Setting up an Intranet with Personal Web Server

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This article was first published in the November, 1997 issue of Windows 95 Professional Magazine.

As you probably know, more and more companies are creating intranets as a way of distributing things like phone directories and calendars of events to their employees. However, creating an intranet has been cost-prohibitive for many small companies.

Fortunately, you no longer need a Windows NT server running expensive software to create an intranet. Microsoft has created a Windows 95-based Web server that you can download for free. In this article, we'll tell you where you can get Microsoft's Personal Web Server, and we'll show you how to configure it.

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What is Personal Web Server?

What is Personal Web Server?

Personal Web Server is similar to any other Web server, except that it runs on Windows 95. However, you must keep in mind that Windows 95 isn't as robust of a networking platform as Windows NT. Therefore, you can't expect Personal Web Server to perform as well as a Web server running on a Windows NT Server.

Downloading Personal Web Server

To download Personal Web Server, first go to, click the Download button, and select Personal Web Server from the Download dialog box. Then, select the version of Personal Web Server you want and click Next. (At the time that this article was written, the current version was 1.0a for Windows 95.) To begin the download process, select the site from which you want to download Personal Web Server.

Installing Personal Web Server

Once the download is complete, open Windows Explorer and double-click the file you downloaded. When you do, the file will automatically decompress and copy its contents to the \Program Files\Websvr directory. Now, restart your computer.

Configuring Personal Web Server

To configure Personal Web Server, begin by double-clicking the Personal Web Server icon in Control Panel. When you do, you'll see the Personal Web Server Properties sheet, shown in Figure A. The General tab, which is selected by default, tells you the URL you can use to access your home page. (You can change this location if you want.) As you can see in the top of the tab, your Personal Web Server's URL is based on your computer's DNS, WINS, or networking name.


Figure A: The General tab displays your Web page's URL and its location on your hard disk.

At this point, click the Display Home Page button to load the Web page stored at the location listed in the Default Home Page text box. Microsoft provides a generic home page that you can modify to meet your needs. As you can see in Figure B, the code in this page is very simple--it even provides comments about what lines you can change to personalize the page. However, before you make any changes, we strongly recommend backing up the original HTML file.


Figure B: The comments in the HTML code explain how you can personalize the home page.

Because Microsoft included in its default page all the necessary elements for a Web page, we were able to create the page shown in Figure C in under five minutes. Obviously, modifying the Microsoft page may take a little more time if you're inexperienced with HTML code, but it still shouldn't be too difficult.


Figure C: We modified Microsoft's HTML code to create our own Web page.

Personal Web Server's structure

Personal Web Server is actually made up of two separate components: the Web server and an FTP server. Both of these components function independently of one other. You have the option of running just a Web server, just an FTP server, or both.

You may have noticed that Personal Web Server places your home page in the \WebShare\Wwwroot folder. By default, Personal Web Server reserves this directory for the files that make up your home page and any files you want to make available through the FTP server. As with other Web servers, you can build a subdirectory structure beneath either of these directories.


Now that you know where Personal Web Server stores its files, you're probably wondering how to control access to them. You can do so either with Windows 95 or with Personal Web Server. To find out which option is best for you, open Control Panel and double-click the Network icon. When you see the Network Properties sheet, click the File and Print Sharing... button to open the dialog box shown in Figure D. If either check box is selected, you'll have to use Windows 95's file and print sharing security feature. If neither box is selected, you can use Personal Web Server's internal security.


Figure D: If either of these check boxes is selected, you must use Windows 95's security.

Windows 95's security

To use Windows 95's security, make sure the top check box is selected. Next, open My Computer, right-click the WebShare folder, and choose Properties to access its properties sheet. Now, click the Sharing tab, select the Share As option button, and assign the folder the desired level of security. Click OK to implement your changes.

Personal Web Server's security

To use Personal Web Server's internal security mechanism, double-click the Personal Web Server icon in Control Panel. When you see the Personal Web Server Properties sheet, select the Administration tab and then click the Administration button. When you do, Personal Web Server will launch your Web browser and open its Internet Services Administrator page, shown in Figure E.


Figure E: Personal Web Server contains a Web page you can use to control security.

At this point, you must configure your security parameters. To do so, click either the WWW Administration link (if you want to control access to your home page) or the FTP Administration link (if you want to control access to your FTP site). Let's take a closer look at each of these options.

WWW Administration

If you click the WWW Administration link, the browser will take you to the Internet Services Administrator - WWW page. As you can see in Figure F, the screen defaults to the Service tab, which allows you to set the page's timeout threshold and configure the maximum number of connections. You can also set the type of security you want to use. The Allow Anonymous option bypasses security and lets anyone access your Web site. The Basic option prompts end users for a login name and password, and the Windows NT Challenge/Response option allows access only to those users who you've specified through the NT server.


Figure F: The Service tab allows you to set thresholds as well as the type of security you want to use.

At this point, click the Directories tab. As you can see in Figure G, this tab contains a list of directories that authorized users can access online. You can click the Edit... link to the right of a given directory to control access to that directory, or you can click the Delete link to revoke all outside access to the directory.


Figure G: In the Directories tab, you can decide which directories your users are allowed to access online.

FTP Administration

If you're using an FTP site, you'll need to click the FTP Administration link in the page shown in Figure E, as we explained earlier. When you do, you'll see the Internet Services Administrator - FTP page, shown in Figure H. FTP security and configuration is very similar to that of WWW. However, the security options are slightly different. You'll also notice that this page contains a Messages tab, shown in Figure I. This screen allows you to personalize some of the messages that users will see when they connect to your FTP site.


Figure H: You can use this page to configure your FTP site.


Figure I: The Messages tab lets you personalize some of the server's messages.

Building a user list

Once you've configured Personal Web Server to your liking, return to the Internet Services Administrator page and click the Local User Administration link. When you do, you'll see the Internet Local User Administrator page. You can use the settings in this tab to create users and assign them passwords, which is a very straightforward process. After you create users, you have the option of moving them into groups to simplify administration.

Starting Personal Web Server

At this point, the only thing left to do is to start the Personal Web Server. To do so, close your Web browser and return to the Personal Web Server Properties sheet. Then, select the Services tab and check to make sure the services you want to use are running. If one isn't running, select it and click the Start button. (If you ever need to shut down a service, you can do so by selecting it and clicking the Stop button.) Now, select the Startup tab. If you want your Web server to run every time you use your PC, select the Run the Web Server Automatically at Startup check box. Click OK to save your settings and close the properties sheet.

Testing your Web server

Your Web server should now be up and running. To view your Web page, open your Web browser and enter the URL that Personal Web Server assigned to your home page. If you've configured everything correctly, the browser should find your Web page. If you've enabled security but the Web page doesn't ask for a user-name or password, don't panic. In our tests, the Web Server asked for a user-name and password only when we tried to connect to it from another PC.


In this article, we've shown how you can use Personal Web Server to create an intranet. We've also examined some of the server's configuration and security options.