Windows XP Offline Folders

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An exciting functionality has been carried over from Windows 2000, which you can use with Windows XP shared folders - offline caching.

With the workforce being as mobile as it is these days, this innovation eliminates the need for duplicate and triplicate copies of documents.

Let's say that you have to do a presentation in Tokyo. You arrive at your hotel and realize that you left your hard copy on the airplane. You have brought your laptop from work, but the presentation was saved to a network drive. If you have set up automatic caching on the folder, you don't even have to be connected to the network! You would connect to the folder through Network Neighborhood, and the cached folder would be available for you.

Offline files and folders can also increase network performance even when the user is connected to the network, because a local copy can be accessed rather than using the original network copy.

Two computers, at minimum, must be used to configure offline files and folders - the computer acting as the file server and the computer acting as the client that will access offline data. The file server does not need to be running Windows 2000, but it does need to use SMB (server message blocks) as its file and print sharing protocols. All Microsoft operating system use SMB, but other systems, such as Novell, do not.

When you setup up the share on the server, there are three methods of caching you can use, depending on what type of information is to be stored in that folder. These choices are:

• Automatic Caching for Documents
This method is recommended for folders containing user documents. When a user opens a file, a copy is automatically downloaded. If an older copy exists, it is deleted and replaced with the updated file. The file will be made available when the person who connected to the share and opened the file is working offline, or if you are offline when the user wants to access the file again. When the user reconnects to the share online, the documents are synchronized.

• Manual Caching for Documents
In the instance, this user must manually specify the files or folders they wish to have available offline. This is done by right clicking on the file in the share folder, and choosing "Make Available Offline". If a folder is chosen, the user will be presented with two options -- only the folder, or the folder and all its subfolders. Synchronization can be done manually as well. This is the default setting.

• Automatic Caching for Programs
This is recommended for folders with read-only data, or for applications that are run from the network. File sharing is not ensured.

To use a file or folder offline, you must be able to connect to the computer acting as the file server. In other words, the folder must be shared and you must have the appropriate permissions to access the file. You must configure your computer to use offline files through the Tools menu of Windows Explorer, under Folder Options, Offline Files tab.

Leaving the default value of Enable Offline Files and adding Synchronize all offline files before logging off options will eliminate the need to manually synchronize the files and folders. Once you have completed this task, it is simple to set up the files you need to have available offline. Connect to the shares you wish to make available through My Network Places.

When you right click on a particular share, a shortcut menu appears. Select Make Available Offline. The first time you do this, a wizard will guide you through the steps of making particular setting choices.

After the first time, a synchronization box appears, and that is all there is to it! A small icon at the bottom of the shares will indicate to you which files are set up for offline use.

 

Deborah Timmons is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. She came into the Microsoft technical field after six years in the adaptive technology field, providing technology and training for persons with disabilities. She is the President and co-owner of Integrator Systems Inc.

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