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Issue #677: July 12-18, 2020

Geek Note:  In last week’s issue I answered a great question from reader James Y.  James also had other unrelated questions in his submission that are all worth answering.  So, I’ve brought them forward to this week’s issue.

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Q: I use three desktops: an HP Pavillion 20 Standalone and two HP Optiplex 380s. The last two were bought as refurbished from Amazon and have been working great. All connect to my WiFi. I use Dropbox to link the three because I’ve not been successful in creating a home network.

A:  I daresay that your computers already are networked, James, since you said that they’re all connected to your WiFi (to your router).  Believe it or not, that is every bit a network. But it sounds like you’re interested in sharing files, and the way yours is set up may not be conducive to sharing files among the PCs.  Let’s fix that.

The first thing you want to do is make sure all the PCs are on the same Workgroup. This is what tells Windows that you intend them to work together.  Be sure and note that this is not the same thing as the SSID on your router.  To set up a workgroup, on each machine, perform the following: Open File Explorer by pressing WinKey+E.  In the left-hand navigation pane, find “My Computer.”  Right-click on it, and select “Properties.”  In the section labeled “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings” click “Change settings.”  In the “System Properties” box that comes up, you’ll find controls to give the computer a unique name, and customize the Workgroup name, which Microsoft boringly preset to “WORKGROUP.”  Give each of your PCs a unique computer name, but enter the same Workgroup name.  Voilla!  You have a taken your network to the next level.

To share a file, browse to its folder in File Explorer.  Right-click on the item to share, and select “Properties.”  Click on the “Sharing” tab, and you will see a button conveniently labeled “Share…” that turns the sharing on, along with the explicit network path where you will access the file from other computers.  Notice the computer name that you set-up earlier is part of the path.  If you’re feeling adventurous, click on the “Advanced Sharing…” button to enable sharing of the entire folder.

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 Q: I also sent a screenshot of a message that pops up repeatedly, especially on the computer that uses a PIN. I forgot to tell you why I sent the screenshot, though. I have not and don’t plan to follow the instructions in the screenshot because I fear that the password issues I have will get even worse.

For the benefit of the rest of my readers, the pop-up box in question reads as follows:  “Microsoft account problem.  We need to fix your Microsoft account (most likely your password changed). Select here to fix it in Shared experiences settings”.  I see this exact same issue periodically on a couple of my own laptops.  I can assure you that you won’t make your existing problem worse.  Besides, I hope that problem is long gone after reading the previous issue of It’s Geek To Me.  This box is merely an annoyance, because there isn’t actually anything that needs to be fixed.  In fact, I’ve seen it described as “You haven’t been hacked and you don’t have a virus.  Microsoft is just testing your patience.”  Indeed.  I’ve done as it asked many times, and this box still makes an occasional appearance.

You can make it go away once and for all by turning off Shared Experiences which is different than the sharing you turned on above.  Click that annoying message box, and you’ll find yourself in the “Shared Experiences” section of Windows Setup.  If you don’t happen to have that box available, click the Start button, then the gear icon.  In the “Find a setting” box enter “Shared experience” and select “Shared experience settings” from the list.  On this page, turn off two controls: one labeled “Share content with a nearby device by using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi” and another labeled “Let apps on other devices (including linked phones and tablets) open and message apps on this device, and vice versa”.  Of course, if you regularly use the Shared Experience feature (an extreme rarity) you’ll want to leave these controls on and just deal with the occasional notification until that great day when Microsoft sees fit to fix the apparent bug that’s causing it. 

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