Offline Files in XP

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Before you start

Objectives: learn how to configure Offline Files on XP machine.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: file, offline, folder, cache, shared, available, select, sync


Conditions

To set up Offline Files, we have to meet some conditions. First of all, we need to setup the off-line files capability on the ‘server’ computer. When we create a shared folder, Offline Files are enabled by default. However, if it has been turned off, we need to turn that back on. On the client computer, we have to select which files or folders we want to be available offline. Once we set all this up, we can use the Offline Files feature. We can select to automatically sync Offline Files, or to manual sync. If we want to control space of cached files, we should select manual caching. That way, the user can select when and what to cache. Otherwise, we can select automatic caching. For instance, we can set automatic synchronization whenever user reconnects. This way we ensure that the user has latest files downloaded from the server. We can also encrypt Offline Files (the offline files cache). That way our sensitive data is protected while we are away from the company, for example. We can also choose to preserve NTFS permissions. This can be done if the client computer is formatted with NTFS. When using Offline Files, we have to disable Fast User Switching. We can’t use Offline Files if Fast User Switching is enabled. Another problem that often occurs is that the client doesn’t have enough disk space to cache all files.

Example Configuration

There are two actions that we must take to enable Offline Files. Offline File access must be enabled on the shared folder, and Offline Files must be enabled on each workstation that needs to use offline access for the shared folder. Let’s take a look at default settings that are applied when we share a folder. In our example, we will go to the E drive, open properties for the Manuals folder, go to the Sharing tab, and click the Caching button.

 All Caching Options

Image 250.1 – Caching Settings

The default option is ‘Manual caching of documents’. That means that only files specified by users are made available offline. We can change this to automatic caching, which means that the file is cached when user opens it. We can also disable off-line caching for the share, and to do that we have to remove check on ‘Allow caching of files in this shared folder’. When we enable caching on the shared folder, that simply allows the folder’s contents to be cached. We also need to enable Offline Files on the client computer. On the client computer let’s open Tools, then Folder Options, and go to the Offline Files tab. We need to enable Offline Files so that they are available on this machine. Click Apply and OK.

 Offline Files Enabled

Image 250.2 – Offline Files Enabled

We have enabled Offline Files, but that does not mean that any files are copied to our computer. We need to select files that we want to have available offline. Let’s see some shared folders on the ‘verson’ computer.

 Verson Computer

Image 250.3 – Shared Folders on Verson

In our case we want the Public folder available offline. To do that, we have to manually make the files available offline. To make Public folder available offline, right click the folder and select ‘Make Available Offline’. When we do our first sync, the wizard will appear.

 Offline Files Wizard

Image 250.4 – Offline Files Wizard

Click Next on the wizard. Here we will select to automatically sync files when we log on and log off our computer.

Automatic Sync

Image 250.5 – Automatic Sync

Click Next. We will also enable reminders and put a shortcut to the Offline Files folder on our desktop.

Reminders And Shortcut

 Image 250.6 – Reminders and Shortcut

Click Finish to sync files. Notice that the icon for the Public shared folder has been changed.

Public Is Synced

Image 250.7 – Public Folder Synced

If the shared folder has automatic caching enabled, the files that we open on a share will be automatically copied to the cache on a local computer.

Local Cache

With the Offline Files, the copy of a network file or folder is placed on a local system. File copies are stored in the workstation’s offline file cache. To view the cache we can go to the Control Panel, then Folder Options, and then open the Offline Files tab. Let’s click the View Files button.

View Files

Image 250.8 – View Files

When we click on the View Files button, the Offline Files Folder opens up. Here we can see all files that are synced with shared folder. As we can see, in our case we have one file in the cache. Files that are synced manually are marked as ‘Always available offline‘. Shared folder can also be configured with automatic caching. Let’s see an example. We created new shared folder named ‘Instructions’ on Verson computer, which is configured with automatic caching. There is one file in that folder.

 Instructions Content

Image 250.9 – Content of Instructions Folder

In our case we have simply opened that file and then close it. Because of Automatic sync feature, it was automatically synced with our offline files.

 16 File Is Synced

Image 250.10 – File is Synced

Notice that the Availability status for files that are automatically shared is ‘Temporary available offline‘. Now we can work with that files even if we are not connected to the network. If we make changes while we are not connected to the network, files will be synced when we connect back. We can also manually sync files that we want. To do that, go to the Tools menu, and select ‘Synchronize’.

Items To Sync

Image 250.11 – Items to Sync

Here we can select which items we want to sync. Click Synchronize to sync files. We can also delete files from our cache to free up disk space. To do that, just right click a file in the Offline Files Folder and select Delete.

Deleting File

 Image 250.12 – Confirm File Delete

When we delete a file from our cache, the file on the network remains intact. We can also delete files using Folder Options. Go to Offline Files tab, and click Delete Files.

 Delete Shared Files

Image 250.13 – Delete Offline Files

Here we can choose from which shared folders we want to delete our cached files. We can choose to delete only temporary offline versions, or to delete both temporary and always available cached files. In our case we will select second option and click OK.

 Deleted Files

Image 250.14 – Files Deleted

Remember

Offline File access must be enabled on the shared folder, and Offline Files must be enabled on each workstation that needs to use offline access for the shared folder. When we share some folder, the default option is ‘Manual caching of documents’. We need to select files that we want to have available offline. If the shared folder has automatic caching enabled, the files that we open on a share will be automatically copied to the cache on a local computer. File copies are stored in the workstation’s offline file cache. Files that are synced manually are marked as ‘Always available offline’. Files that are automatically shared have ‘Temporary available offline’ status. We can delete files from our cache to free up disk space. When we delete a file from our cache, the file on the network remains intact.

Author: cicnavi