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Home Networking, Part 2

In “part 1” I discussed the uses of a home network, or LAN (Local Area Network), and how to connect the computers together. Now, I'll go into how to set up Windows 98 (Win98) or Windows 2000 Professional (Win2000).

General Info
As just mentioned, by connecting your computers together you form your own LAN. Most likely, you'll also connect one or more computers into the Internet, which is a WAN (Wide Area Network). Unfortunately, there are a lot of people connected to the Internet, and not all of them are completely nice. So you'll want to keep some separation between your LAN and the WAN. If you connected your LAN to the Internet using a Broadband Router (see part 1), then you've already got some pretty good separation going.

Regardless of how you connect to the Internet, you should read my post “Safety tips for home Windows computers”. You'll find a link to the latest version in the FAQ for this board.

If you are using a Broadband Router to connect your computers to a shared DSL or cable modem, and you don't want to do anything else with your LAN (like share files or printers), then everything should already be properly set up by following the instructions that came with the router. You won't need any of the instructions below (although you should still read the Safety Tips just mentioned).

Most of the settings you'll need to work with are in the Network dialog box (Win98) or the Local Area Connection Properties dialog box (Win2000). I'm going to call them both the Network dialog box, so Win2000 users should note that the window title will not say Network. To get to the Network dialog box in Win98, you can either right-click on “Network Neighborhood” and select “Properties”, or you can click on Start | Settings | Control Panel and then double-click on Network. In Win2000, you can either right-click on “My Network Places”, then select “Properties”, then right-click on “Local Area Connection” (the name may vary), then select “Properties”; or, you can click on Start | Settings | Control Panel and then double-click on “Network and Dial-up Connections” then right-click on “Local Area Connection” (the name may vary), then select “Properties”. Note that some network settings in Win2000 require you to be logged in as an administrator.

Be warned that many of the settings require the Windows CD, so have that handy. Many require a reboot. Some may be really, really slow, so if you click on something and nothing seems to happen, give it a minute or two (especially when you click on OK to close the Network dialog box, wait a while to see if it's going to require a reboot).

Getting your LAN set up
The first step is to make sure all your computers are set for the same “workgroup” and have different names. In Win98, bring up the Network dialog box and click on the “Identification” tab. You'll see text boxes for the computer name, the workgroup, and the computer description. In Win2000, click on Start | Settings | Control Panel, then double-click on “System” and select the “Network Identification” tab, click on “Properties”, and click on the button next to “Workgroup” under “Member of”.

Both the computer name and the workgroup should be 15 characters or less, with no spaces, and all uppercase. You should use only A-Z, 0-9, and hyphen.

The computer name must be different for each computer, and the workgroup must be the same on each computer. Remember that it might be possible for “hackers” to read this information over the Internet, so don't use your social security number or anything else you don't want public. The computer description can be whatever you like, I usually leave it blank.

In Win98, click on the “Access Control” tab and select “Share-level access control”.

In the Network dialog box, click on the “Configuration” tab (“General” tab in Win2000) and you'll see a list of components. There are 4 types of components: clients (identified by a computer icon), adapters (a green circuit board icon), protocols (two wires dipping into a plug), and services (a computer with a hand under it). In Win2000, you can have multiple configurations, so each component has a check-box that is checked if it's used in this configuration. You can add a component by clicking on “Add…” (“Install…” in Win2000), and you can remove a component by clicking on it to highlight it and clicking on “Remove” (“Uninstall” in Win2000). When you add a component in Win98, you need to select a “Manufacturer”, and in these instructions it is always “Microsoft”.

Your NIC should already be present as an adapter (in Win98 listed under components, and in Win2000 listed under “Connect using”). If not, you'll need to use the “Add Hardware” wizard in the Control Panel to add it.

Warning: your present Internet connection, if the computer has one, will most likely be present in the list of components. Therefore there can be a lot of variation in what is present (or not) depending on the type of your connection. If you have any doubt, post what you have on the message board and seek additional information before changing anything.

Setting up for file and/or printer sharing
I'm going to give the procedure here for Win98, and if you're using Win2000 you will find it's pretty similar (you may have to look around a bit to find the same settings).

You're going to make several settings in the Network dialog box. Don't click on OK to close it until the instructions here say to.

First, you need to make sure you have the component “Client for Microsoft Networks” (see above for how to find the list of components). If it's not present, you should add it.

(Win98 only:) Click on “Client for Microsoft Networks” to highlight it, and click on “Properties”. The box next to “Log on to Windows NT domain” should not be checked, and the button next to “Quick logon” should be selected.

Next, I suggest starting with (in Win98 only) “Client for Microsoft Networks” as your “Primary Network Logon” (on the “Configuration” tab). When you boot up, you'll be asked for a password. This password only controls access to network resources (not access to your computer). If you don't want a password, then always leave the password blank. When everything is entirely set up and working, go back to the “Configuration” tab and change the “Primary Network Logon” to “Windows Logon” and this will eliminate the dialog box that asks for a password.

To enable file and/or printer sharing (which you should do ONLY on computers that have the folders [files] or printers you want to share — NOT on computers that will only access files and printers on other computers), click on “File and print sharing” on the “Configuration” tab, and check the boxes for whichever things you want to share on this computer. This will add the service “File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks” to your list of components.

You also need a protocol through which to use the file and printer sharing service. I suggest using NetBEUI, because it is simple and relatively safe. If the NetBEUI protocol is not listed, then add it (both on computers with shared files/printers, and on computers where you want to access the shared stuff).

In the list of components, the protocols will be followed by a “->” and the adapter that they are operating with. If you have multiple adapters (like a NIC and dial-up), a given protocol may be listed more than once. Make sure NetBEUI is operating with your NIC; if there are any other NetBEUI's shown, remove them.

Click on the NetBEUI protocol to highlight it, then click “Properties”. On the “Bindings” tab, you will see checkboxes for “Client for Microsoft Networks” and “File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks”. Both should be checked on computer with shared files/printers, and only the Client should be checked on computers which are only accessing shared stuff.

The only other protocols you should have will be TCP/IP for your Internet connection. Click on your TCP/IP protocol to highlight it, then click on “Properties”. On the “Bindings” tab, the checkboxes for “Client for Microsoft Networks” and “File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks” should NOT be checked. (You may get a message about not having any binding selected, that's OK.) You do not want your shared files and printers bound to TCP/IP, which might expose them to the entire Internet.

Now close the Network dialog box by clicking on OK. Probably the Windows CD will be needed at this point. You should be asked if you want to restart your computer (there may be a considerable delay before it asks). If after a prolonged wait you are not asked to restart, go ahead and shut down, then boot back up.

Using file and/or printer sharing
To share a printer, click on Start | Settings | Printers. Right-click on the printer you want to share, then select “Sharing”. A dialog box appears, click the button next to “Shared as”, and fill in the text boxes. Remember that it's possible the name you select for the printer will be visible on the Internet. If you don't want to require a password, leave that text box blank. When you close the dialog box by clicking OK, a hand will appear under the icon for that printer, indicating it is shared.

To use the shared printer from another computer, go to that computer and click on Start | Settings | Printers, then double-click on “Add Printer”. In the wizard that appears, select “Network Printer”. When it asks for the “Network path or queue name”, click on the “Browse” button. (Note: the computer that has the printer attached must be booted up and running Windows.) Find the printer you want to use in the tree structure shown. (Note: if the computer you want is not shown, shut down and turn off ALL computers in your LAN, then turn them back on one at a time, waiting until each computer is fully booted before turning on the next.) You may need any drivers that came with the printer, and you may need to set any settings you originally had to set when you installed the printer (for example, the amount of memory in the printer).

To share a folder, double-click on “My Computer”, then double-click on the drive containing the folder (usually C). Right-click on the folder you want to share, and select “Sharing”. Click on the button next to “Shared as”. Then select either “Read-Only” or “Full” — choose Read-Only if you want other computers to be able to read the files but not change them or add files to the folder, or choose Full if you want other computers to be able to read, change, and add files. (Note that if you can change files you can also delete them, and they don't go into the Recycle Bin.) There's also a “Depends on Password”, which lets you specify a password for each type of access, but it can be really goofy. ALWAYS specify a password, and make it fairly long and with both letters and digits. If anything goes astray and your folder is exposed to the Internet, the password is your last line of defense. When you're done and click OK, a hand will appear under the folder indicating it is shared.

To access a shared folder from another computer, double-click on “Network Neighborhood” (that's “My Network Places” in Win2000, then double-click on “Computers Near Me”). You will see an icon for each computer in your LAN that has a shared folder or printer. (Note: if the computer you want is not shown, shut down and turn off ALL computers in your LAN, then turn them back on one at a time, waiting until each computer is fully booted before turning on the next.) Computers that have no shared folders or printers will not appear. Double-click on the computer, then double-click on the folder you wish to access. You will be asked for the password.

You can also use Start | Find | Computer and type in the name of the computer you wish to access. Then double-click on the icon for that computer.

Using UNC paths and mapped drives
One way to access a file in a shared folder is by using UNC paths (Universal Naming Convention). You're probably familiar with regular “paths”, where you use the drive letter, a colon, a list of folders separated by \, and the file name. For example, the file FRED.TXT in the TEMP folder on the C hard drive is accessed as C:\TEMP\FRED.TXT. With UNC, you replace the drive letter and colon with two \'s, the name of the computer, a \, and the name given to the shared folder. For example, the file FRED.TXT in the shared folder MYFOLDER on the computer named PUPPY would be accessed as \\PUPPY\MYFOLDER\FRED.TXT. Note that older programs and poorly-written programs do not allow UNC paths (in which case, you'll need to go with mapped drives).

Often you will want to access a shared folder by using a mapped drive. This means you assign a drive letter on this computer that refers to a shared folder on another computer. Once set up, you can use that drive letter as if it were a normal drive on your computer. This is especially useful when you want to do backup to a shared folder. For example, if you map the shared folder MYFOLDER on the computer named PUPPY (that is, \\PUPPY\MYFOLDER) to be drive letter K, then you can access the FRED.TXT file at \\PUPPY\MYFOLDER\FRED.TXT as K:\FRED.TXT. If MYFOLDER has full access, you can store files in K:\ and they will appear inside the shared MYFOLDER.

To map a drive, find the folder you want to map using the Network Neighborhood method described earlier. Right-click on the folder, and choose “Map Network Drive”. Choose the drive letter you wish to use from the drop-down list, and check the box next to “Reconnect at logon” if you want the mapping to be there each time you boot up. Click OK to close the mapping dialog. Now double-click on the same folder to open it, which will ask you for the password if you haven't already asked to have the password remembered. If you are reconnecting at logon, you'll probably want to have the password remembered, unless security at that computer is an issue. (Note: you can also use Folder Options to add a Map Network Drive icon to the folder toolbar.)

Win2000 seems to have something against share-level access. Instead of being able to remember the passwords for shared folders, it tries to log on using user-level access, and so sends your Win2000 user password as the password for the shared folder. Unless they happen to be the same, that doesn't work. I have no idea why it does this. One way I've found around this is to map the drive using a DOS batch file. Simply create a file with the .BAT extension, and put the following lines in the file:
@echo off
net use D: \\computer\share password /persistent:no

but replace D: with the desired drive letter, computer with the name of the computer, share with the name of the shared folder, and password with the correct password. Double-click on the batch file to map the drive, or place it in the Startup folder to have it always map the drive on bootup. You can also “remember” the password for a shared folder without mapping a drive, use the lines:
@echo off
net use \\computer\share password

(again, substituting the appropriate names and password) in a batch file in the Startup folder. Then when you open the folder (using the Network Neighborhood method, the Find Computers method, or with a shortcut), Win2000 won't ask for the password because the shared folder is already in “use”. Of course putting the password for a shared folder in a plain-text batch file is a bad idea if anyone has access to your computer that you don't want seeing the password. But it's better than using no password.

If you use file/printer sharing and have an Internet connection, you should take steps to prevent people on the Internet from accessing your files or printers. Using a long password with both letters and numbers may well be sufficient, but there are additional steps that are easy to take. Read my post “Safety tips for home Windows computers”. You'll find a link to the latest version in the FAQ for this board.
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