Network Magic Is Just That for Home PCs

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Many people don't even realize they have a home network, much less what they can do with it. But if your home has more than one computer using the same Internet connection, that means there's a router–which means you've got a network, and that means you can do a lot more than just share broadband.

Before your eyes start glazing over at the idea of "networking," take a look at Network Magic, which greatly simplifies the whole process and is releasing a new version today. Network Magic is free for 30 days; after that, most functions are disabled unless you pay $30, which covers three PCs.

The program makes it easy to set up a printer for sharing among home PCs or for sharing folders and files. So maybe, for example, you can keep all photos and music files in one place, and just maybe you'd even take the next step of backing them up. You'd sleep better.

What makes Network Magic needed is largely Windows, which even in the new version called Vista still makes it too hard for home users to share files and printers. Networking Windows and Macs is even tougher, and Network Magic has a beta (read "incomplete") version now available for Macs.

The program's new 4.1 edition adds a daily report on how home PCs are being used–which programs were opened and which websites visited, for example, which is perhaps the least intrusive method of monitoring kids and PCs. It also adds a "network adviser" that can warn, for example, if a PC is running out of disk space and how you might add more.

Neither feature is particularly compelling as an upgrade. But the overall product is worth trying, if nothing else to discover if you really have a network after all.