Your laptop follows you wherever you go, and so do all your settings. When you move locations you don't always want the same network configuration, default printer, security settings, file sharing options, and so on. Adapting to a new environment doesn't have to be a constant annoyance. Here's how to do it painlessly on a Windows notebook.The idea is simple: you have a much different setup at home than you do at work, and maybe even other setups for your favourite coffee shop or your significant other's apartment. Rather than altering your privacy, security, power management, and other system settings every time you change locations, you can make the change quickly and even automatically. There are plenty of ways to solve this problem but we're going to look at two methods here. First we're going to look at a software-based method that'll let you toggle different environments on your Windows PC. After that we'll also take a look at a Windows built-in method for a little added security and data isolation in case you want to compartmentalise your different environments on your computer (you know, so your files stay hidden even if you share your computer, for example). So, let's get to it!
The Hassle-Free Method: NetSetMan
Windows 7 has a pretty good network locations manager built-in, letting you easily define public and private networks and switch between them. If you need more control, however, we recommend using an application called NetSetMan. It'll let you set up six different location profiles (or more if you pay) that change how you connect to the internet, your default printer, your mail server, and a lot more.
Here's how to get it up and running:
- Download NetSetMan, install it, and launch it.
- You'll see six tabs, all pre-labeled as SET1, SET2, etc. To rename these tabs to be a bit more specific, choose the one you want, go to the Profile menu and select "Rename". Once you've named your tabs (or chosen not to), you can start creating profiles.
- To set up your first profile, you can either select the tab you want to save it in and enter the settings you want manually or just go to the Profile menu and choose "Get Current Settings". This will enter in everything as you currently have it set up on your machine, including your IP address, DNS servers, active SMTP server, and more. Once you've done that you can just go ahead and make any changes, if necessary. If not, you're all done.
You'll just need to repeat this process to set up other locations. Make sure you tick the boxes next to the settings you want to activate which each profile. When you have your profiles set up, you can just click the NetSetMan icon in your system tray to see all your options. Choose the one you want to switch to and NetSetMan will change all your settings.
The Isolated, Added Security Method
If you don't like the idea of having your work stuff mixed with your regular stuff, or just want a little added security, there's another way you can have your computer easily adapt to your environment: multiple accounts. Basically, you do this by creating a new account for each environment and switch between them as needed. This will isolate settings in accounts for your different locations so you can still access all your applications but your documents and settings will be specific to where you are. To do this, you first need to start creating your multiple accounts. To do that, just follow these steps:
- Open your Control Panel and select User Accounts. Then click "Manage Accounts" and choose "Create a New Account" towards the bottom of the screen.
- Choose a new account name and set it to be an Administrator account, then save it.
That was pretty easy. Now you can just switch between your multiple accounts and set them up for their different locations (work, home, etc). If you need to share files between, that's easy too. You just need to create a folder that all accounts can access. Here's how to do that:
- Create a new folder in C:\Users and name it whatever you want (I called mine Shared Docs).
- Right click the folder, choose "Share with" and then "Specific people..."
- From the drop-down menu towards the top of the window, choose your other users on that computer and click add.
- Click the "Share" button.
That's it. Now you can store documents in that folder and they will be accessible for any user you added.