Practically Networked Home Earthweb HardwareCentral earthwebdeveloper CrossNodes Datamation
Welcome to PractiallyNetworked
Product Reviews

 • Routers
 • Hubs/Switches
 • Wireless Gateway
 • Wireless AP
 • Wireless NIC
 • Network Storage
 • Print Servers
 • Bluetooth Adapters
& Tutorials

 • Networking
 • Internet Sharing
 • Security
 • Backgrounders
 • Troubleshooting

 • PracNet How To's
User Opinions
Practicallynetworked Glossary

 Find a Network Term  

  Most Popular Tutorials

• Microsoft Vista Home Networking Setup and Options
The most daunting part of upgrading to Windows Vista may be trying to figure out where in the layers of menus the networking and file-sharing options are hidden.

• Do It Yourself: Roll Your Own Network Cables
It may not be something you do everyday, but having the supplies and know-how to whip up a network cable on the spot can be very handy.

• Tips for Securing Your Home Router
Seemingly minor and easily overlooked settings can still have profound security implications. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your wired or wireless home router and by extension, your network is as secure as possible.

  Most Popular Reviews

• Microsoft Windows Home Server
If you have a home network, you'll welcome the easy file sharing, remote access and the image-based backup features of Windows Home Server.

• Iomega StorCenter Network Hard Drive
Iomega's fourth generation StorCenter Network Hard Drive brings many of the features found in higher-end storage devices down to an attractive price.

• MikroTik's The Dude
This free tool delivers many of the same capabilities that you'd find in pricey network monitoring tools. As long as you don't mind tinkering, The Dude is a decent network utility that should be worth the download.

Vista's Networking Central, A Reason to Reconsider
By Joseph Moran

Windows Vista has been out for well over a year now, and it's no secret that plenty of people have opted to forgo Microsoft's newest operating system. With the recent release of Vista's Service Pack 1, this is changing, however. Many of those who previously chose to stick with the (relatively) tried and true XP may now consider making the switch.

For those who have used XP for seven years or so, trying to navigate Vista can lead to a bit of head scratching, especially when it comes to dealing with networking configuration options. This week, we'll apply a bit of a balm, as we explore the basics of the Windows Network and Sharing Center, the place in Vista where you can access pretty much any network-related setting.

Several paths lead to the Network and Sharing Center. The simplest is to right-click the network icon (the one that looks like two monitors and a globe) in the Windows tray, where you'll find a link to it. You can also get there by starting to type the utility name into the Start menus search box. By the time you've entered "netw," it should appear close to the top of the results list.

Where Am I?

Prominently displayed atop the Network and Sharing Center is a graphical map depicting your system's current connection status to both the local network and the Internet. When something goes awry with these connections, the link lines (which are solid for wired connections and broken for wireless ones) will display a red X, and the unreachable items will be grayed out.

Clicking View Full Map in the upper right corner of the Network and Sharing Center will open an expanded map in a separate window that offers a big-picture view of the network by showing other connected computers, as well as network devices like routers and switches. Depending on the device, moving the cursor over its icon will display its basic network info. In some cases, right-clicking will provide specific options, like the ability to explore the contents of a computer or access a router's administration page.

Where Are They?

What's That Term?

Not sure what a particular networking term means? Check out our searchable glossary.

Not all networked devices will appear in Vista's Network Map, either because their firewall settings prevent detection or because they don't support Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD), a networking protocol that a device or computer must support to be included in the map. For example, XP systems don't support LLTD, although you can add it via an update from Microsoft. Systems or devices that Vista can see but not include in the map will be shown separately at the bottom.

Viewing and Configuring Connections

Beneath the Network and Sharing Center's basic network status map, you'll find a list of all the network connections configured on your system. This includes both physical and virtual network links, so in addition to things like your Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection, you may also see entries pertaining to certain kinds of network application software, like virtual machine or VPN software (e.g., Virtual PC, Parallels or Hamachi).

Vista will automatically name each network connection, and it often does so with a non-descript label like "network" or "unidentified network." If you click the Customize link for a particular connection, you can rename it something more meaningful, and by clicking the change you can give it a more descriptive icon as well (such as a house for your home network or a coffee cup for your favorite hotspot).

While you're at it, this is a good time to verify whether Vista is using the correct location type — Public or Private — for a given connection. The latter is the setting you want for things like your home or work network, as it will allow your system to see — and be seen by — other devices on the network. Conversely, any unfamiliar or public network should be set to Public to help protect your system from unauthorized or malicious access. An administrator account is required when changing the network type or any setting marked with the Windows multicolor security shield.

Getting Detailed Info

Want more technical detail on a network connection? Clicking View status link for a particular connection will bring up a dialog box very similar to XP's Network Properties that will display the speed of the connection, how long it's been up, and how much data has been transferred. From here you can also click the appropriate buttons to disable the connection or Vista can attempt to diagnose it if it's not working properly. Finally, clicking on the Details button will give you the kind of info you would get from an IPCONFIG command, such as the connection's IP address plus the addresses for its DNS servers and default gateway.

That about covers the basics of Vista's Network and Sharing Center. Next week we'll explore the Sharing and Discovery settings, which allow you to configure sharing for things like folders, printers and multimedia files.

Joseph Moran is a regular contributor to PracticallyNetworked.
For more help, check out the PracticallyNetworked Forums.

Add to | DiggThis Earthweb HardwareCentral earthwebdeveloper CrossNodes Datamation

Home | Networking | Backgrounders | Internet Sharing | Security | HowTo | Troubleshooting | Reviews | News | About | Jobs | Tools | Forums