Home Office Network Troubleshooting

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted July 14, 2003

I'm trying to set up a simple network between two machines using a crossover cable. One is running Windows XP Home Edition and the other Windows 2000 Professional. Even though I know the network interface cards (NICs) and cable are good, I can't get the setup to work. I'm trying to find out what the proper settings are, but I'm unable to find documentation anywhere.

You said that you've verified the NICs and crossover cable are working correctly, presumably by trying different NICs and cables. If this is the case, then the problem likely lies with your software configuration.

First, double-check your Device Manager settings to make sure that the drivers for each network card are loaded and installed correctly. Next, verify that both machines have Internet protocol (IP) addresses on the same subnet and that the subnet mask is exactly the same. A seemingly subtle difference in the subnet mask, say 255.255.0.0 vs. 255.255.255.0, will be enough to prevent connectivity between the computers.

After verifying that all your network settings are correct, you should be able to successfully ping between machines. If not, try pinging the loopback address (127.0.0.1) on each machine to try and further localize the problem. Chances are that it's one machine or the other that is causing the problem.

Another thing to consider — it's rare, but I have seen instances where older network cards would not communicate (or would do so only intermittently) with newer NICs, especially when one is a 10 Mbps card and the other is 100 or 10/100. You might try purchasing two inexpensive NICs from the same vendor so you have uniform configuration options on each machine.

One final point to keep in mind — unlike Windows 9x workstations, both Windows XP and Windows 2000 have security issues to deal with before you'll be able to access any data stored on those systems. User accounts and rights need to first be established, and folders that contain the data you're looking for need to be shared out. Once this is done, everything should work just fine.

I don't have access to a hub and have three machines in my house. I would like to use all of them on the net and have the NICs to do so, but when I set up Internet connection sharing (ICS), it only gives me the option of binding to one of the NICs. Is there a workaround for this? I've spent literally hours trying to find an answer.

If I'm reading your question correctly, you want to bypass a hub and basically daisy-chain each PC to the other using standard Ethernet network adapters. There's an old saying, "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it." While I'm not going to tell you that this is impossible to do, it will be very complicated and honestly is just not worth the time or aggravation that it's bound to cause.

To set this up the way you're describing, you would need to have 1 NIC in the first PC, 2 NICs in the second PC, and 2 NICs in the Host PC. This would mean that the PCs with two NICs would need to be bridged (or multi-homed) to allow data to be passed between them. This could be tricky to get working right, particularly if you're going to be using a firewall to protect your data. ICS and Internet connection firewall (ICF) are just simple Internet sharing utilities that don't offer an abundance of options for custom configurations like this.

My recommendation would be to simply invest in a small 5-port hub which you can purchase for about $20 bucks these days (and perhaps even less than that on eBay) and devote your energy to other endeavors.

I have three computers networked with a SpeedStream 2614 4-port router and would like to share a Canon MultiPass C5500 color printer/scanner/copier/fax machine on my network. My router has a built-in print server, but a Speedstream representative told me I wouldn't be able to use all the features of my printer if I shared it that way. Is this true?

The Speedstream representative is correct. You could connect the printer to the router's print server and all of your computers would be able to print to it, but none of them would be able to use the printer's extended features like the scanner or fax capabilities from their desktops.

It may seem odd in a time when home office networks are becoming more and more common, but the vast majority of the all-in-one type printers designed for home environments are designed to be used on a standalone computer. Their included software gives you access to all of their features, but the software can only communicate with a printer that's directly connected to the computer via a parallel or universal serial bus (USB) port.

Your best option is to connect the multifunction printer to a single machine. Install the software there, and then you'll be able to use all the printer functions from that machine. You can also share the printer on the network, which will at least allow your other computers to use it for printing purposes.

The process for sharing a printer varies slightly depending on which version of Windows you are running and how your network is set up, but the steps are all pretty similar. Simply go to the Printers section of Windows, find the icon for your printer, right-click the icon and select Sharing, and then follow the prompts. If you don't see Sharing displayed in the context menu, you'll first need to load File and Print Sharing. You can do this from the Network control panel.

Adpated from PracticallyNetworked.com.

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