In my home we have around 5 computers and 3 computer users running at any one time. This sometimes makes for some confusing document management. On top of it these computers are all running various OS’es back to Windows 2000 because of hardware limitations and need. So when my wife wants to see a copy of a certain document or we want to have our music accessible to my daughter we have started to use the Public Folder and shared it from one of the Vista machines. While hardly a new concept in the computer world to anyone that has worked in a corporate office or admins one it does strike strictly home users as kind of cool.
Lets walk through the different features and options of the public folder.
The public folder is shared by everyone with a user account on the same PC by default. Also by default access to the Public folder from the network is turned off and needs to be enabled. Luckily it is a very easy process and it starts by going to the Network & Sharing Console. There are many ways to get to the console as you can read in that article I am just going to use one randomly so lets go.
- Click on the Start Menu and right-click on Network and choose Properties
- In the center pane of the console look for Public folder sharing, and click the arrow to the right to bring up the different options you have.
- Choose the option you want the choices are:
- Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open files
- Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can open, change, and create files
- Turn off sharing (people logged on to this computer can still access this folder)
Note: Depending on UAC and security settings you may be asked for Administrator credentials.
- An additional level of control on this share is exercised by the setting “password protected sharing” just below the Public Folder Share setting in the Network & Sharing console. This setting only allows access to shares by using local account credentials. If you attempt to connect to any share remotely it will ask for a username/password from the computer the share resides on. This is an additional layer of security and it is really up to you if you need it or not. The only options are on or off. Choose which you want and click Apply
After that is done you should be good to go for setup. Now lets get into the different parts of the public folder. As always there are many ways to get to things in Vista I am going to pick one that I feel is easier.
- Click on Start Menu and then click on Computer
- You will see it in the upper left pane under Favorites, there is a Public Folder, go ahead and click it
- Now in the right pane you will see all the various sub folders for the Public folder. This can help you keep things organized easier.
Most of these are self explanatory, but there are two I want to touch on specifically so you are clear on what they do.
- Favorites – If you place Internet Explorer shortcuts in this folder they will be accessible to everyone on the PC.
- Public Desktop – Placing a document or shortcut into this folder will make it appear on everyones desktop on that PC that logs in.
All in all a very useful tool for Vista and home network users. I would recommend that you only put documents and files into the Public File Share that you are comfortable with almost anyone having access to in case of a misconfiguration. If you have need to share something with someone in particular, it would be better to make a private share and place it there with security.