Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Create a hidden folder for your private stuff

Sometimes a little privacy is nice. Today I’m going to show you how to hide a folder so that other people who use your machine won’t be able to see it, or its contents.
I hope all of you had a pleasant and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Tip of the day: Create a hidden folder for your private files. The first thing to consider is where to place the folder. You want it to be someplace you’ll remember easily, and someplace sort of out of the way. Some folks will put it right on their desktop, and there is a certain elegance to the “hide in plain sight” approach, but I’m going to bury it a little… inside my My Video folder (inside My Documents).

Navigate to the My Video folder (My Documents >My Video) and open it. If you have not loaded any video onto your PC, this window will be blank (empty). Now create a new folder. Right-click on any part of the blank area and select “New” from the list of choices, and a new list of choices appear — select “folder”.

myvid.jpg

Now you will see a folder ready for a new name. I chose to name mine “stuff”, as it is fairly uninteresting and innocuous. If you want to make sure nobody is tempted to look in there, you could name it “efficiency reports 2005”, but you want to avoid an intriguing name, like “private”, “confidential”, “good stuff”, or “collection”.

Now we’re going to make the folder hidden: right-click on your new folder (“stuff” in my example) and select “Properties”. Down towards the bottom is a checkbox labeled “Hidden”. Check it, and click on the “Apply” button.

sethidden.jpg

Now when you navigate back to the My Video folder you will not see your folder. If you do, it should be faded, or “dim”. This means you have your Folder Options set to “show hidden files and folders”. This is normally off, by default; but to undo this setting, look (up) to the Tools menu and click it, and select “Folder Options” (the bottom choice) and then the View tab.

foldopts.jpg

Make sure the radio button “Do not show hidden files and folders” is selected, and then click on the “Apply to All Folders” button, or the “Apply” button if you only want to affect the My Video folder. Now the folder is invisible. To make it visible again, for when you want to use it, reverse the steps above to “Show hidden…”

Let us say you want to put a password “lock” on the folder to make it even more difficult for other users to look inside (should they locate it somehow). Right-click on the folder and select “Properties” again and click on the Sharing tab.

mkprv.jpg

Place a check in the “Make this folder private” checkbox and click “Apply”. Now the folder is protected with your User Account’s logon password. If you have not implemented a User Account password, you missed my very second Tech–for Everyone article; to see it, click here, you will now be warned that there’s no User Account password.

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answer “Yes”, and you’ll be taken to the User Accounts control panel.

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Since you will have to enter this each time you log onto the PC, I suggest you follow the rules of a strong password (complex), as discussed in the article above (the link) and write it down someplace as well.

Now you have a secure — and private — place to keep your personal files. But wait, there’s more!

Today’s free link: Because of the fact that hidden files and folders can be found by someone with a little savvy (like you, now that you know the “Show hidden files” command) and the password protection will only apply to network shares and when the other user have their own User Accounts… if you are sharing your UA (User Account), you need a 3rd-party tool to hide and encrypt the folder(s) you want to keep private. True Crypt is the free solution I recommend.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.

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September 4, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, encrypting files, file system, how to, network shares, networking, passwords, PC, permissions, privacy, security, tech, User mode, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

NTFS security conclusion–file sharing and Permissions

You’ve just shared your My Music folder on your personal desktop, you try to open it from your laptop, and you see “Access Denied”. You are told to “contact the administrator.” Life just gets better and better.

denied.jpg

So what do you do? Turn Simple File Sharing back on?

Tip of the day: Share what you want to share by understanding (and using) Permissions. In yesterday’s article I pointed out that Simple File Sharing “shares” (makes available) everything with everyone, and suggested to you that you should turn it off for better data security. I then showed you how to open a folder’s (or file’s) Properties and ‘share’ it manually, which allows you specific control over each ‘resource’ on your network. When everything goes as it should, that is all you need to do and you have easy access to your ‘shared’ files. Sometimes things don’t go as we think they should [surprise!] and the reason usually is we’ve bumped into built-in Windows folder permissions which are denying us as an “unauthorized user”. Let’s take another look at the Sharing tab of my My Music folder.
mmprops.jpg
The options available here offer a clue as to what is happening: you can make your folders “private”, which as you may guess is very restrictive; you can “share” (as shown) which is somewhat restricted (it is essentially “read only”); or, you can open things up and also “allow change” (this adds the “write” permission). But to really do what most of us want to do with our ‘shares’ (full access and full control), Windows wants us to drag them into the Shared Documents folder — even though the poorly worded description doesn’t sound like that’s what will happen.
The My Documents folder (and all of its subfolders — such as My Music) is “private” (the most restricted) by default…and here is where the problems occurs. This can get real confusing, real quick!

Windows XP’s NTFS has 5 “levels” of permission settings that it assigns to folders. If you are the type who would like a detailed technical explaination, you can read the Microsoft Knowledge article here.

To resolve Access Denied errors, you can troubleshoot the permissions in the “parent” folders (those ‘above’ the file/folder you’re trying to share), or you can use the workaround. The workaround is simple — just create a new folder for sharing. Right-click on a blank area of your desktop and select “New” and then “folder”. Give the new folder a name like ‘Sharing’. Now right-click on it and select Sharing and Security, and click on the Sharing tab. Now place a check (select) in both the “share this folder” and “allow changes” checkboxes.

Because this new folder has not “inherited” any restrictions, you will be able to fully access any of its contents from your networked computers. Now you can use the Move to, or the Copy to, (or, drag-and-drop) tools to fill your new ‘share’ with those items you want to have available.

If you continue to have access troubles that these methods do not resolve, you can always turn Simple File Sharing back on, though I don’t recommend it, or consult a friendly tech support type–like myself (Aplus Computer Aid) for instance.

Today’s free link: If you haven’t already peeked into your neighbor’s backyard (from space) using Google Earth, or otherwise explored our planet with the wonder of satellite images yet, give yourself a treat and do so. Download the GE Viewer and then type in the name or address of the spot you want to see, and Google Earth will ‘fly’ you there. Very cool.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

July 20, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, converting to NTFS, file system, how to, network shares, networking, PC, permissions, security, Simple File Sharing, tech, Windows, XP | 1 Comment

Controlling your network, NTFS security part 3

Today I am going to conclude (I think) this series with an overview of using NTFS to establish greater security for your data on networked machines, and greater control over what is and what isn’t shared with others. A few simple adjustments will enhance your security whether you have a home network, or just a single computer connected to the Internet.
(Click here to read part 1, and here to read part 2)

Tip of the day: [for users of Windows 2000, XP Pro, XP Media Center Edition] Gain control by turning off Simple File Sharing and using NTFS permissions. I want to start out by demonstrating how to turn off the default method Windows uses to make files available to other devices (known as “Simple File Sharing”), which is a valid move to make even if your PC is not connected [“networked”] with any other machines at this time — because the “Internet” is one big network and if you use it, you’re connected. Simple File Sharing makes everything available to everyone.

Begin by opening any folder, My Documents, whatever, and look in the top menu bar, and select Tools. Now click on the bottom choice — “Folder Options”. Select the View tab.
fldroptns.jpg

Deselect (uncheck) the bottom option “Use simple file sharing (Recommended)”. I understand that word “recommended” might throw you, and make you hesitate. In reply, the answer is, times have changed. Today we must be more cautious. However, realize that you can reinstall Simple File Sharing simply by ‘checking’ it again at any time.

Those of you who do not have a small network at home are done for today — class is dismissed –but if you do have machines that share a printer and/or files, keep reading to learn how to re-establish communications.

First, decide what it is you wish to share, and then decide with whom, because NTFS allows for almost total control over the what/who/when/where and how of “resource” sharing on your network. I will use my My Music folder for my demonstration, but the same steps are applied to anything you wish to make available, whether it’s a device like a printer or DVD burner, or a single file.
mm.jpgHere is the familiar My Music folder’s icon. To begin “sharing” access, right-click on it and select “Sharing and Security” option. Click on the Sharing tab.
mmprops.jpg

Place a check in the box labeled “Share this folder on the network” and either accept the “share name” (not the same as renaming) Windows gives it, or create your own name, and then click “Apply” and then “OK”.
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Now the icon has changed to show that this folder is now being shared to other users and computers, and it will appear in the Network Neighborbood area of all the machines on your network. Go to another PC, open Network Neighborhood (or, “My Network Places”), double-click on it and it will look and function as if it were actually a part of that computer’s files. This allows you to play songs on one machine while they are actually stored on another (so you don’t have to have copies stored on each machine — wasting hard drive space).

I’m out of time, so tune in again tomorrow for a discussion on Permissions.

Today’s free link: Sorry folks, I’ve run out of time today.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

July 19, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, converting to NTFS, file system, how to, network shares, networking, PC, permissions, security, Simple File Sharing, tech, Windows, XP | 12 Comments