Offline Files and Folders

Windows XP/2003 allows access to shared folders even when the computer is offline. This works by storing a copy of the shared folder on the local machine, which is then synchronised upon reconnection to the network.  The shared folder is cached on a user’s machine so it is available even when disconnected from the network. Changes to a file can be automatically synchronised with the original folder when the network is reconnected.

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For files to be successfully used offline there are four requirements:

  1. The folder in question must be shared. Offline settings may then be configured.
  2. When the share has been accessed, its “ make available offline” attribute needs to be checked.
  3. At disconnection or reconnection, or after modification, the two copies of the folder must be synchronised. (This process can be made automatic.)
  4. Fast User Switching must be disabled on Windows XP

To allows users to create an offline copy of a shared folder, right-click on the folder.

Select Sharing and Security…

Select the Caching Button.

Check the Allow caching of files in this shared folder option.

Select the drop-down list to view the various caching options available.

With manual caching of documents, users manually specify which files they want available offline. Also when available the server version of the file is always opened.

With automatic caching of programs and documents, the contents of the folder are made available offline when the files are accessed. Any older copies are automatically deleted. This setting is normally used for read-only documents and over the network applications since the offline copy on the client is opened rather than the copy on the server.

Automatic caching of documents is recommended for file shares containing only user documents. Documents are automatically made available offline when opened. If available the version on the server is always opened. Older copies are also automatically deleted.

Click on OK to make the folder available offline.

And close the folder properties page.

N.B. The dialog boxes differ slightly in Windows Server 2003.

The Optimized for Performance checkbox specifies that users will work on their local copies of files even when online.  This option would help to  improve performance for the server.

Select Folder Options…

Select the Offline Files tab.

Check the box for Enable Offline Files.

There are various options which allow you to configure when synchronization should take place. The default “Synchronize all offline files before logging off” is the most sensible option.”.

All of your offline files can be accessed from the Offline Files folder. Selecting this box will add a convenient shortcut to the desktop.

The Encrypt offline files to secure data option is generally a good option on laptop machines containing sensitive data. Unfortunately the data is still unencrypted when it is transferred over the network.

Click on OK to enable Offline Files.

Right-click on the share or network drive that you wish to make available offline.

Select Make Available Offline.

Click on OK to make the entire contents of the folder available offline.

The folder is then synchronized.

The icon indicates that this folder is now available offline.

The folder can be synchronized at any time by right-clicking on it and selecting synchronize.

Offline files and folder settings can be changed by selecting the Setup button during synchronization or by selecting the reminder icon on the taskbar.

You can choose when you want synchronization to take place and change settings depending on what type of network connection you are using.

There’s a wide variety of settings for when synchronisation should occur. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Examine the contents of each tab carefully. Questions about this are examination favourites.