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Savvy network users have effectively performed this same function with critical documents well before Windows XP's arrival by periodically copying server-based files down to their workstations to protect against server unavailability, or to get ready for a road trip with their notebook PCs. Windows XP makes such manual 'caching' unnecessary.
The synchronization can work in the opposite direction, too. If a user connects to the network and the network version of a file is newer than the user's local version, then Windows XP can download the network version to the user's PC. Also, if a user or administrator has marked an entire network folder to be made available offline, then any new files that others may have saved to that folder since Joe User last logged off will copy over to Joe's local PC at synchronize time, too (say, his next logon).
Setting up offline files and folders
As the offline files and folders feature involves network machines and local machines, you'd expect to have to do some configuration on servers as well as clients, and you'd be right.
The first step in setting up offline folders is telling the server that you want them. That's a network administrator's job, and the tiny details are more important for the server exam than for this one. Suffice it to say here that you right-click the shared folder of interest, choose Sharing, click the Caching button, and check the box that reads Allow Caching of Files in This Shared Folder. You can also specify one of three settings: Automatic Caching For Documents (which caches all files in the folder as users open them); Manual Caching For Documents (which lets the user choose which files to make available offline); and Automatic Caching For Programs, for folders containing read-only applications that run from the server.
On the client side (where you're running Windows XP Professional), you also have to enable the offline files and folders feature. You can do so two ways:
* Open My Computer and choose Tools?Folder Options.
* Choose Start?Control Panel and double-click Folder Options (assuming you've activated the more convenient 'classic view' of the control panel).
Either way, click the Offline Files tab to see a screen like the one in Figure 12-5.
Figure 12-5: The Offline Files tab is one of two places you must visit
Instant Answer Here are the things you should know about the Offline Files property sheet:
* Check Enable Offline Files to turn on the feature for the client PC.
* Checking Synchronize All Offline Files Before Logging Off ensures that when you log off, your locally cached files are completely up-to-date. This is 'full' synchronization in Microspeak.
If you clear this check box, Windows XP makes sure you have all the files you should have offline, but doesn't guarantee that they're the latest versions; this is the 'quick' synchronization option.
* You can also set Windows to synch up your files at logon time, via the Synchronize All Offline Files When Logging On check box. (For maximum synchronization, choose both the logon and logoff check boxes, which you can set independently of each other.)
* Display A Reminder turns on the display of a Taskbar balloon when a network server is unavailable and you're working offline.
* The Encrypt Offline Files To Secure Data check box is new in Windows XP (you can't encrypt the client-side cache in Windows 2000) and adds a layer of security to locally cached files by applying NTFS encryption to them. Encryption ensures that nobody else who may log on to your PC can see or modify the contents of your offline files.
* The disk space slider specifies what percent of the drive you want to permit Windows XP to use for files that your network administrator wants you to have offline, but that you haven't specifically designated to be made available offline. (These are 'temporary offline files' in Microsoft lingo.)
* The Delete Files button deletes the local, cached copy of offline files, but not the network copy.
* The Advanced button lets you designate how Windows XP behaves when different servers become unavailable.
For example, you may want to 'go offline' and continue working with locally cached documents in most cases. But if a particular server goes down, you may not want to use in an offline manner the files that it shares - say, highly time-sensitive data such as stock quotes, which could do damage if they aren't current but appear to be so! You can specify normal behavior and a list of exceptions to achieve the desired configuration.
After you've set your preferences using Folder Options, you simply open My Documents or Windows Explorer, find the folder you want to make available offline, right-click it, and choose the menu option 'Make Available Offline.' If you've never made this folder available offline before, a wizard activates to walk you through the process. A dialog box appears saying 'Synchronizing' as Windows caches the network copy to your local disk.