General ICT Help
Advice on using a University Staff Windows XP Portable Computer
These notes provide guidance on using University owned portable computers running the standard University Windows XP desktop environment both on and off-campus. This environment includes standard software, your personal file store, roaming profile, Microsoft Outlook/Exchange email and calendars.
Portable computers (laptops or notebooks) are often used when away from the University, unlike desktop computers that are permanently connected directly to the University network. When away from the University you are still able to access files in your personal file store and your email.
- Before you start
- Working on the University Network
- Working Away from the University
- File Synchronisation
- Security and Warranty
- Dos and Don'ts
New notebook computers need to be set up on the University network by your local support team and they will do various checks with yourself to ensure you can log on to the laptop on a wireless connection. You will be required to log and off at least once with a wired connection to ensure that your login details are stored/cached on the laptop itself thus ensuring that you can log on to your laptop where there is a wireless connection available. This process ensures that all security policies are applied and the notebook is fully synchronised with network resources.
You should ensure that any files you may require from a previous computer’s hard disk are backed up and restored to your new computer. Any files in your personal file store, (My Documents), will be accessible from your notebook computer.
Direct network connection
When you are using your portable computer directly connected by cable to the staff network you have the same facilities and resources available to you as University desktop users. That is:-
- Login using your username and password. During the login process your personal profile is loaded onto the computer. The profile holds your preferred desktop settings (icons and background), Microsoft office preferences, Internet Explorer favourites and more. Your computer will also be updated with security policies, new and updated facilities etc.
- My Documents stored on central personal file store. You can also access your My Documents folder when you are logged in to any standard University desktop PC.
- Access to e-mail, calendar, public folders (including group working) through Microsoft Outlook/Exchange
- Access to University corporate systems, Finance, Student Records etc..
University wireless networks
You can also use your computer on the University staff wireless network - wlvstaff, available in numerous locations across the University. Find out more details and how to connect to wlvstaff.
Switch on your computer and log in using your username and password. You will see an advisory message to say your computer will use a stored copy of your profile.
When away from the University you can continue to use your files and folders in My Documents, because your computer contains a copy of what was in your personal file store the last time you connected to the University network (see File Sychnronisation below). You should not save files to Documents on this PC as this folder is not synchronised with your personal file store. If you do store files locally on your laptop, you should ensure that you back them up regularly.
You can use your computer as usual to read and edit files with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Project, and any additional software you have had installed on your computer. Any changes you make will be synchronised to your personal file store only when you next bring your computer into the University and connect it to the University network.
If away from the University for any length of time, please ensure you make backup copies of important files in My Documents.
You will not have access to email or websites unless connected to the Internet (see below).
It is not possible to provide full access to all corporate systems. You cannot currently access Finance, Payroll, Personnel or Accommodation systems. The Student Management System can be accessed through e-Vision via a web browser.
Connecting to the Internet
You may connect your computer to the Internet using a dial-up connection, wireless connection or direct cable to a network outside the University. When connected to the Internet you can access many University facilities through the Web including sending and receiving email.
To access your email, you can either:
- use the full version of Outlook which works in exactly the same way as on a wired connection,
- or use Outlook Web Access (OWA) - follow the link to Email and on-line services from the Staff Home page.
All University notebooks bought over the last three years can a work with a wireless network using the 802.11b standard. Recent purchases will support faster connection using 802.11g. Also 802.11n is supported by some newer laptops.
The notebook may be used with University wireless networks (Learning Centres, Social Learning Spaces, Refectories, University Accommodation and a growing number of other locations). You may also use your notebook with a home wireless network, and with commercial networks (e.g. those promoted by BT in Motorway services, Starbucks coffee shops etc. – you will probably have to pay!). The wireless will work in all countries that accept US standards for wireless.
When you switch on the wireless network on your computer, you will be able to see which wireless networks your computer can find. Select “Connect to” from the “start” menu and then the icon for “Wireless network connection”. You may need to enter additional security information before you can use a network.
Your computer can be connected to any Ethernet network as for example in another University which supports 10/100 UTP connection and uses DHCP for address allocation (Check with the network administrator). In particular you should be able to connect your computer readily to a home computer network.
In the UK, Broadband is available either using ADSL (BT, and numerous ISP’s) or from cable TV companies (Virgin Media). The choice will depend on where you live, what phone service you currently use and whether you need other services such as cable TV. Both types of Broadband are available with a home wireless network and this is by far the easiest and most convenient way to connect your laptop enabling you to use your computer anywhere in your home. The wireless network will typically cost less than £100.
If a wireless connection is not appropriate then the options are:-
- Connection to a cable modem where the service is delivered to the customer by a standard Ethernet network socket (e.g. Virgin Media with cable modem). No additional software is required. It is not necessary to install the software supplied by the ISP.
- Connection to an ADSL service (e.g. BT) or connection by cable modem through USB. In both cases the software supplied by the ISP is necessary and to install the software the computer configuration must be unsecured. Whilst unsecured there is a greater risk that data held on your notebook could be compromised by hackers. IT Services will on request un-secure the configuration so that a supplier’s broadband software can be installed - contact the IT Service Desk on extension 2000 – you will need to bring in your computer. Please return the notebook promptly to IT Services for the notebook configuration to be re-secured once you have installed and tested the broadband software. Your school/service Head/Director will need to confirm the request as the notebook could be compromised whilst unsecured. Should this occur, IT Services help will be confined to restoring the notebook to its original configuration.
- Connection with a USB Broadband dongle (3G) can also be used to connect to the Internet.
The University provides every member of staff with space on a central computer where they can securely save their files. This is known as your Personal File Store, and you can access it via the 'My Documents' folder on any standard secure desktop connected to the University network, e.g. from a laptop, or a desktop computer in an office or classroom.
So that laptop users can also access these files when they are working offline, file synchronisation has been enabled. Any files stored in your 'My Documents' folder are available to you both when you are connected to the University network, and when you are working offline. There is a copy of the files in your Personal File Store on the network, and a local version stored on your laptop.
Whenever you log in or log out of the University network, the system detects any files that have changed since the last synchronisation, and overwrites older files with newer ones, so you always have the most recent version available to you. If it detects that both versions have changed, it will ask you which one you want to keep. This might happen, for instance, if you've worked on a file in your Personal File Store from a student computer, and you've also made some amendments to the same file while you've been working on your laptop offline at home.
Webdrive is also installed on standard University laptops, so you can use this to access your 'My Documents' folder if necessary. Be aware that it can cause synchronisation issues, so we'd recommend that you don't use it unless you really need to.
Note: Files held in 'Documents on this PC' are not synchronised so cannot be accessed from any other PC, nor are they backed up automatically, so we strongly recommend you store all your files in your 'My Documents' folder. Files in the 'Documents on this PC' folder can also be accessed by anyone else logging on to the laptop.
The centrally held copy of files in 'My Documents' is backed up daily by IT Services. If you do not connect your laptop to the network for an extended period the centrally held copy will be out of date - you should make your own copy of your 'My Documents' folder to CD-Rom or other portable media. Please note that the backups IT Services take are for disaster recovery purposes only – i.e. if the server fails or similar disaster. It is not possible to restore single files or groups of files which you may have deleted by accident. If you accidentally lose a file by deletion you can normally recover it from the Recycle bin.
If you do store files in 'Documents on this PC' or use Outlook personal folders - PST files, (which are stored on your hard disk), you should make regular backups of these to CD-Rom or other portable media.
When connected to the University staff network you can print to your local School/Department printers as you would on a University desktop computer.
At home and elsewhere, you can connect a printer through a USB cable (most recent printers support USB). Microsoft has built in support for a large number of printers. For these printers, plug in the USB cable, switch on the printer and the supporting driver software will be set up automatically.
If your printer is not one with built in support then you should ask IT Services to un-secure the computer configuration so that you can install the software supplied with the printer. The notebook must be returned promptly to IT Services for the notebook to be re-secured once the printer has been installed and tested.
Computers bought through IT Services include minimum three year insurance cover and warranty.
Always keep your computer in a secure place. Do not leave it where it can be snatched by a casual thief (pub bar, visible in the car etc.). There is more advice in the document - Personal Responsibilities for Electronic Information Security.
Your computer has F-Secure installed on it, and is set to update virus signatures automatically whenever it is connected to the Internet. You can check the most recent update by clicking the triangular Blue icon - in the system tray at the bottom right of your screen. It also has the F-Secure Firewall on it, which is configured to the 'Office' setting.
Relevant Microsoft security patches will be applied whenever you connect your computer to the University network.
- When using your computer on the University network it is very important to log off before disconnecting from the network. Wait for synchronisation to complete before you disconnect the network cable or take your computer off the docking station. (If you do not let synchronisation finish, your My Documents and your profile may be corrupted. In the worst case you could both lose files and be unable to login).
- When working away from the University, you can make backup copies of your important files on your personal storage space by using Webdrive. There is more detail of how to install and use Webdrive on the self help page - Access Personal File Store using Webdrive
- Whenever possible to do so, connect your computer at least once a month by cable to the University network to ensure relevant security policies, patches and software updates are applied.
- If you have a docking station do not use the “undock computer ” or “eject computer” options from Windows. Always log off before you remove your computer from the dock.