Solutions to working with offline files

In my last issue, reader Glen Looby presented a problem that plagues his users when they move from one office to another. As he put it:

  • “We use ‘offline’ files for our laptop users, typically comprising their personal and shared folders on the network. The problem we have is that when the user works from another office but on the same domain (we’re in New Zealand and the office is in Australia), Windows connects the drives to the original location rather than ‘work offline.’ “
I asked for input on the best solutions, and several readers provided a surprising array of answers. Because any one of these could help you solve a problem of yours, I’ll print more than one answer here.

Mike Smith explains two simple settings:

  • “Choose ‘Synchronize’ from the Tools menu in Windows Explorer. Click on the Setup button. You will find several options that will probably fix the problem. Two options pertain to automatic synchronization. These are to automatically synchronize when logging on and when logging off. Glen will probably choose to have neither of these selected. There is also an option to “Ask me before synchronizing.” He may want to select this to make sure that it does not synchronize. He will then be able to work with the offline files.”
net use command:
  • “Ask your IT weasel to create an ‘offline’ shortcut to a command session with a batch file containing
  • net use commands to change drive assignments, then pause.

    “When the user completes their MS Office work, they click on the command session and hit any key to continue. Execution continues, reassigning drive assigments back to ‘corporate’ connections. This task could also be broken into two or more icons (batch files) for multiple configurations.

    “The magic is in the net use command. Type net use /? for info on this useful tool.”

Joel Gegerson developed his own short batch language solution:
  • “I’ve been working around the offline files issue in 2000 and XP by using the Robocopy.exe utility from the Resource Kit. I made a batch file with the following contents:

  • robocopy “\servershare” “C:Synch” /E /XO /V /ETA
    robocopy “C:Synch” “\servershare” /E /XO /V /ETA

    “It’s definitely not perfect (delete a file from one spot and it’ll get re-created the next time you run the batch file), but it works OK for me and required no more $$$.”

Finally, Carl Houseman points out that there are little-known Registry settings that allow you to define the connection speed at which Windows 2000 switches from offline files to online files. These settings are described in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 263097:
  • “Any network speed that is less than or equal to 64,000 bps is considered a slow connection for offline files. This setting can be overridden through the following registry DWORD value:

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2003-04-10: