The computer helper: Access your data from afar
By Jay Dougherty May 9, 2006, 13:38 GMT
Washington - The more computers you have and use, the easier it is to leave some essential file behind. That's where remote connectivity becomes essential. Being able to take your notebook on the road while knowing you can access your desktop's e-mail or data means peace of mind.
Q: Assuming I have an Internet connection on my notebook and my desktop PC at home, is there any way that I access files on my home computer when I'm away?
A: Absolutely. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
If you do not foresee having to transfer lots of files from your home PC, you can set up Windows XP's Remote Desktop feature before you leave. Remote Desktop is available on Windows XP Pro edition. With Remote Desktop configured properly on both the host computer (your home machine) and the client (your notebook), you can use your home desktop machine from afar, accessing the resources on the machine as though you were sitting in front of it. To set up Remote Desktop, follow Microsoft's online instructions.
The important thing to note about Remote Desktop is that the machine that acts as the host should have what is known as a 'static IP' address assigned to it. An IP address is a numerical value that identifies each computer on the Internet. A static IP is important because if your machine is connected to the Internet through a DSL or cable modem, the machine's IP address may change unless you define it - make it 'static' - yourself. If the IP address changes, the Remote Desktop feature will not work.
The steps for setting up a static IP address are fairly lengthy but clearly and thoroughly explained at Port Forwarding's 'How to set up a static IP' page (http://www.portforward.com/networking/static-xp.htm). Setting up a static IP is often poorly explained, so it's a good idea to copy these directions into a document and save them, since you never know on the Internet when some site might change or be taken down.
Q: What if I need to transfer a lot of files from my home machine?
A: If you need to transfer just a few files, set up Remote Desktop and e-mail the files to yourself. But if you ever need to transfer many, many files that won't fit in your e-mail inbox, consider setting up FTP server software on your main home machine.
FTP stands for 'file transfer protocol,' a communications standard for transferring files over the Internet. FTP server software installed on your home machine will allow you to connect to that machine's drives and transfer any amount of files to your remote machine. Serv-U (http://www.serv-u.com) is a well-respected and easy-to-use personal server software package, suitable for use when your computer is set up behind a cable or DSL modem. You may also need to use the company's DSN4ME if you're behind a cable or DSL modem.
Once an FTP server is set up, use any standard FTP software programme, such as the free SmartFTP (http://www.smartftp.com) to transfer files.
Q: The hotel I'll be staying at offers free wireless Internet access. How will I actually use this?
A: Any hotel that offers free wireless Internet access generally makes connecting to the network easy. Typically, you'll need to locate yourself within range of the wireless router, and that usually means staying in or around a designated area.
If the wireless Internet access is unsecured - meaning you don't need a key to gain access - then you'll simply right-click the wireless icon in the Windows taskbar, select View Available Networks, locate the hotel's wireless connection, and click Connect. If you're not using the Microsoft client on your notebook, specific instructions for connecting may be different.
If you need a key to access the network, the wireless software on your notebook should prompt you for a key. Find out beforehand from the hotel whether the wireless access is unsecured.
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