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In The Trenches: Sharing the 'Unshareable'

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Oct 23, 2000


Deb Shinder

Last night, I found myself with a small, but annoying problem. I had installed Windows 2000 Professional on my new workstation at our office that day. The machine is a PIII 733 with 512MB of RAM, 2 physical hard disks of 15 and 45GB, divided into 3 and 4 partitions each, respectively. A CD-ROM drive and 250MB zip drive are also installed.

Last night, I found myself with a small, but annoying problem. I had installed Windows 2000 Professional on my new workstation at our office that day. The machine is a PIII 733 with 512MB of RAM, 2 physical hard disks of 15 and 45GB, divided into 3 and 4 partitions each, respectively. A CD-ROM drive and 250MB zip drive are also installed. There was some information on the new machine that I wanted to access from my computer at home, which also runs Windows 2000 Pro. We have a switched Ethernet connection between the house and the office, and both computers are members of the same W2K domain. I hadn't bothered to create any shares on the new machine, but I knew that with my administrative account, I could always access its drives through the hidden administrative shares.

There was some information on the new machine that I wanted to access from my computer at home, which also runs Windows 2000 Pro. We have a switched Ethernet connection between the house and the office, and both computers are members of the same W2K domain. I hadn't bothered to create any shares on the new machine, but I knew that with my administrative account, I could always access its drives through the hidden administrative shares.

As indeed I could, but there was one problem: although W2K creates admin shares for each hard disk partition, it doesn't create admin shares for removable disks, such as the zip drive. Unfortunately, I wanted to access a file on the zip disk in that drive. How to do so remotely?

Now, our office building is next door to our house, so I could certainly have walked next door and shared the zip drive (or grabbed the disk, for that matter). But it was raining, and besides, that wasn't the point. I should be able to do this remotely. I knew there was a way. I just had to think about it for a few minutes.

I knew I could create new shares by connecting to a remote computer in the Computer Management console, so I opened the MMC, right-clicked on the root in the left console pain, chose Connect to Another Computer, selected our domain, and navigated to the name of my new office computer.

And got the following message:

Okay. Suspecting a name resolution issue, I typed in the IP address of Enterprise instead, and was immediately connected. That was one hurdle down.

I expanded the System Tools tree and then the Shared Folders. Right-clicking on Shares, I selected New File Share from the context menu. The Create Shared Folder Wizard appeared as if by magic (as wizards tend to do).

So far, so good. Eagerly, I clicked on the Browse button. But alas, all I saw there was what appears in the screenshot below:

 

My same old administrative shares were there, all nicely lined up and looking wealthy with their dollar signs appended. But my zip drive was Z:, and there was no way to share it from this dialog box. I put the thinking cap back on.

After a minute or so, I yelled "Eureka!" Unlike Archimedes, I did not run naked through the streets (it was, after all, still raining), but I did smile broadly as I realized that I could use one of Windows 2000's new features to solve my problem.

So I opened up the admin share for the I drive, an NTFS partition on one of my hard disks, and created a new shared folder there, which I named zipdisk. What in the heck good did that do me, you ask? It might look as if I had a shared zip disk, but it was really only an empty folder. Ah, but I wasn't finished yet.

Going back to the Computer Management Console, still connected to Enterprise, the office computer, I now expanded the Storage tree and opened Disk Management. There were my disks, including the removable zip disk. I right-clicked on the Z: partition, and selected Change Drive Letter and Path from the context menu. I was like a hunting dog that's been following the scent and is getting close to its prey.

In the Change Drive Letter and Path dialog box, I clicked the Add button. To my utter delight, I saw the following option:

 

All I had to do now was type the path to my new empty NTFS folder (I:\zipdisk) and behold! My zip disk was shared. It appears now in Windows Explorer as a shared folder on Enterprise called zipdisk, and I could - finally - remotely access the contents of the disk in the drive, an all-important file called readme.txt (okay, okay. So it wasn't all that important after all, and the real reason I did all this was for the challenge).

Once again, I was impressed with the flexibility Windows 2000 gives administrators. I had been saved from the agonies of wet hair and clothes, and my husband had been spared the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that he'd have had to hear when I dashed back in, dripping wet. More importantly, I had found a real, practical use for W2K's new ability to mount a drive in an NTFS folder.

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