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Simple File Sharing vs. Windows Permissions (XP Home Edition)

Well, I just learned something about XP that has bitten me in the butt.

I bought XP home edition for my PC. For this install I am setting up a version of Plone, a content management system. Now this is not a longterm solution (I’ll be normally running it from a Linux box), but one I thought would be nice to set it up quickly on Windows.

On another note, I was working on a user account, not an admin account, something I had been meaning to do on my windows machine, but never managed to do. So far though, I’ve been using my user account, and it’s been great. Until now.

XP Home edition uses something called Simple File Sharing. Home lets you create admin and user accounts, as well as a Shared Documents directory, which enables read/write access to all files. But it’s basically an all-or-nothing affair. You can’t have only read-access (I believe) and you can’t make a folder private and inaccessible to other nonadmin users. Only Professional Edition lets normal users have write access to files in Shared Documents (it is called Power User, as opposed to Restricted User).

I can sympathize with Microsoft’s attempt to simplify the permissions interface for XP. I certainly found the permissions/sharing system overwhelming, and the Shared Documents concept is intuitive and well-designed. The problem is you’re not really sharing. You essentially are leaving the normal user no choice but to copy the file and edit their own version of files. That is really a pain.

Fortunately, you can override Simple File Sharing by booting into safe mode. Practically speaking though, that is unwieldy except in special cases. But at least it’s something.

See Microsoft’s article on it and  this thread  on windows sharing. Also, see this trick of using Guest accounts to password-protect certain directories.

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