September 2001 Reader Challenge

Congratulations to the winners of our September Reader Challenge. First prize goes to Dane Overfield of E. Rochester, NY, who wins a copy of Admin911:Windows 2000 Registry (Osborne/McGraw-Hill). Second prize goes to Chris Hill of Australia, who wins a copy of Admin911:Windows 2000 DNS & WINS (Osborne/McGraw-Hill). Thanks to all of you who responded with tales of your own experience with the problem.

The September Challenge:
Ernie owns a small business, and he's computer-savvy enough to act as his own IT director. Several years ago, he set up a small peer-to-peer network using Windows 98/95 machines. Recently, he had to add another computer to his network, and he ordered one with Windows 2000 Professional pre-installed. Because of Win2K's reliability, he put all his company's important data on the new computer, using shared folders for customer lists, price lists, and other information that users need to access frequently. He called me for help when the system asked every user on the network for a password when they attempted to access the shared folders. No passwords existed for the shared folders, and nobody could get to the company data. I gave Ernie the fix. In fact, I gave him two methods for resolving this problem. What did I tell him to do?

The Solution:
Windows 9x computers can have problems with the built-in operating system security in Windows 2000 and Windows XP Pro. Downlevel clients are seen as guests, and the Guest account in both Windows 2000 Pro and Windows XP Pro is disabled by default.

Ernie has two ways to provide access to downlevel clients: he can enable the Guest account, or he can add all the users on the network to the User group on the Windows 2000 Pro computer.

Enabling the Guest account can be perilous, but if there’s no danger of outside interference via the Internet, or from strangers who might have access to the offices, it’s appropriate to take this step. To do so, right-click My Computer, and choose Manage from the shortcut menu to open the Computer Management snap-in. Under System Tools, expand Local Users and Groups to expand it, and then select Users. In the right pane, right-click the Guest account, and choose Properties from the shortcut menu. Clear the Disable this account check box. Be sure no password is set for the Guest account.

For a more secure network, you can add all the users on the network to the User list in the Windows 2000/XP Pro machine. This is also accomplished in the Computer Management snap-in. After you expand the Local Users and Groups object, right click Users and choose Add User. Enter the name and password of the first user, making sure your entry is identical to the name and password that user enters when logging on to his or her downlevel computer. Repeat for all users.

All users, including the Guest account, are automatically members of the Everyone group, of course. Shared folders in Windows 2000/XP Professional automatically provide Full Control to the Everyone group, so there’s nothing else to configure.

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