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Pure Networks Network Magic Service review: Pure Networks Network Magic Service

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The Good Network Magic Service configures and manages home networks, offers security alerts, and remembers to open and close shared remote file access when necessary.

The Bad Network Magic Service works on only selected popular LAN and wireless routers, gets confused when setting up wireless-only networks, and often provides only a link to the manufacturer's Web site.

The Bottom Line Network Magic Service is best suited for those who frequently take their home laptops to work and beyond, locking down open shared files and printers when appropriate.

6.7 Overall
  • Setup 6
  • Features 7
  • Support 7

Pure Networks Network Magic Service is software designed to make home-computer network configuration and management easy as pie. And for the most part, it does just that. Previously a paid software application, now there's both a Basic version (available as a free download) and a Premium service for $29.95 per year on up to three PCs. The Basic version allows you to set up and protect a simple home network, wired or Wi-Fi. The Premium service, also available as a download, includes all the services of Basic, plus secure file and printer sharing, remote access to home computers, and various security alerts. Unfortunately, Network Magic Service supports most but not all popular routers, and you'd be wise to check this compatibility list before installing (or before purchasing the premium feature set). Also, Network Magic works only with the Windows operating system; Mac and Linux devices are not supported. Network Magic Service provides a good diagnostic overview of your home network, informing you when you have a network connection and offering to repair it when you do not. But it is much better suited for those who frequently take their home laptops to work and beyond, since it performs the valuable service of locking down open shared files and printers when appropriate and remembering to enable the Windows firewall when no firewall protection is present.

During installation, Network Magic Service analyzes your current home network and creates a visual map of existing Internet connections; your router, computers and their peripheral devices; and other devices attached to the network. From this map, you can easily tweak individual-device configuration settings or add new devices. For detailed screenshots, see our Network Magic Service slide show.

Right away, Network Magic stated it would support neither our older Netgear RP614 LAN router nor our newer APC WMR1000B wireless mobile router. While we could still use the basic elements of Network Magic Service, we were locked out of Network Magic's premium features, such as Net2Go, which requires specific routers. We also ran into trouble setting up a purely wireless network. During setup, Network Magic Service didn't allow us to choose which wireless network it joined and, therefore, joined a neighbor's open network instead of our own. While we were later able to change Network Magic Service's settings to work with our wireless network, it might not occur to some people in crowded cities to double-check their wireless connection.

The premium service includes access to shared folders, Net2Go, and printers. Net2Go is Network Magic's remote access service, allowing you to access the contents of a home device remotely from any Web browser. If your router is supported by Network Magic Service, Net2Go creates a public Web page where you can post digital images for others to view. You can also use that page to access the contents of your network shared files remotely. The Printers option allows you to share the use of one printer among all your connected devices and will even install the printer driver on new devices added to the network.

Along the right side of the main interface are real-time displays of your network's health and security, including security alerts, such as the lack of a firewall or antivirus protection, and device properties; for example, this is where you can rename your Netgear network router to something more personal. And should new devices join your network (laptops belonging to friends who are visiting your home or neighbors' systems freeloading on your wireless connection), Network Magic displays a pop-up warning that a new device has accessed your network, allowing you to either accept the new device into your network or deny it access.

Security is a big part of this release. Wireless access is primarily restricted by Media Access Control (MAC) address. While is not as foolproof as WPA or WEP encryption, which Network Magic can configure on your router if that router is supported, it's a start. Pure Networks says that it will add more security features in the near future. Also, should you take your wireless device away from its home network, shared files and printers are immediately locked down so that you're not sitting in Starbucks with photos from your daughter's birthday party open to anyone to see.

Network Magic helps configure more than just conventional computers and routers; it can also configure settings for digital media adapters, network video cameras, gaming consoles (Xbox 360 and Sony PS2), VoIP routers, special-use printers, print servers, and external network drives, although more often than not, Network Magic points you to the manufacturer's Web site for specific driver and installation support. One feature touted but not tested in time for this review allows you to access Webcams on your network remotely using the Net2Go feature.

Trial and registered users receive free technical support consisting of online FAQs and a support forum. Live technical support is also available via e-mail, and toll-free telephone support is available on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT.

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