A Guide to Painless Networks
A Guide to Painless Networks | Extra considerations when using Windows XP | ADSL Broadband | Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing Software | ADSL Wi-Fi Router Firewalls
This page is intended for those who want to set up their first Network, at home or for a small business, to link together three or four machines to share files and printers.
Other pages in the series cover sharing Internet Access, Wireless (WiFi) Networks and other more complex situations.
- Who are these guides for?
- What is involved?
- Choosing a Network
- Network Architectures
- Client Server Architecture Network
- Peer to Peer Networking
- Popular Network Technologies
- 10-Base-2 Ethernet
- 10-Base-T Ethernet
- Wireless Networks
- Network Software
- Installing the Network
- Installing Network Interface Cards with examples of:
- D-Link DE-220PT Ethernet ISA card
- D-Link DE-660CT Ethernet PCMIA card
- Checking the Network Cards
- Accessing Device Information
- Updating Network Adapter Device Drivers
- Windows 95/98 Network Software Installation
- Windows 95/98 Network Software Configuration
- Windows XP Network Software is in part II
- Using the Network
- Make the Resources available
- Sharing Drives, Folders and Files
- Sharing Printers
- Accessing Resources
- Network Neighborhood
- Windows Explorer
- File menus
- Mapping Resources to a Drive
- Other pages in the Painless Networking Series
- Updated - Networking with Mixed Windows XP and 9X systems - what to do when you have to add Windows XP machines to an old network.
- New - ADSL Broadband - considerations and practicalities of Broadband access.
- Updated - Internet Connection Sharing - an cheap way to get all machines online when you go Broadband
- New - ADSL Wi-Fi Router Firewalls - a better way to provide Internet access throughout ones hardwired network and to Wi-Fi connected laptops. Covers the use of ADSL Modems, Gateways, Routers, Firewalls and Access points, in particular, the combination units now available.
Who is the guide for?
This guide is intended for those who want to set up their first Network, at home or for a small business with 3 or 4 computers that they want to link together to share files and printers. I have given some background and laid out the main choices but I have not explored those that are inappropriate in any depth.
It was originally written for systems using Windows 95 - 98 ME but the additional steps to prepare for Windows XP were added in May 2003 and the opportunity was also taken to make some of the configuration stages more explicit. Configuring machines with Windows XP is covered in a short addition Networking with Mixed Windows XP and 9X systems explaining what to do when you have to add Windows XP machines to an old network.
A third part was added in July 2003 for those wishing to experiment with Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing Software over a local network - very useful if you have broadband but challenging to implement compaired to the other parts. A fourth part is being added in September 2004 covering the use of ADSL Wi-Fi Router Firewalls to give Internet access throughout ones hardwired network and to Wi-Fi connected laptops by making use of ADSL Modems, Gateways, Routers, Firewalls and Access points - a slightly more expensive but much easier and safer approach to broadband especially now combined ADSL Modem, gateway, router and Wifi Access point boxes are available at under 100 pounds. The last part being prepared covers more details of ADSL Broadband covering the considerations and practicalities of Broadband access
What is involved in a basic network? Setting up and using a small network of the sort described here is not beyond most people but it does involve a number of stages and also it requires hardware to be installed in your machine. Installing the hardware, a Network Interface Card (NIC) and associated software drivers is by far the most difficult stage and you need to allow plenty of time. The setting up of the Windows software is poorly documented so I have included lots of screen grabs to show one what one should have. These images display in a new Window so, depending on your browser, you can have several in view when you are setting up. I have also included some screen grabs of what the Network looks like when it is installed and described how to use it effectively.
2. Choosing a Network
- Client Server Architecture Network. This is what most people first think of when considering sharing facilities. It needs special network software such as Windows NT or Novell NetWare and a dedicated server machine(s) for file store, printing, Internet access etc. Powerful and easily controlled but normally needs a system manager to set it up and to make changes for the users. The servers can be made very robust with dual processors redundant disks etc. The software costs run to over a hundred pounds per user with either NT or NetWare.
- Peer to Peer Networking This is a very cost-effective alternative for small companies and home users. Here there is only one type of machine, which can be used on the network or independently. It needs no special management for a small system but also more open to users changing things. The main software is built into Windows 95/98 and allows each user to specify which of his drives, folders and printers can be shared by other users on the network. Special software can be purchased to allow shared access to a modem for use as a fax or Internet gateway.
- 10-Base-2 Ethernet 10-Base-2 uses coaxial cable - each machine is connected to the cable via a T connector in a daisy chain and the ends must be terminated. The daisy chain can however be quite long (100 meters) with up to 30 machines connected. It makes for cheap but inflexible wiring making it difficult to add, move or remove machines especially portables. Costs however could be as low as £20 per machine. This type of technology has steadily decreased in favour since this article was first written and should no longer be considered for a new set up.
- 10-Base-T Ethernet 10-Base-T uses Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cables with RJ45 (like telephone) connectors at each end. They are wired up as a star back to a Hub (multi port repeater). Hubs typically have between 4 and 8 connections and can be connected to each other to increase the number of machines on the network. It is much easier to add, remove or re-site machines. The hubs however need to be powered. The cables are normally bought already made up in 5-15 meter lengths but one can also buy cable and crimp the RJ45 (American style telephone) connectors on each end for non-standard lengths. A laptop could be plugged into a hub when required. Two speeds are commonly supported, 10 and 100 Mbaud and most hubs and cards now support both and can be mixed on a network which will work at the highest speed supported by the machines plugged in. A complete kit for two machines expandable to 4 costs under £50 with 5 meter cables.
- Wireless Networks - WiFi These use a low power secure radio link from interface cards in each machine and an access point on a hardwired 10-Base-T Ethernet network (or single machine). Wi-Fi Speeds of 11 and 56 Mbaud are the most common and have well supported international standards (802.11b and 802.11g) and there are proprietory extensions and draft standards supporting speeds of over 100 Mbaud. The ranges sound impressive although diicult to realise but are sufficient in practice for use anywhere within a normal house although the speeds may be reduced if there are too many solid walls. The speeds are automatically adjusted and it is best to use the higher speed 802.11g standard which has inherently greater range. The expenses are higher than hard wiring and security is lower and needs to be set up explicely - the default set up for most access points allows anyone to access ones network! A wireless access point can be added to existing networks and a mixed system with wireless links to laptops is probably the long term way forwards and will be considered in a future part of this article on Wireless Access and Broadband.
Software for Peer-to-Peer Networks.
Windows 95/98 has most of the software required built in and without anything more than the drivers provided with network cards, can enable one to set up a peer to peer network sharing any hard disk, floppy disk, CD drive and Printer between any machine. The sharing is set up on each machine at folder or drive level and can be set to read and/or write and, if required, can be password protected. On the machines permitted access the Drive or Folder can be mapped to look like any other local drive. The necessary extra tabs and functions become available within the Windows Explorer to set this all up when Networking is installed.
The Network Solution Chosen
Firstly I must remind the reader that the guide is for Painless networking and is intended for home users and small
businesses using 2-5 machines including portables. For these users the choice of Peer-to-Peer networking looks obvious - it is cheapest, easiest and adequate for up to 8 or more machines. The real choice is between the hardware. 10-base-T wins over 10-base-2 in flexibility, although the costs are slightly higher because of the hub. The wireless solution is even more expensive and less secure but offers great flexibility and the ability to sit anywhere with a portable is attractive. Internet Connection Sharing can be carried out over such a wireless network. A wireless adapter can be added to an existing network and a mixed system with wireless links to laptops is probably the long term way forwards if you have laptops and such an addition may be considered in a future part of these articles.
3. Installing the Network
The solution chosen for the small firm was a Peer-to-Peer Network using a 10-base-T Ethernet with a 5 or 8 port Hub and UTP cables connecting to the Network cards and using the built in Network software within Windows 95/98 (and Windows XP). I ordered a D-Link D905 2-user network starter kit from Dabs Direct which contained two ISA cards (DE-220) , a hub (DE-805TP) and 5 meter cables. I also ordered a D-Link DE-660 Ethernet PC card for the Toshiba Libretto laptop. This card has an external "dongle" which can connect to 10-base-T (UTP) and 10-base-2 (BNC) networks so I could test everything on my own machines. Both came with drivers on floppy disks. These days the cards would be PCI rather than ISA and the drivers on CD but the principles are the same - I have now done many such installations and in general they have been trouble free although, as in the first example described below, it is always sensible to download and use the latest drivers even if Windows 9x or XP provides default drivers.
Installing the Network hardware
It all seemed very simple in theory but in the event I was very glad I carried out a practice run on my own machines as the instructions that came with the kit from D-Link were very general. The Dell had several spare ISA slots so it was easy to find one which was easily accessible and plug the card in. Many modern machines have more PCI slots than ISA so check you a spare slot - if not PCI cards only cost about £1 more.
D-Link DE-220PT Ethernet ISA card Installation: The card has to be installed into a spare ISA socket and on powering up Windows 95 detected the new card and claimed to have installed drivers when I provided the Windows 95 CD which it requested. On successive reboots however it gave errors with the driver and it showed as unavailable in the Control Panel -> System on the Device Manager Tab. I eventually contacted D-Link and they talked me through reinstalling the device drivers from the floppy. The procedures to ensure you pick up the correct drivers are described in more detail below.
D-Link DE-660CT Ethernet PCMIA card Installation: This proceeded in a similar way to the above although even more care had to be taken to get the correct drivers as I had to copy them to the hard drive first as the Libretto has no permanent floppy - the floppy drive plugs into the only PCMIA slot. I also had to get an updated set of drivers emailed to me from D-Link as it turned out that the Toshiba Libretto and DE-660 combination does not work with the standard drivers. D-Link's technical support were very helpful and there was never any waiting for help.
Checking the Network Adapter Card Installation: As you will have seen above, it is desirable to check that the Network cards are installed correctly and recognised by Windows 95/98. Plug-and-Play was a big step forwards but is far from foolproof. I suggest rebooting the machine a couple of times and making sure that it has finished detecting new hardware and that no error messages show up - it took three times before one of the firms machines before Windows had finished shuffling devices round! Even if it seems to boot up OK it is well worth having a look at the Device Manager information to confirm that Windows is happy with the installation. If it is not the first thing you should do is to update the Drivers with those provided with the Network Adaptor - in any case it is worth updating the drivers as Windows 95/98 may well have installed its own simple default drivers for your adapter when it was detected the first time.
Windows 95/98 Device Information and Updating Drivers:
System Device information under Windows 95/98 is accessed in the System icon in the Control Panel on the Device Manager tab. This is where Information on your network card can be found by expanding Network Adapters. Click Here to see what it looks like for me when it has been expanded. If any devices have problems the section will already be expanded and they show up with little yellow ! error icons. Highlighting your Network Adapter and clicking Properties at the bottom will provide three more tabs. If you want to update a Driver you will find the button on the Driver Tab. This starts a Wizard which installs a new Driver. Put the floppy with the handlers in first and be ready with the Windows CD as it will be required. If you are not sure you have picked up the new device handler off the floppy rather than reinstalled the one from Windows 95/98 try again and click "Have Disk" and it should use the Floppy.
Network Software Installation
Windows 95/98 Network Software Installation:
All the Network software required should be loaded up from the CD when the Network Cards are installed and detected as new Plug-and Play Hardware. You should find a Network Neighborhood icon on the desktop which displays (with a few clicks) the Network you have just set up. If you already have Dial Up Networking (DUN) installed using the TCP/IP protocol the extra protocols and Bindings will be added to your existing configuration.
Windows 95/98 Network Software Configuration: The Network Configuration is accessed by opening the Network Icon in Control Panel. There are three tabs that you must check and/or configure.
- Configuration Tab
The Configuration Tab has a panel at the top which should show that The Following Components are Installed.
- Client for Microsoft Networks
- Your adapter (for the Network card)
- Dial Up Adapter (Assuming you want Internet access)
- IPX/SPX compatible Protocol (these may be duplicated and show their "bindings" under some versions of Windows)
- NetBEUI protocol (these may be duplicated and show their "bindings" under some versions of Windows)
- TCP/IP protocol (Assuming you want Internet access)
- File and Print sharing for Microsoft Networks (The sub menu needs the boxes to be ticked)
If any components are missing:
- click the Add button On the Configuration tab
- click Protocol, and then click Add.
- In the Manufacturers box, click Microsoft,
- in the Network Protocols box, click The Protocol to add,
- and then click OK.
Note: You will sometimes find that duplicate adapters and/or bindings to them have been added by default when you installed the network adapter or during the original configuration of Windows. Select those not required and click Remove
You must remove any bindings between the TCP/IP protocol (used for internet connections) and anything other than the Dial-Up adapter. If you leave any other TCP/IP bindings in place any files or printers you share over the network can also be accessed whilst you are on-line by Anybody who finds out or guesses your Internet Address.
- Select the TCP/IP -> Dial Up Adapter (ignore warning!)
- click Properties
- go to the Bindings tab
- Untick the boxes for File and Printer Sharing and Client for Microsoft Network
- click OK - you will be warned you have no bindings which is exactly what you want!
The Network Log On needs to be set to Client for Microsoft Networks on the drop down menu
Click here to see what the Configuration Tab looks like on my machine in the original configuration.
File and Printer Sharing needs to be enabled using the File and printer Sharing button at the bottom. Click here to see what it looks like on my machine.
Quick Logon: It is worth taking the time to check one more option at this point. Highlight Client for Microsoft Networks in the panel and click Properties. This will give you a tab which provides the choice of a Quick logon or a full logon. Check the Quick logon box otherwise you will find that you need to have all the network machines turned on at the start when you Map drives.
The configuration above needs a couple of changes if you intend to add, or already have a machine running Windows XP
- Remove the NetBEUI protocol as it is not supported under XP by Selecting NetBEUI on the Configuration tab and clicking Remove.
- Add NetBios support over IPX/SPX instead.
- Select IPX/SPX compatible protocol and click Properties
- on the Netbios Tab tick the box I want to enable NEtBios over IPX/SPX
- Click OK
Click here to see what the Configuration Tab looks like on my machine when configured for XP.
The configuration of the XP machine(s) is very different and is covered in Painless Networks part II - Windows XP
- Identity Tab
It is very important to set up the Identity tab.
- Computer name: You need to specify the Computer Name, which your machine will be known on the Network and clearly identifies it to everyone. (EG DELL200, DESKTOP, LIVINGROOM or LAPTOP). For maximum future compatibility restrict yourself to 12 letters, preferably in upper case, and numerals.
- Workgroup: It is essential that you specify a Workgroup - (EG Home, Office or any appropriate name). For maximum future compatibility restrict yourself to 12 letters, preferably in upper case, and numerals.
- The Workgroup name must be the same for all the machines on the Network otherwise you will not see the others.
- Computer Description: The computer description needs to be filled in. (EG Dell Dimension XPS P120c)
Click Here to see what I my set up looks like.
- Access Tab
- Check the "Share-level access control" box
Click Here to see.
- Many of the files that Network loads from the CD have been updated on most systems. You will be repeatedly asked if you wish to keep the latest versions. You should always keep the latest versions.
- The Network Screens are slightly unusual in that if you click OK to exit you will have to load software from the CD even if you have made no changes at all. Always use cancel if you have just been inspecting settings.
- Always reboot when it is suggested and it is prudent to leave Network and reboot each time you have been adding, deleting or modifying the bindings on Protocols.
- If you access the TCP/IP protocol properties you may be warned that you should make the changes in each Dial-Up connection - ignore it as the changes you need to make to bindings can only be made here.
- If you go to the TCP/IP bindings tab to break the Bindings to File and Print Sharing and Client for Microsoft Networks (which you must do to avoid being hacked!) you will be warned you have no Bindings - this is correct.
- If you have space on a Hard Drive it is worth copying the Win95 directory from the Windows 95 CD to the hard drive - it is about 70Mbytes. You can then use that instead of loading the CD which is never there when you want it!
Using the Network
4. Making Resources Available
Choosing "Share-Level Access control" when we set up the software in Control Panel -> Network means that when one now looks at the Properties of any Drive, Folder, File or Printer (Right Click on name and click Properties) an extra tab marked Sharing will be available - Click for Example
- Sharing Drives, Folders or Files: You can specify on the associated Sharing tab that any individual Drive, Folder or File is available by a name you specify and one can allow Read and or Read/Write access with or without password protection. You can share Floppy Drives and CD drives as well as hard drives. In most cases Sharing appears on the Right Click menu allowing one to get to the tab without having to go through Properties.
- Sharing Printers: If you open the Printers panel (From Control Panel or via Settings) and right click the Printer and click Properties you will find a new Tab called Sharing which allows one to share the printer and specify the name under which it is Shared. You can also go directly by clicking Sharing on the Right Click menu - Click for Example.
There are a number of ways that one can access resources from another machine once they have been made available by sharing.
- Network Neighborhood: The top level way of accessing Resources is by opening Network Neighborhood (There should be an icon on the desktop). You should see all the machines on the Network in your chosen Workgroup. Click here to see. Clicking on a machine will then show the resources that have been made available by sharing on the machine (Files, Folders and Drives). This is like accessing items through My Computer and is not very convenient.
- Windows Explorer: It is better to use Windows Explorer and access files by expanding the Network Neighborhood icon in the left pane just like any other drive - Click to see an example.
- File Menus: You can open, and save files to the network in the same way as to the local machine if you work your way up past My Computer to Desktop where you will find a Network Neighborhood Icon and you can then work your way back down to a File or Folder.
- Mapping Resources to a Drive: Most convenient of all is to Map a commonly shared Drive (or Folder) - this makes it look just like a drive on your own machine. For example I have Mapped the C: Drive on Libretto to Drive L: on Matrix (My Dell) and the D, E, F and G drives on Matrix to D: E: F: and G: on the Libretto. One can Map a Drive in Network Neighborhood or via Windows Explorer by a Right Click and selecting Map Network Drive on the drop-down menu or selecting it or using the Tools Menu (click for example) if you do not like right-click menus. You are given a choice of available Drive Letters and the option of reconnecting automatically at start-up.
- Sharing printers: If you want to use a Printer on another machine you still need to add the Printer Drivers on your machine even if they exist on the host machine. You go to Printers form Control Panel (or Settings) and click Add Printer which starts the usual Wizard except that it will now ask you whether you wish to install a Local or a Network Printer. You then Browse the Network to find the printer you want to use. After that one proceeds normally and at the end you have will another Printer in the list of those available which can be set, if desired, to be default printer
The first part of this guide has been around a long time. The results have stood the test of time and I and others have set up many simple networks on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows XP machines very quickly and without hassle or problems. Other parts are, by definition, less mature and any feedback and comments by sending me a quick message
would be appreciated.
A Guide to Painless Networks | Extra considerations when using Windows XP | ADSL Broadband | Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing Software | ADSL Wi-Fi Router Firewalls
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