Have you ever tried to fetch a file off a file server, only to discover that the server no longer shares the folder you need? Under Windows NT 3.X, you were able to use NT Explorer to manage remote shares from your own machine. Microsoft changed all that with the advent of Windows NT 4.0. Microsoft intentionally developed the Windows NT 4.0 version of NT Explorer as a browsing tool, not an administrative tool.
So what do you do when you need access to the server to get to the files you need? You can use the ShareUI utility included with the Windows NT Resource kit. ShareUI provides a very simple folder-based interface to allow remote administration of shared folders. It makes this type of administration much simpler, since it’s visible in a familiar Windows Explorer context. It acts as an extension of NT Explorer and creates a folder called Shared Directories under My Computer with the familiar sharing hand. Here’s how to make it work.
ShareUI works with Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows NT Server 4.0, and Windows NT Workstation 4.0. For the purposes of this Daily Feature, I’ll just focus on using ShareUI on a Windows NT 4.0 server. If you’re using one of the other supported operating systems, the instructions below will work just as well.
ShareUI is included with the Microsoft Windows NT Resource Kit, but it also works with Windows 2000. In order to use ShareUI, you’ll first need to install the NT Resource Kit.
Once you insert the CD-ROM, you’ll see a Windows CD splash screen that looks like the Windows NT installation CD splash screen with multiple choices. Choose Install Resource Kit. Like most Windows Setup Wizards, Resource Kit’s Setup will guide you through the necessary steps to install the Resource Kit.
You’ll first be asked to read and agree to the licensing agreement. Once you agree to the license, you’ll be asked to enter your Name and Organization. Like other installers, the Name field is required, but the Organization field is not. After clicking OK, the installer will search for other installations of the NT Resource Kit.
When the search is completed, you’ll be presented with the default installation folder location, which is <SYSTEM_DRIVE>:\NTRESKIT. In most cases, the path you’ll use is C:\NTRESKIT. Agree to that folder or choose your own folder for the install, and then click OK to continue.
After another brief check for previous installations, you’ll be presented with the choice of Typical Install or Custom/Complete Install. You can’t install only ShareUI, even if you choose the Custom/Complete option. Therefore, you might as well select Typical, unless you have other reasons to select Custom/Complete. The Typical installation adds the two necessary files:
Once you’ve run Setup, you'll see a message indicating that the installation of NT Resource Kit 4.0 Setup was successful.
You can install only ShareUI
If you don’t want to install the entire NT Resource Kit, you can copy the two necessary files from the CD and install them alone. This method will install only the files necessary for ShareUI, but you won’t have any of the help or documentation provided with installation of the NT Resource Kit. Go to the <CDDRIVE>:\<ARCHITECTURE>\DESKTOP folder on the CD and copy the two files specified above to a temporary location on your server. Both files must reside in the same folder for installation. <ARCHITECTURE> represents the hardware architecture you are using, such as MIPS, ALPHA, PPC or I386. For most users, it will be I386 for Intel processors. To install ShareUI, locate the SHAREUI.INF in the temporary location on your server, right-click it, and choose Install. The files will be copied to the <SYSTEMDRIVE>:\<WINDOWSDIRECTORY>\system32 folder on your server. Install will also update the server’s registry to support ShareUI.
After you install ShareUI, open My Computer on the desktop. You’ll see a new folder called Shared Directories. You can also find it at the bottom of the left-hand panel in NT Explorer with the Control Panel and Printers folders.
ShareUI allows you to manage shares in the same way you manage local directories. When you open the Share Directories folder, it will contain all shares for the local machine that you have permission to use. As in any other part of NT Explorer, you can right-click an object to open the context menu available for that object. The same options are available from the menu.
When you click an individual shared folder, you’ll have the following options:
- Delete—remove the share.
- Rename—change the share name.
- Properties—change the share name, change the share comment, alter the user limit, and change the permissions on the share.
Creating new shares
If you right-click the blank background of the folder, a context menu appears. It displays all of the normal functions, such View and Arrange Icons, but under New you’ll also find a new selection called Share. As you can probably guess, this allows you create a new share. When you choose Share, the New Share window appears.
If you’ve worked with Windows NT before and created shares through the Drive properties, you’ll be familiar with this screen. You must enter a name for the share in the Share Name field. You must also enter the path to share in the Path field. The Comment field is optional.
You can control the number of Users connected to the share by changing the values in the User Limits field. By default, Maximum Allowed is selected, but you can limit the number of users who can simultaneously connect to the share by selecting Allow and setting a number in the Users spin box. You’ll probably only need to limit the number of users if your server is slow or is connected via a slow link. You might also want to limit it for security reasons.
You can control who can access the share by clicking Permissions. On the standard Permissions screen, you can specify the users and groups that can access the share and what rights they’ll have.
When you’re done, click OK. NT will create the new share, and it will appear in the Shared Directories folder.
All of the functions ShareUI performs on your server can work on any remote machine on your network on which you have administrative permissions. You don’t even have to install ShareUI on those remote machines.
To use ShareUI on a remote machine, click Start | Run. In the Run dialog box, type \\remotename, where remotename is the name of the remote machine you want to access, and click OK.
Clicking OK will open a window with all the shared resources on the target machine. If you have administrative permissions, the Shared Directories folder will appear. From here you’ll be able to manipulate the shares on the remote machine in the same way as local shares. You’ll be able to alter and delete current shares and add new shares as described above.
If you install ShareUI on your server and decide you don’t like it, you’re not stuck with it. You can easily uninstall it. To do so, open the Control Panel and click Add/Remove Programs. When the Add/Remove Programs window appears, choose Shared Directories Folder and click Add/Remove.
As with all software, ShareUI isn’t perfect. It can cause errors and blue screens on some computers, depending on how they’re configured and what software is running on them. For example, if your server runs Internet Explorer 4.01, you may receive a Dr. Watson error due to a conflict with the Windows Desktop Update utility, which you’ll have to remove if you plan to use ShareUI.
ShareUI also has problems with programs like Symantec’s Act!. You can go to Symantec’s Support Web site to obtain the workarounds necessary to make ShareUI and Act! play nice together.
Share and share alike
ShareUI gives you a lot of flexibility in administering shares across a Windows Network and on your local machine. Since it comes with the NT Resource Kit, you’ll need to contact Microsoft, or a Microsoft reseller, to acquire it.