In Windows XP, there has never been an easy way to quickly change a machine's network setup to accommodate moving it from one network locale to another.
For instance, if you have a notebook computer that you take home from work, you'll probably want a different network profile for home than you do for the office. In XP, there's no easy way to set this up except maybe to have each network adapter configured differently. And that would mean you'd need to use only the wireless connection at home and the wired connection at work, or vice versa.
The few software solutions to this problem all have one thing in common: They cost money. You may find workarounds involving scripting, but scripting isn't a one-size-fits-all solution and doesn't work for folks who aren't comfortable with writing and using scripts to edit system settings.
SearchWinComputing recently discovered a solution to the problem that is free. It's called Network Switcher. The product, which runs on XP only, simplifes the process of creating and switching network profiles.
Network Switcher can change settings for up to two network interfaces per profile, for instance, a wired network and a wireless network. Each card's TCP/IP settings can be completely changed with each profile, meaning that a hard address can be assigned to the card, or the card can obtain an address via DHCP. Individual network interfaces can also be completely disabled in a given profile. Network profiles can be routed through a proxy if needed, and the configured profiles can be quickly accessed from a tray icon.
Note: When Network Switcher was tried out again on a different machine, it performed a lot less reliably. In the meantime, readers might want to check out a piece of freeware called Net Switcher. Expect a more in-depth tip about Net Switcher in April 2007.
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