When we have multiple hard drives, multiple hard drive partitions, and external hard drives hooked up to our Windows computers, each appears in Windows Explorer and in most programs as a "drive" and is assigned a letter — like C:, D:, E:, etc.
When you add an internal drive that is already formatted (maybe it came from your old computer) into an existing PC, you can see each partition on it (at least those partitions that are formatted in ways that Windows can recognize) as a drive with its own letter.
When we buy a complete external drive, it is ready to use — it has already been formatted and Windows recognizes it immediately.
But, what if we want any of these drives to be accessible by another computer on our home network? That’s when we have to use the features of Windows File and Printer Sharing.
In Windows 98 and Windows Me, we had to install WIndows File and Printer Sharing. That feature wasn’t installed by default.
However, with Windows XP, file and printer sharing is already installed. Nothing is shared until we set it to be shared, though.
For each user ID on our computer, we can set whether his (or her) files are shared with other users on the computer. But, as far as other computers on the network are concerned, drives, files and folders are all private, restricted to the computer to which they are connected, unless you share them.
To share a file, a folder or even a drive, the first step is to open Windows Explorer (right-click Start, then left-click Explore). Alternatively, you can open My Computer, which is just a different view of Windows Explorer.
In Windows Explorer, right-click on the in drive or folder you want to share. Then, select “Sharing and Security…”
If you selected a whole drive, Windows XP will warn you that you might not want to do this. If you want to share some stuff on C: or wherever Windows is installed, you really do not want to share the whole drive. You should share individual folders instead.
If you choose to share a whole drive, click on the link that says "If you understand the risk but still want to share the root of the drive, click here."
WARNING — if you are sharing ANYTHING on a laptop, be sure you run a good two-way firewall, not just the Windows XP firewall. Since you obviously intend to connect a laptop to other networks or to dialup Internet service providers while traveling, you do not want to accidentally share your files with anyone on those networks. Also, remember that “access points” at coffee shops are actually networks!
You’ll get the dialog box where you can pick “Share this folder on the network”. Just put a check in the checkbox by that item. Although you CAN use spaces in the name, I strongly suggest that you use dashes or underscores instead, just to be safe.
Then, pick the “Share name” that you want to be displayed on the other computers. It wiill default to the folder’s name, but you can use anything that you would like to use.
If the name is longer than 12 characters, you’ll get a warning that Windows 98 computers won’t be able to see the drive.
You can also choose whether to allow users on the other computers to change (or delete) the files and folders inside the folder or drive that you are sharing.