Sharing Windows computers on a home network
August 27, 2008 9:54 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way for two people to collaborate on their Windows computers that are on the same home network?

My parents work together at home. One has a Vista computer and the other has XP, both with Office Ultimate 2007. Their work is tightly integrated, and they have no information that needs to be kept separate. Ideally, it would be great if both computers shared all documents, including OneNote notebooks, and "My Documents" (XP) or "Documents" (Vista) folder. In other words, the more unified and in sync the two computers are, the better.

What is the simplest way to achieve this unison? I am thinking of just putting "Documents" from the Vista computer on a network share so that it becomes the de facto "My Documents" for the XP computer. But I am concerned that this will not be a seamless experience for the person on the XP computer. Also, since OneNote will always be open on both computers, there might be some file locking issues. It would be great if these OneNote notebooks could be shared so that they could be open on both computers at the same time.

I have access to SharePoint, Groove, and several other groupware applications. What's the simplest and best solution to unify these two computers?
posted by lunchbox to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The easiest way to do this would be to have one computer host the 'Documents' folder and map that SMB share on the other PC as a network drive. Tell the person on that other computer to treat the Z: drive (or whatever letter you assign it) as their documents folder. This would be the easiest way to do it, but the only issue you might have is if they're both trying to write/edit to the same file at once and revisions might get out of sync. I believe this is the scenario that Office Groove was designed for, however I've never used it so I can't speak to how you'd configure that or make it work.

With respect to Microsoft OneNote - it actually has a sharing feature for LAN collaboration, so that shouldn't pose any issue for your parents.
posted by cgomez at 10:11 PM on August 27, 2008

I'd do like cgomez says- sort of.

Create a folder on the root of one of the computers called Shared. Enable it for network sharing. Then create a network share on BOTH computers (for simplicity) pointing toward it as the Z drive. That saves a huge step in the thought processes of collaboration:

Mom: Where's that report?
Dad: It's on the Z drive!

You can make a shared drive your default "My Documents" folder, but that creates oddness if the drive happens to not be visible. Better to create a shortcut to the z drive in the default my documents folder.

I think all the MS Office applications will alert users if someone else has a file open on a different computer.

Being able to simultaneously edit documents and keep changes straight requires some kind of CVS or database system, I think.
posted by gjc at 6:05 AM on August 28, 2008

Google Documents. Seriously.
posted by downing street memo at 6:12 AM on August 28, 2008

To tell you the truth, I read that networking Vista and XP is a very difficult thing to do. I read that it's a HUGE headache with manual entry of drive ID's and everything. No real reason for two products from the same company to have comptibility issues like that. I'd gander that Big M wanted the adoption rate of Vista to be quick. But it's possible.
posted by Student of Man at 7:34 AM on August 28, 2008

Its pretty simple to redirect My Documents to a share. Right-click and change target. I'd use the UNC path. \\homepc2\docs

Now you must consider homepc2 to be just like a server. It must always be on and it needs a backup strategy. Homepc1 will not be able to use this if its off, sleeping, or on standby.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:49 AM on August 28, 2008

Networking between Vista and XP is extremely simple. I'm doing it across my network with a Windows Vista machine, Windows XP box, and an OS X laptop. Just make sure you set permissions for the share for read/write and you're good to go. To set up the share, go to the XP computer, add a network drive and point it at \\\.

That's it.

posted by cgomez at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2008

Ditto downing street memo -- Google Docs is great for sharing. I'd make a shared drive too, though, for convenience.
posted by anadem at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I'll test these out and see what works.
posted by lunchbox at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2008

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