June 12, 2012

How to Safely Share Media Files from your Vista Computer

If you have an old Vista computer that is lying unused, you can make good use of it by setting it up as a media file server for your home. As Windows is not known for being a secure desktop, you want to implement a secure sharing using a strong password. You don't want your neighbors to be playing or copying your own music and video files in their computer.

To be able to implement this project, we need three things to be taken care of. First, we need to setup a manually configured IP address for the server computer. Second, we need to use a new regular account that nobody uses except for the sharing of media files. Thirdly, we need to gather all the media files of the family and put them in the proper folders of the regular computer account that will be used for sharing. The server computer should not be used by anyone else except for file sharing so all former accounts in this computer should be deleted.

What is the advantage of sharing media files? First, we want to save money by not having duplicate media files in the family. If one member of the family has already a copy of a certain media file, another member should not be getting his or her own copy. However, not all media file of each family member can be shared. Each member is to submit to the designated server administrator the files that he or she wants to share. The designated server administrator should then copy the media files on the folders of the account that will be used for file sharing.

Secondly, media files consume a lot of hard disk space and by storing these files on an unused computer, we can free up more storage space on the disk drives of each individual computer. Everyone is thus afforded the opportunity to enjoy the media that each family member has. Alternatively, one family member can be assigned the task of procuring media for the whole family. Each family member makes known the media that she wants and if there are a good number of requests for this media, he acquires the file and places is on the media server.

You can start the work by logging in on the Vista computer with an Administrator account and setup a manually configured IP address for this computer. How to do this is a fairly complex undertaking that cannot be fully discussed here. There is an article in this website that can guide you on how to perform this task correctly. Messing this activity up can result in network errors that can negatively impact the effectiveness of your network. The IP address that should be assigned to this computer must not be included in the range of IP addresses distributed by your DHCP server. If you see an error message saying there is duplicate address in the network, then this activity has not been done correctly.

While logged on Administrator, create a new regular user and name it Share. This is the account that will be used for file sharing. We cannot use an account that is being used by another person for then all the files that this person is working on will be exposed to everyone in the network. This account is not going to be used except for the sharing of media files. Make sure that you make up a very strong password for this account. I suggest that you make a password that is not shorter than 10 characters and should include big and small letters as well as numbers and special characters.

Once the account is created, the server administrator can copy the initial set of media files to the respective folders in the Share account. He can create the folder structure that he thinks is best fitted for the media collection that the family has. Music files should be placed on the Music folder and video files on the Video folder. Other folders may be created based on other classifications like podcasts for example.

Now we can create the network environment that can enable file sharing to be implemented. This would be the simplest of all the tasks that needs to be done. Open your Vista computer's control panel, click on Network and Internet, and then click on Network and Sharing Center. On the Sharing and Discovery portion of the panel, turn on Network discovery by clicking on the downward pointing arrow and then clicking the Apply button. Do the same fot File sharing. Lastly, make sure that Password protected sharing is turned on and if not turn it on using the same procedure as in Network discovery and File sharing.

Now your old Vista computer is ready to serve media files for the whole family. Check if the shares are working by logging on another Windows computer and on Windows Explorer, click on Network or Network Neighborhood and then look for the name of the Vista computer and double click it until the sample media files are displayed. Double click on a file to play it. If the shares are working, then you can let everyone in the family know the password for accessing the media files on the server. This password should be kept as a family secret.