Networking Basics: File Sharing and Security
One of the most common activities on any computer network is "file sharing." Windows 98/ME makes sharing files incredibly easy, and once you set it up, any computer on the network can share files with any other. To use file sharing, first check that File and Printer Sharing is enabled. You do this by running the mouse pointer over the Network Neighborhood icon on the desktop and clicking the right mouse button once. Select Properties from the menu. In the large white box, the item "Client for Microsoft Networks" should be visible.

Sometimes the software required to make a computer a client of a particular type of network isn't loaded. When a computer is a "client" of a network, that computer can communicate and share information with other computers that are clients of the network. When you first set up networking on a Windows 98/ME computer, the set-up process normally adds the "Client for Microsoft Networks" software. Occasionally it doesn't. If that's the case:

  1. Click Add in the Network Properties window.
  2. Choose Client from the list of choices in the window that pops up.
  3. Click Add. You will see a list of different companies or vendors on the left pane (side) of the window.
  4. Click Microsoft in that left pane. This will bring up a list of Microsoft's software clients in the right pane.
  5. Choose Client for Microsoft Networks from the list and click OK. Windows will copy all of the necessary files and may prompt you for the Win98 CD. If so, insert the CD and continue.
Once the software is installed, you should be back to the original Network window. Now let's enable file sharing:
  1. Click the button labeled File and Print Sharing...
  2. You will see two options, one for sharing files and the other for sharing printers. Click the box next to each option to enable it.
  3. Once it is enabled, you will see a checkmark in the box. Click OK to close the sharing-options window.
  4. Click the Access Control tab near the top of the Network window. For easier control of who can access which files, click the box beside Share-level Access Control.
  5. Click OK to close the Network window.

You must now select which folders you want to share. Sharing your entire hard drive is not recommended. It is too easy for someone to accidentally delete an important system file if the whole disk is shared. Instead, create folders that will be used specifically to share files. You may want one folder for the entire family and another one limited to you and your spouse. Once you have identified the folder(s), move the pointer over the folder and click the right mouse button to get the pop-up menu. Select the Sharing... menu item. A window will open with several options. The default choice for sharing is Not Shared. Change this to Shared As and type in a name for the shared folder. The "Shared As" name does not have to be the same as the name of the folder, but it makes it easier to remember if it is.

If you activated Share-level Access Control, you need to select the level of access and supply a password. Read-only access means that anyone accessing this folder over the network can only look at or retrieve files. They cannot put new files in the folder or delete or modify existing files. Full access is just that: the ability to read, write, delete and create files in this folder. You can also choose to allow either type of access depending on which password is provided.

Restricting access to certain files is crucial for most businesses and can certainly be important to you at home. For example, you may have documents or images that you would not want your children to be able to see or change. Or perhaps you have important financial information that you wish to keep private. Whatever the reason, it is useful to be able to restrict access to information on each computer through the use of share-level password protection. Also, you can implement the user log-on feature by creating individual user accounts in the Users window, which is in the Control Panel.

Once shared folders are set up, accessing them is simple. Double-click Network Neighborhood with the left mouse button to open up a window showing all computers in the local area network (LAN). Double-click the computer you wish to access. A window will open with a list of shared resources. Double-click the desired folder and a prompt will appear, asking for the password. Type in the password you designated for that folder, and you're connected to that folder!