57 Amazing Things You Didn't Know Your Tech Could Do!
Sling Files to Other PCs Over Bluetooth
If your laptop has built-in Wi-Fi, there's a good chance it can also network through Bluetooth. Wi-Fi, ethernet, and other connection methods transfer files more quickly than Bluetooth does, and those networking technologies are better for recurring connections (such as in an office network). But Bluetooth is my secret winner for slinging small files directly--and almost instantly--between any two desktops or laptops that have Bluetooth capability. It's especially handy at my house, where we can't print to an ancient printer with our Vista PC (no drivers); we shoot the document to our XP laptop, which can. If a PC you use doesn't have Bluetooth built-in, you can add a USB dongle to gain the feature.
To begin, on the recipient PC, open the Bluetooth Devices control panel, click Add Wireless Device, Choose the Options tab, and click Turn discovery on. Click OK.
On the sending PC, locate and right-click the file you want to transfer. Select Send to, Bluetooth device. Click Browse if needed, and select the recipient PC. Click OK. If you're sending something private, click the Use a passkey box and type a password. (Skip this step if you want to keep things simple.) Click Next.
The recipient PC will prompt you to enter the password (if necessary) and accept the transfer. Now you just have to wait for the file. Keep transfers to a couple of megabytes or less, since files of even that size can take several minutes to transfer.
Make Info on Your Home NAS Available Anywhere
Network-attached storage is great for sharing files between connected PCs. But most NAS devices let you access your files over the Internet, as well. Some NAS devices use FTP for this purpose; others rely on a proprietary Web service. And many (such as the Western Digital My Book World Edition, pictured here) offer both. A Web service is simpler to set up and use; in such an arrangement, you download files through a designated Web site connected to the NAS. Check your documentation for help with this method; you'll likely need only to turn it on and make a log-in account.
Setting up an FTP server requires you to know networking basics, but anyone can connect through FTP to make the disk appear within the Windows desktop. First, make sure that your NAS hardware is running; if it isn't, follow its standard setup process.
You'll be accessing the NAS in a browser, so you need to know its IP address. If you know it, type it as a URL, as in http://192.168.0.100, into the browser's address field. If you don't know it, visit your router's configuration page by entering the router's IP address as a URL into the browser. If you are unsure of that URL too, open your PC's Network Connections control panel. Double-click the current connection, and click the Support tab. Your router's IP address is the same as the Default Gateway.
In the router-configuration page, look for a table of attached-device IP addresses. (For a Belkin N1 Vision, for example, it's in the DHCP Client List tab.) Enter the NAS IP address into a new browser window. In the NAS-configuration page, you have to enable the FTP server. Consult your documentation; on a Buffalo Link Station, I found the setting on the Network tab.
Back on the router page, configure it to reserve the same address for the NAS drive. Many routers allow you to view a table of connected devices and click a button there to reserve the address. In my case, I clicked Lan Setup, Lan Settings and set the Lease Time to Forever. (Even with a dozen devices on my network and occasional visitors, I have ample free addresses.)
Now you need to set port forwarding. On the Belkin router I used, port forwarding was under Firewall, Virtual Servers. FTP forwarding is a common preset; I selected FTP Server from a drop-down menu and entered the NAS internal IP address. When an Internet PC tries to make an FTP connection to the router's IP address, the router will send it to the NAS device.
When you're outside your network, use the home router's IP address to connect. Open Start, My Network Places. Select Add a network place. Click Next, and select Choose another network location. Click Next. Enter the home network's IP address, in the format ftp://ftp.xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx. Finish the rest of the wizard's settings, including your FTP log-in and password, which you can configure on the NAS device. Note: You'll be making these connections without any encryption, so be careful about what you transmit.
Zack Stern once disassembled a laptop at a wedding to make a complicated upgrade. Based in San Francisco, he frequently contributes to PC World and many other tech publications.