Tech – for Everyone

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

Vista’s painless transfer tool

Loyal friends and true of this series may have the feeling that I have nothing nice to say about Vista. Today I’m going to prove that concept as untrue. I do have some nice things to say.

But first let me review some of the truths that aren’t so nice:
1) Vista is “resource intensive”. That means it’s big, and it takes a lot of RAM to run properly — Vista should be run on a dual-core CPU and have at least a GigaByte of RAM memory (fast RAM memory), and really should be run on two Gigabytes. And..

2) Vista doesn’t like really old devices. It is becoming easier to find device drivers for older hardware, and this ‘truthism’ is becoming less true, but if you have a really old device, (say a printer that attaches via a parallel port), or an old and never-was-popular device (say a very early Radio Shack TV ‘tuner’ card), then you should be prepared to buy a more up-to-date replacement.

3) The first “Service Pack” hasn’t been released yet.

Because of these facts (as I have mentioned before in such articles as Upgrading to Vista) I have advised my readers not to “upgrade” their existing (and therefore older) machines to Vista — especially without having first run the Vista Upgrade (Compatibility) Advisor tool. And I did warn folks that an Upgrade cannot be undone.
Why pay money for a operating system that will bog down, and your sound card and video capture card won’t run? That’s what will happen if you Upgrade a 2½-to-5 year-old PC. Just because it works dandy-fine on XP, doesn’t mean it’ll work on Vista.

No. Don’t Upgrade to Vista.. upgrade to a new machine (that has Vista on it). I stick by that opinion. Unflinchingly.

Vista is slick. It’s more secure. It’s going to bring us (eventually) advances in our video games. It actually competes with Apple. It doesn’t bury Settings so deeply nor hide them so well. It has new (to Windows) features. And…
1) It does some (most, actually) things better than XP does.

What do I mean? Well, recently I had the unique pleasure of installing a whole new network: everything was new — brand new Vista PCs, new WAPs/routers, and Gigabit Ethernet on Cat6. This was quite a bit of a different experience than adding Vista machines to an existing (XP-based) network.. or even of adding XP machines to a XP-based network. Granted, this was a SOHO network of less than 10 machines, and I wasn’t dealing with Active Directory, but the difference was night and day.

I was most impressed by the fact that each machine joined the network, and saw its neighbors, effortlessly. This was easy to see happening, too. Vista shows you a dynamic network map. Routers and the Internet were automatically detected.
Folder sharing worked as it should.. no strange Permission errors.. no “folder climbing”, as with prior editions. For you audiophiles, Vista and Windows Media Player (can) readily and automatically shares (like a server) each machine’s music libraries.. a couple of clicks, for that.

And this is what blew me away– all the machines were to share an older HP DeskJet. And the network’s owner didn’t want to purchase the equipment make a print server, but to use one of the PCs.. like most people do at home. So I installed the printer and then clicked on “Share this printer”, like I’ve done a thousand times before. Then I went to each machine and opened their Printer section of the Control Panel, and there was the printer! Whoa! All I had to do was make sure it was set as the default printer (one click).
Did I say, “blew my mind”? I was floored. No “Add new printer” wizard. No trying to browse to a \\XPmachine\HPDeskJet share. No error messages. Wow. This was Plug and Play the way it’s supposed to be! Too easy.
My hours spent installing the network was a mere fraction of what I was (from experience) reasonably expecting. Not good for my bottom line; great for Vista owners.

For those of you who have ever used a User State Migration Tool, or Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, to migrate your data from an old computer to your new computer — or purchased a special program, or cable — you know that getting your new machine exactly as you had your old machine required some time and effort.

The owner of the new network wanted me to replicate his XP set up onto one of the new Vista machines, and the usual method has been to to use one of the techniques mentioned in the paragraph above. But I didn’t. I used an adjunct to Window’s built-in Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, which will be today’s free link.
I downloaded this program to both his XP machine and the new Vista machine. Then I plugged his XP machine into the new network. Surprise! The XP machine was instantly seen and recognized. (Try doing the reverse, and see if the XP machines find the Vista..)
Then I launched the Windows Easy Transfer Companion on the Vista PC and followed the wizard. The two machines established a connection and the XP machine transferred its installed programs, and all the files, and all of the owners tweaks and settings (like bookmarks, and custom toolbars). All I did was watch.
This was, by far, the fastest and easiest user state migration I’ve ever experienced, and truly was like the title of this article — painless. Again, this is bad for a PC Tech’s bottom line, but great for Vista owners.

Today’s free link: When you buy a new PC, you will almost certainly want to transfer all kinds of things from the machine you’ve been using to the new one. Microsoft has “a companion” for the Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool called the Windows Easy Transfer Companion. It is actually a ‘stand-alone’. This tool not only transfers your documents and personalized Settings tweaks, but the programs you have installed. This is a huge time saver.
I did my transfer over the local network, but you can use the other methods of data storage to make the transfer as well– including USB thumb drives. [Note: while Microsoft still considers this program to be in beta, I experienced absolutely no hiccups or difficulties at all.]

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 2, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, device drivers, dual-core processors, file system, hardware, how to, network shares, networking, PC, permissions, routers, security, Simple File Sharing, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , | 8 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”.
mm2.jpg
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