Working With Different Versions of Windows on a P2P Network

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted April 08, 2005

My home network is made up of three computers connected by a Linksys BEFSR41 router, and all of the PCs run a different version of Windows. One computer runs Windows 98 SE, another runs Windows 2000 Professional and the last is equipped with Windows XP Professional. NetBEUI is the default protocol for the network, and I have file- and print-sharing enabled on each of the PCs.

The network seems to be working OK, except for one glitch. Both the Windows 2000 and Windows XP PCs can access the files on the Win98 PC, but the Win98 PC can't access the data stored on the other two systems. When I attempt to make the connection, the system prompts me for a password. I've tried every password I've ever used and nothing seems to work. I've also noticed the same problem when I try to get the Win2000 and WinXP systems access each other. Do you have any idea what's happening and what I might be able to do to resolve this? Thanks!

This is a common problem in peer-to-peer networks with mixed Windows clients. You're not having any trouble accessing your Windows 98 shares because that operating system doesn't use any file system security to grant or deny access to shared resources. Windows 2000 and XP, however, both do. They're looking for a valid username and password when you attempt to connect to them from another machine, and they're not finding it.

The easiest way to get around this problem is to create accounts on the Windows 2000 and XP machines with the same username and password that you use to log onto your Windows 98 machine, and give this account access rights to the shares in question. If you don't currently log onto your Windows 98 machine, start doing so with the account you just created.

You could enable the built-in Guest account on the 2000 and XP machines, and make sure to give that account rights to the shares. I don't recommend this if your network has an Internet connection, however.

I'm trying to set up a home network consisting of three computers — two desktops and one laptop. I have it set up so that my cable modem connects to one desktop via the USB port and then comes out through the computer's Ethernet port into the router. The remaining desktop and laptop in turn connect to the router.

My problem is that I plan to eventually purchase a wireless router in order to add a wireless connection for my laptop. Is there any way to merge the wireless and fixed network together so they function as one?

You definitely don't have your equipment set up in the optimal configuration. Rearranging it a bit will simplify things and give you the flexibility you need to upgrade and expand your network later on.

Since you have a broadband router, there's really no reason to have the cable modem directly connected to your PC. In fact, that setup can leave your computer quite vulnerable to attack.

Stop using the cable modem's USB port and instead connect the modem's Ethernet port to the WAN port on your router. (Almost every cable modem that has a USB connection also offers an Ethernet connection as well.) You might need a crossover cable for this connection. Next, plug each computer into one of the router's LAN ports.

As far as adding wireless capabilities to your network, you could replace your existing router with a built-in wireless access point, but if you're satisfied with the router you currently have you could just as easily buy a wireless access point and connect it to a switched port on your existing router. This will let you position the access point separately (i.e., higher) for optimal signal strength, while leaving the router where it is.

Since you have three computers and most broadband routers have four LAN ports, you should have enough ports for a separate access point as well. In the event that you have a router with fewer than four ports, you can either replace the router or buy a stand-alone 4-port switch and connect it to one of the router's LAN ports, which will yield three extra ports, for a total of six (you may need a crossover cable to make this connection as well. Plus, you'll free up one port once your notebook goes wireless.

For the longest time my kids have been using two old computers, both running Windows 98 Second Edition. I have managed to network the PCs, and they both have access to the Internet and to each other. They also share hard drive space and a printer. In an effort to protect their PCs from viruses and other questionable material on the Internet, I installed a copy of the Norton firewall on both PCs. However, since I installed the firewall, the kids can't gain access to the files stored on the other's PC, unless I disable the firewall first. How can I configure the firewall to protect them from the Internet, yet still allow us to access the files stored on the network?

You didn't say what version of the Norton firewall you're using, so I can't give you step-by-step instructions, but here is an overview of what you'll need to do. Basically, the quickest and simplest approach would be for you to configure your firewall to not block any network traffic originating from any computers on your internal network. The PCs on your internal network will usually have an IP address in the range of 192.168.0.1 to 192.168.0.254. This would give each PC complete and unfettered access to any the other machine on the network without the need to first disable the firewall.

Alternately, you could open up the specific ports that you need in order to access the files stored on the other machine. If this is the case, you'll need to make sure that TCP and UDP ports 135, 137, 138, 139 and 445 are open. However, if you do use this method, please be sure you enable these ports only for machines on the local network. You do NOT want these ports exposed to the Internet!

Also, keep in mind that since you're running a firewall on both machines, you'll need to configure both of them accordingly. If you run into trouble configuring this (and this can be very confusing, especially if you're not familiar with it) then you might have to contact Symantec's Tech support group to find out which option works best for you. Good Luck!

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

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