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How to access network resources via VPN

How to access network resources via VPN


Last month, we completed our discussion on how to set up and configure the VPN client to connect to the VPN host we configured the previous month. We’ve also outlined some common troubleshooting techniques to help you fix some connection issues you might encounter. This month we conclude our discussion of how to access your network resources via a VPN.

First, we need to make sure that both the host and client computers are using the same workgroup name. Check this out by going to control Board and clicking on System. See under section Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings. In Vista, the default workgroup name is work group, but you can change this to practically anything. For computers running Vista, this step is not strictly necessary, but it will increase performance, and it is necessary if your client computer is using Windows XP.

Then, Vista uses two different types of connections, general or Spread. Private, as you might think, is the setup you want for your home or business network, as it will allow your system to see and be seen by other devices on the network. This is the setting to use with a VPN connection.

You should use the Public setting only on unsecured locations (such as airport hotspots or coffee shops) to help protect your system from unauthorized or malicious access. This is managed by Vista network discovery Job. If your network is set to Private, then Network discovery will be turned on by default. You can check these settings by clicking Begins > control Board > Network and the Internet > Network and Sharing Center and clicking on down arrow next to the word Network discovery.

With that far away, we can get started. There are three primary functions available to you when using a VPN: file and folder sharing, remote printing, and remote desktop.

Share files and folders

VPNs are commonly used to share files and folders. This is where people on the network can access the files and folders stored on a networked computer regardless of where that computer is physically located. Setting this function is not that difficult, but there are some specific steps that you need to take.

  1. Log in to your host computer with an account with administrative privileges and click Begins > control Board > Network and the Internet > Network and Sharing Center.
  2. go to Sharing and discovery section and click on down arrow next to the word File sharing
  3. Choose Turn on file sharing and press Progressing.

You now have the ability to share files and folders. However, at this point, you have not configured any shared folders. So let’s do that now.

  1. Create a folder on your desktop to share. Our example will call us VPN_Projects Fill it out with some data (documents, photos, presentations, etc.)
  2. When you finish, Right click On VPN_Projects and select Participate.
  3. This will bring up a dialog asking you to do so Choose people to share with. Your user account will be listed by default. If you are using another account to access the VPN, enter it here. During the last column we used VPNUSER. When done, press Participate.
  4. This process may take a few minutes. Once done, your folder will be shared. click he didto complete.
  5. right Now Right click On the VPN_Projects folder and select file Sharing tab.
  6. Click on Advanced Share button. *Windows may ask for your permission to continue. If so, just press Complete.
  7. one on the next screen, Check the Share this folder Selection. You also have the option to set the number of concurrent users that can access this folder. If you are going to be the only one you can set to 1. We will leave it at the default value of 10.
  8. Now press Permissions. by default everyone Has read access to the folder. My advice is to remove everyone And only add the specific user accounts that will need access. This will be the account you use to connect to the VPN (Again, in last month’s column was vpnuser).
  9. Type the username then press Check the name to check it out. Once you check the press OK. Under permissions for VPNUSER check Allow to full control. Journalism OK. Journalism OK Repeatedly Nearby.

Now if you go to Network and Sharing Center then click at the bottom of the dialog where it says, Show me all network folders shared on this computer. Doing so opens a window showing you all of your posts. The VPN_Projects folder should now be visible.

*Note that if you are using a third-party software firewall (for example, something other than the Windows Firewall built into Vista), you may encounter some configuration issues. If you do, try disabling it temporarily so you can isolate the problem.

On the client computer, you need to map a drive to the shared folder. Unfortunately, you will likely not be able to browse for the host computer since the VPN will not pass NetBIOS traffic. For this reason, you will need to know the IP address of the host computer and the name of the shared folder.

Remember that the IP address is not the public IP address you used to connect the VPN client to the host computer, but the local LAN address of the computer. If you don’t remember the address, you can find it by opening a DOS window on the host computer and typing IPCONFIG. Ours is

Once you have the IP address of the computer you want to connect to, just follow these steps:

  1. to open Windows Explorer (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Windows Explorer)
  2. In the menu at the top, tap Tools (If the menu bar is not visible, tap Organize > Layout > Menu Bar)
  3. Choose driving map network
  4. Assign a drive letter. It can be any available drive letter, but for the example we’ll use it Z:.
  5. In the folder line, enter the IP address and share name; Example, and click ends. Note – If you are going to use this post on a regular basis, be sure to select Reconnect when logging in Selection.

That’s it, now drive Z: is connected to the VPN_Projects folder, and you’ll have full access to all the files and folders in it.

If you do not want to save the IP addresses of your network devices, you can create an LMHOSTS file and place it on your client computer. A LMHOSTS file is a static table that resolves a host name to an IP address and helps resolve a remote NetBIOS name.

To create an LMHOSTS file, you must open Notepad and enter the IP address, the name of all network devices (computers, printers, etc.) and the extension #PRE. Following any entry in the file with #PRE characters will preload the entry in the name cache for faster resolution.

An example of the contents of the LMHOSTS file would be:

  • VPN Hosting #PRE
  • HP3550 # BEFORE

In this example, the first entry is our VPN-Host PC and the other is our network printer. After making the appropriate changes to the file, save it as: LMHOSTS. Do not use any file extension. This is important because sometimes Notepad puts a .TXT extension at the end of a document you’ve created, which in this case will prevent the file from working properly.

Copy the LMHOSTS file to a file A: Windowssystem32driverstc folder on the VPN client computer and restart the system. The client can then use the ComputerNameShareName syntax to access shared folders on the remote network (eg VPN-HOSTVPN_Projects).

remote printing

Setting up the ability to access a printer attached to the host computer (or even a regular network printer) is very similar to setting up a shared folder. let’s start.

  1. Log in to your host computer with an account with administrative privileges and click Begins > control Board > Network and the Internet > Network and Sharing Center.
  2. go to Sharing and discovery section and click on down arrow next to the word printer sharing
  3. Choose Turn on printer sharing and press Progressing.

Now you can access a remote printer. All you have to do now is configure it on the client computer. First, make sure you have either the port name or the IP address of the printer. Like a PC, it is always a good idea to use static IP addresses for network devices whenever possible. Otherwise, you risk that one day the device will not work because its address has changed unexpectedly.

  1. go to Begins > control Board > printers
  2. At the top of the window, tap Add a printerbutton.
  3. In the Add Printer dialog, select Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer and press next one.
  4. You should see a message that reads, No printers found. Select option The printer I want is not included.
  5. On the next screen, tap on, Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname, and press next one.
  6. Enter the printer’s IP address on the line labeled Host name or IP address And make sure of the option Query the printer and automatically select the driver to use Examined. Journalism next one When you finish.

At this point, the PC client will automatically go to the network to retrieve the printer driver and configure it for use with your system. It may ask you to name it, ask if it should be the default printer and print a test page. Once done, click Been completed, And the printer is now ready and ready to go!

remote desktop

A VPN connection also makes some Vista features, such as Remote Desktop, easier to use. With Remote Desktop, you can use your home computer, for example, to access your desktop computer as if you were sitting right in front of it – with access to all your programs, files, and other network resources (such as external hard drives and printers) without having to configure No specific folders or user permissions.

Usually, setting up a remote desktop to work online is a big problem. However, you can turn it on via VPN with just a few clicks. The only caveat to Remote Desktop is that the machine you want to access remotely (also known as the host) must be running Vista Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate Edition. The computer used to access the host system (also known as the client) can be running Windows XP or any version of Vista.

You will find detailed instructions on setting up and configuring remote desktop in the August 2008 article titled, From a distance: Your Vista is easily accessible.

This concludes our discussion on creating a VPN. Remember that these three pillars represent only a small number of the benefits and cost savings that you can achieve by implementing VPN technology. For more comprehensive and robust solutions, you should seek help and guidance from a qualified IT professional. Until next month, good luck!

Ronald Bacciano is a contributing writer for, where this article first appeared.

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