Troubleshooting Windows 98SE Networking Issues

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted February 17, 2004

My brother recently purchased a new PC and let me have his old one. So I decided to network this machine with an older one of mine to create a small network that I use for sharing files and playing network games. Both machines are using Windows 98SE. The problem is that these two computers cannot see each other unless I disable my ZoneAlarm firewall. I don't understand why I have to disable my firewall in order to access the other PC in my workgroup? Any suggestions you have to fix this would be helpful.

In your question you didn't provide us with a lot of information on how your network is configured. For instance, I don't know how you're sharing your Internet connection with the machines in the workgroup. Are you using a router, or is it being shared with a software package like Microsoft's Internet connection sharing (ICS)? Is ZoneAlarm Firewall running on both machines? How are the PCs connected to each other? Are they using a hub, or are they connected by a crossover cable?

This lack of information makes it difficult for me to provide you with detailed instructions on how to go about fixing the problem. For this reason, I think that the best way I can help you is by simply reviewing the role of the firewall and explaining how it works.

Regardless of whether you're using a software firewall like ZoneAlarm's or a hardware firewall, all firewalls are designed to do essentially the same thing — protect your network from any unauthorized access. In order to do this, the firewall needs to be placed between the network (LAN) and your Internet (WAN) connection. This placement allows the firewall to examine all incoming WAN traffic before it can make it onto your network. Any traffic not recognized by the firewall will be discarded. Since the firewall is supposed to be acting as a gateway to your network, all traffic moving behind it is considered to be trusted by the network and allowed to move freely between workstations.

If, however, you were to use the ZoneAlarm firewall on both of your workstations, each system would in essence become a separate network. So even if they shared a workgroup name, they would still be unable to gain access to one another. Most software-based firewalls can, however, be configured to allow data from specific computers or IP addresses to pass through the firewall. In ZoneAlarm, go to the Firewall tab, then select Zones, and add the computer/IP address information to your "Trusted Zone" list.

To properly set up a software firewall, though, one PC (called the Host) is typically configured with two Ethernet adapters. One adapter is used for your Internet or WAN connection and the other adapter is used to connect the client PCs on your LAN. The firewall needs to be configured to protect your WAN connection. In this way, the firewall can monitor all WAN traffic while still allowing all LAN traffic to move freely over your network.

This configuration can be somewhat complicated to install, especially for people with minimal networking experience. If you fall into this category, I would suggest you forgo the hassle of using this configuration and just invest in a good, inexpensive hardware-based router/firewall. I hope this helps.

I have a small peer-to-peer network setup at home. One of the computers on this network has a HP DeskJet color printer attached to it. I would like to share this printer with the rest of the PCs that are in the house. Could you tell me how to go about setting this up? All of the computers are running Windows 98 Second Edition.

Configuring a printer to be shared on a network is actually a pretty simple task. To begin with, before you can share a printer in Windows 98SE, you need to first enable "File and Print Sharing." This is done by simply right-clicking on the "Network Neighborhood" icon on your desktop and then selecting Properties. Next, click on the File and Print Sharing button and check off the box that says "I want to be able to allow others to print to my printer(s)" and click OK.

This will install the File and Print Sharing service on your system. At this point you may need to reboot the PC. Now that the File and Print Sharing service is installed and running, you can configure your printer for sharing. To do this, go to your Printers folder and right-click on the printer you'd like to share (in this case the HP DeskJet). On the menu displayed, select "Sharing." At this point you need to assign the printer a share name and click OK. When you finish you'll see a hand displayed under the printer icon, indicating the printer is now being shared.

You're now ready to begin configuring the PCs on your network to use it. Naturally, before you begin, you should verify that these PCs are using a common IP and subnet address and workgroup name.

Once that as been verified, the only thing left to do is install the print driver for the HP DeskJet on each of the PCs that need access to it. To do this, simply go to your Printer folder and launch the Add Printer Wizard. On the screen that says, "How is your printer attached to your computer?" select the Network Printer option and press "Next."

Now you need to enter the Network Path or Queue name for the printer you set up to be shared. This can be done in one of two ways. You can either select "Browse" and search the network for the printer's share name or you can just type in the URL name of the queue. The name syntax is as follows: \\computer_name\Printer_name.

So, for example, if the computer you installed the printer on was called PC1 and the printer was given a share name of HP, then the URL name would be \\PC1\HP. When you finish, click "Next" and then answer any remaining questions prompted by the wizard. If you’re not sure what your response should be, just press "Enter." Once finished, your new printer should be available for use.

One thing to keep in mind when sharing a printer in this fashion is that in order for people to use this printer, the PC that it is connected must be kept on at all times. If this proves to be a problem for you, you could consider purchasing a broadband router with a built-in print server, or a standalone wired or wireless print server. These are usually quicker and more reliable than the peer-to-peer method and don't require the host PC to remain on.

Adapted from PracticalyNetworked.com, part of the EarthWeb.com Network.

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