Book Review: Network Your Computers & Devices Step by Step

I need to stop reading so fast otherwise I’ll need to rename this to Andy’s Reading Blog!

The Microsoft Press Facebook page were looking for people to review this new book so I put my hand up and I was lucky enough to get a copy of the ebook to take a peek at.

I’m a big fan of the “Step-by-step” series but I was interested in this book as it’s not actually targeted at me.What I mean by this is the book isn’t intended for IT Pros. It’s generally meant for the home user who wants to do a little bit more with the multiple computers they may have dotted around the house.

Since it’s not uncommon for a household to have two or more computers it’s understandable that you’d want to share files and printers and work with other devices that may be dotted around the house such as mobile phones.

As with the other books in the “step by step” series everything is clearly shown as set of instructions to follow and there are lots of screenshots to help along the way.

Chapters are also task focussed so you don’t need to read the whole thing cover to cover if you have specific goal in mind.

Each chapter also finishes with a “Key Points” section which summaries what has just been covered.

The book is heavily Windows 7 focussed which is understandable as it’s the current operating system but it also recognises that not every computer in a household would be running Windows 7 so it also looks at working with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10 as well Ubuntu Linux which I think is sensible step.

A quick summary of the chapters,

The first chapter looks at actually setting up a router and getting on the Internet and helpfully runs through how to configure two different routers (a Belkin and a DLink) beforeing explaining what device stage is and how it can be useful when working with external devices.

Chapter two covers user accounts. Why you need them, what types of account you can use (standard vs administrator) and to how to setup passwords.

Chapter three looks at libraries. What the are and how to step them up. It’s a useful Windows 7 feature I think sometimes gets overlooked.

Chapter four is all about setting up the network itself on the PCs. This means setting up network adapters, connecting to a wireless network and setting the homegroup.

Chapter five is a short chapter all about customising some of the network sharing settings such as network discovery and encryption.

Chapter six covers homegroups. This new Windows 7 feature is designed to make sharing between PCs easier to setup and this chapters looks at how these configured.

Chapter seven talks about sharing files and setting access permissions. What I liked about this chapter is looks at the basics but it also looks at some of the advanced settings if you want to take it a little further.

Chapter eight is about devices. Sharing printers and removable drives as well as connecting to a mobile phone via bluetooth and moving data between the PC and the phone.

Chapter nine covers sharing media. One of the best chapters in the book I think as it’s something that is really useful but lots of people don’t even know they can do it!

Chapters ten, eleven and twelve are all about interoperability and sharing files and printers with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10 and Ubuntu Linux. It’s great to see this as many househoulds have a mix of computers and there are plenty of screenshots to get you through it. This is a chapter I’d find invaluable as I’m not as familiar with Mac OS and Ubuntu.

Chapter thirteen is entitled “Keeping the network secure” and covers UAC, managing Windows Updates, working with Windows Defender and Windows Firewall as well as mentioning what options are available when choosing anti-virus software. It intentionally didn’t mention a specific anti-virus product to use. I can understand why it did this and while it’s not massively helpful if you’re a home user it at least gave resources to help make that decision.

Chapter fourteen looks at parental controls. A very important chapter in my opinion as there are lots of stories about children doing things with computers they shouldn’t be yet many parents don’t realise the ability to setup restrictions and monitor usage is built into the operating system. I wrote a detailed post about Parental Controls when Windows Vista was released which generally applies to Windows 7 too.

Chapter fifteen is the final chapter and looks at troubleshooting common problems. Many books like this are great when everything is working as it should so it’s good to see some useful pointers when it doesn’t. There are some really good troubleshooting flowcharts to help work through any problems.

So in closing, it’s good book. As I said at the beginning it’s not really for IT Pros but I’d have no problem recommending it for friends and family.

I may even test it out on my Dad Smile

You can find it on Amazon here

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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