Make Windows Networking Suck Less?

Frustrated reader Dave says he hates Windows networking. He writes in:

Windows Networking is a huge pain in the arse. It defeats its entire purpose: easily moving files around. I don't think I've ever set up a network easily, without a lot of trial and error and thrashing about various wizard screens. Windows Networking often requests a USB flash drive to copy/paste Networking settings, policies, and password on a router or other machines. What if your router has no USB port? You're stuck keying in a bunch of stuff and praying it works. I hate how network places spontaneously disappear from My Network Places. I'm often forced to re-add network places, especially FTP servers.

I'm running a second desktop using Ubuntu. My file sharing is run through WinXP and Samba. I find that Windows doesn't always play friendly; one day I can drag/drop files to the Ubuntu machine as if it were another folder on the C: drive and the next (with or without WinXP reboot), I can't get in without a reboot of the XP machine.

As someone who, coincidentally, spent the morning fighting to restore a previously-working FireWire connection between my Mac and PC, I'm feelin' Dave's pain, especially when Microsoft's own troubleshooting strategies failed miserably. Anyone out there have any advice or techniques that helps make Windows networking happen more smoothly? Or are we just stuck waiting around for Windows 7 and hoping for the best? Tell us your tricks in the comments.


    I've set up a number of smaller Windows-based networks, using Win 98, Win XP Home, Win XP Pro and Win Vista.

    More often than not, my problems with file and printer sharing between the machines was due to antivirus/firewall software. Best example is Norton Security Centre. I could not get file and printer sharing to work on one network unless Norton Security Centre was on all machines, or on none of the machines.

    Just something to keep in mind. There are plenty of other (arguably) better alternatives to AV/firewall software.

    Good point, Chris. My motto is: If in doubt, turn off all firewalls first, then work out what's happening.

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