In Windows XP, there is no mechanism for creating, and changing between, network profiles.
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Suppose you take your laptop back and forth from your office to your home, and these two environments have markedly different network settings. You'd need to change between them manually whenever you went from one location to the next.
In February I wrote about freeware called Network Switcher that lets you change network configurations on the fly (IP addresses, adaptor configurations, etc.) without having to reboot. I've since discovered a better program: NetSwitcher. NetSwitcher is not freeware, but the price is only $19.95 per license, and individual users can in theory use it without paying for a license.
NetSwitcher saves you the trouble of having to change between network settings manually. You can define network profiles for each location and switch between them on-demand without rebooting. When you first install NetSwitcher, you'll be asked to store your current network settings as a default profile (which you can always change later). From then on, you can add any number of profiles that describe how your network is configured, and switch between them by simply clicking on the program's tray icon.
The settings that can be changed with each network profile aren't limited to just the network adapter settings. They also include:
- Time zone
- Default printer
- Display mode
- Shared folders and network drives
- IE home page and proxy settings
- HOSTS file entries
- Applications to launch at startup
- Email client/SMTP proxy settings
- Programs to launch whenever settings are applied
Note: Some of the changes you can make through the program apart from basic network settings might require a reboot; if that's the case, the program will alert you to this. The current version, 3.3.7, also includes a wireless profile manager module, which includes such goodies as a signal-strength graph (a la NetStumbler). Version 3.3.8, which is in beta, supports Firefox.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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