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
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
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
in a network that transfers data between computers
Windows key, usually between the Ctrl and Alt keys to the left of
security feature on a peer-to-peer network that allows PCs in the same
Workgroup to share files and resources
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
© R. Maybury 2008, 0908