I just spent a considerable amount of time troubleshooting a network glitch between two PCs on my network: one running Vista, the other XP. And by "glitch" I mean that the Vista box can't see any of the XP machine's shared folders, and the XP machine gets a permission error when trying to open a shared folder on the Vista system.
Now, I'm no slouch when it comes to configuring Windows' ridiculously complex network settings, but I'm running out of hair to pull. Sheesh, what a nightmare. Right about now, Mac users are probably (rightfully) laughing their heads off at me.
Figuring things could hardly get worse, I decided to try Cisco's new Network Magic 5.0. Although there's a free version, it's the US$29.99 Essentials package that promises to simplify file/folder sharing--and, man, does it ever. It's literally a three-click process. The only caveat: to take advantage of this feature, the program must be running on each PC.
The Essentials version includes licenses for up to three machines, which is probably sufficient for most households--but not mine. The $49.99 Pro edition raises the cap to eight PCs. Of course, Network Magic does way more than just help with folder sharing. But its acumen in that area alone makes it worth the purchase price, in my humble opinion.
If you're not convinced, you can download a 7-day trial of the Pro version. It reverts to the free version if you don't buy Pro or Essentials at the end of the trial. I highly recommend it for anyone who's ever struggled with a home network.