks up to the network without too much fuss. However, the default Workgroup name in Vista is ‘Workgroup’, so when you add a Vista PC to a XP network it won’t be recognised.

 

The solution is simple; change the Vista PC’s Workgroup name to Mshome. Better yet, dump the defaults and set up a new Workgroup name, the only proviso is that it must be the same for all PCs.

 

In XP open System Properties and the quick and simple way is to press Winkey + Break. (Alternatively right-click My Computer and select Properties or if you want to go the exotic route, go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘sysdm.cpl’). When the dialogue box opens select the Computer Name tab and click the Change button. Enter your new name in the Workgroup box, click OK and follow the prompts to reboot the computer.

 

The procedure is essentially the same in Vista and to get to the Workgroup name box press Winkey + Break then Advanced System Settings > Computer Name. (You can also right-click Computer > Properties > Advanced System Settings > Computer Name, or type ‘sysdm.cpl’ in Search on the Start menu). Again once the new name has been entered the PC must be rebooted for the change to take effect.

 

You should now be able to see the shared files and folders on a Vista PC, on your XP computer, so give it a try. Make sure you have at least one file or folder marked for sharing on the Vista PC (see this week’s Top Tip), then in XP open Windows Explorer or My Computer and in the left hand pane select My Network Places. Click the Search button, enter the Computer Name in the box and click Search and a few moments later it should appear in the right hand pane. Double click on it and if asked enter the Username and Password – the same one used to log on to that computer -- the shared files will be displayed. You can treat them in exactly the same way as files and folders on your hard drive. If for any reason you can’t establish a connection nine times out of ten it’s due to the firewall on one or both PCs so try disabling them, or check the configuration settings.

 

Next Week – Networking XP and Vista part 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

ROUTER

Device in a network that transfers data between computers

 

WINKEY

Windows key, usually between the Ctrl and Alt keys to the left of the spacebar

 

WORKGROUP

Low-level security feature on a peer-to-peer network that allows PCs in the same Workgroup to share files and resources

 

 

TOP TIP

To share a file or folder on a XP or Vista computer open Windows Explorer/Explorer or My Computer, right click on it and select Sharing or Security (XP) or Share (Vista). In Vista you will be asked if you want to change your computer’s security settings, if not just click Next and it is done; the shared file or folder has a small blue network icon attached to it. XP is equally straightforward and you have the extra option of allowing other users to change your files (not advisable). Click OK to exit the dialogue box and the shared file or folder icon appears with a small hand beneath it.

 

Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at www.pctoptips.co.uk

 

---end---

© R. Maybury 2008, 0908

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